Things That Matter

FBI Agrees With Dominican Authorities That Deaths Of American Tourists Were All Of Natural Causes

The Dominican Republic is known to attract vacationers from all over the world. The Caribbean nation has beautiful beaches, stunning resorts, and the most chill ambiance. All of that sort of came to a halt during the summer when people began to steer clear of visiting after several tourists died while vacationing there. While the deaths occurred within several months and were all mostly unrelated to each other, the similarities were undeniable. It appeared that the tourists — 11 Americans that died in the Dominican Republic — passed away all of sudden or soon after consuming the beverages at their resorts. At least those were the claims. Now, after a thorough investigation, we’re getting the facts to these unfortunate events. 

The FBI investigated what led to the deaths of three people (out of 11 that died under suspicious circumstances) and report that they died of natural causes as local officials had concluded before.

Credit: @cnn / Twitter

BuzzFeed reports that “17 people died while traveling to the Caribbean nation in 2017. In 2018, there were 13 deaths reported in the country. Between January to June of this year, ten people have died so far.” 

However, the deaths that the FBI investigated were that of three people — a couple from Maryland and a woman from Pennsylvania — who all died within days of each other. The FBI had previously said during the summer that they would look into the possibilities of tainted alcohol, and initial results showed that was not the case. 

“The results of the additional, extensive toxicology testing completed to date have been consistent with the findings of local authorities,” a State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “Our condolences and sympathy go out to the families during this difficult time.”

While the initial results of the FBI investigation have been completed, the FBI still needs to test two more toxins found.

Credit: @travelpulse / Twitter

“In the interest of providing as thorough an investigation as possible in this challenging case, the FBI is testing for two additional toxins and will provide Dominican authorities with results when tests are complete,” FBI officials said, according to BuzzFeed News. 

An attorney that is representing the family of the Maryland couple — Nathaniel E. Holmes and Cynthia A. Day — told ABC News that they are not satisfied with the results. Lawyer Steven E. Bullock said the coincidences are too high to rule their death a result of natural causes. 

“You had a couple that died of the same ailment at the same time, and they want to say that it’s natural causes,” Bullock told ABC News. “I think there’s something for us to continue to look into.”

From the very start of these strange occurrences, it seemed as if a curse descended upon the Dominican Republic because people were either dying in DR or getting sick.

Credit: yosoymolusco / Instagram

In June, 47 people traveling with a group in the Dominican Republic got “violently sick” after staying at a resort. 

“We went [to Hotel Riu Palace Macao] for the week — some longer, some shorter,” Dana Flowers, a member of the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association who was in charge of the trip told People magazine. “We were enjoying the beach and the pool, and about 3 or 4 days into the trip, we started hearing about people getting sick. They were getting diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches.”

Tourist officials in the Dominican Republic maintained there was nothing out of the ordinary going on. The State Department agrees that despite people dying while on vacation, the occurrence of that is quite common.

Credit: fannymccandless / Instagram

Officials say people die on vacation all the time, and the deaths that happened in the Dominican Republic is no different from any other year. 

“We can see that many international media outlets are just going for it as news, just to get the headline, and they are not really getting into what’s going on…The caricatures have been made, and some in media have done a lot of damage,” Luis José Chávez, president of the Dominican Tourism Press Association, told The Washington Post earlier this summer. “The whole country is trying to get over this and gain back the image of what we really are.”

During the summer, even Cardi B chimed in to support the Dominican Republic and the bad press they were receiving over the tourist deaths.

Credit: yosoymolusco / Instagram

“What is it that’s happening? I don’t know,” Cardi B said in Spanish on her Instagram. “If it’s you know, bad press I don’t know what’s happening, but something is happening. What I do know is that the Dominican Republic is the most beautiful country, and everyone has fun there. Even poor people have fun. So it hurts me a lot when people say ‘that country is bad. That country is this and that. What is happening?”

READ: Dominicans Are Taking To Social Media To Make Sure That People Stop Trying To Cancel The Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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COVID-19 Deaths Among Young Latinos Are Skyrocketing And It’s Having Major Impacts On Our Community

Things That Matter

COVID-19 Deaths Among Young Latinos Are Skyrocketing And It’s Having Major Impacts On Our Community

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

In what seems like a never ending saga and yet a blink of an eye at the same time, 2020 has been a devastating year for so many. The Coronavirus pandemic has snaked its way through the lives of Latinos across the country, leaving illness, sorrow, pain, and death in its wake.

Few communities have been as impacted by the pandemic as the Latino community. As of Dec. 23, Covid-19 had killed more than 54,000 Latinos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Tracking Project, which acknowledges that its numbers are incomplete.

So many of our tíos and primos, even our own mothers and fathers, work in jobs that are considered essential and they’re bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s toll on workers.

Meanwhile, the virus has destroyed the foundations built by our families through hard work to give us – the younger generation – a better future.

Young Latinos are being hit particularly hard by the latest surge in COVID-19 deaths.

It was obvious from the beginning of the pandemic that those already worse off were going to be most impacted by the virus. And that’s exactly what happened. Covid-19 thrived on many Latinos’ roles as “essential workers” and it exploited the long-standing gaps compared to white Americans in income, education and access to health care.

The virus immediately had an outsized impact on our community, since so many of us suffer from higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and higher rates of obesity while having less savings and lower wealth, as well as limited business capital.

Meanwhile, the virus has worked to undo generations of progress made by our families in making sure that younger Latinos have strong foundations to work toward a better economic standing.

Gabriel Sanchez, of the University of New Mexico Center for Social Policy, told NBC News that “The only state where Latinos are not overrepresented in cases and casualties is in New Mexico, and that is because Native Americans have been hammered.”

An even more shocking truth is that Covid-19 has been more deadly for young Latinos than other racial groups. Latinos have the greatest share of deaths in age groups under 54, according to CDC data, while among whites, the greatest share of deaths has occurred in age groups over 65.

So many young Latinos work in jobs that are now considered essential and can’t stay home.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, young and working-age adults were hit hard. Covid-19 spread like wildfire in many of the fields that os many young Latinos work in: service industries, farm work, meat plant workers, grocery stores, and healthcare. This grim reality is reflected in the data.

Among Americans who are 35 to 44, almost half (48.9 percent) of those who died were Latino, compared to 27.3 percent of Black people and 15.5 percent of whites, according to an analysis of 226,240 deaths using CDC data.

By contrast, in the 65-74 age group, 45.3 percent killed by Covid-19 were white, 24.7 percent were Black and 23.1 percent were Latino.

For many families, the pandemic has turned back the progress made by earlier generations.

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The pandemic and the death it’s brought along with it, has undone so much of the valuable progress made by our families. Before Covid-19 hit, our community had bounced back from the economic blow of the Great Recession.

In fact, between 2016 and 2019, wealth among Latino and Black families grew faster than that of other groups, though they still had far to go to catch up to white families, whose median family wealth last year was $188,200, compared to $36,100 for Hispanics and $24,100 for Blacks.

Before the pandemic, Latino unemployment was at 4 percent, but then soared to 19 percent in April. It fell back to 8.4 percent in November, but it’s still double the pre-pandemic rate.

Latino businesses were the engine driving small-business growth, and some had been adding jobs until the pandemic hit. Now, more jobs have been lost in several industry sectors with disproportionately higher rates of Latino-owned businesses — such as food services — than in the private sector overall, according to the Urban Institute.

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