Dominican Republic to Close Borders with Haiti in Canal Dispute: All You Need to Know

DAJABON, Dominican Republic (AP) — In a remarkable escalation of tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, President Luis Abinader announced on Thursday the closure of all borders starting Friday. This decision comes as a response to a dispute over the excavation of a canal on the Haitian side, which aims to divert water from the Massacre River situated along the border shared by both nations on the island of Hispaniola.

Abinader emphasized that the closure of air, sea, and land borders would take place at 6 a.m. local time on Friday and would continue indefinitely, making it clear that last-minute negotiations with Haiti had failed to prevent this drastic measure. While this move will have economic ramifications for both countries, its impact will be particularly felt in Haiti.

This recent development follows Abinader’s previous actions, such as the suspension of visa issuance to Haitians and the closure of the border near the northern town of Dajabon. These measures have already paralyzed vital economic activities between the two nations, causing significant losses for Haitians who regularly trade goods and for individuals who commute between the two countries for work.

Haitian businessman Pichelo Petijon lamented the situation, stating, “They are suffering a lot here in Dajabon, and in Haiti, too, because there are a lot of goods that are spoiling. There are millions of dollars in losses.”

Abinader’s decision stems from his accusation that Haiti is attempting to divert water from the Massacre River. He expressed concerns about the impact on Dominican farmers and the environment. Notably, this river draws its name from a violent clash between French and Spanish colonizers in the 1700s and was also the site of a massacre of Haitians by the Dominican army in 1937.

On Wednesday, Haiti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a meeting with Dominican officials in the Dominican Republic to address the situation. The meeting, which continued up until the closure was announced, has not yielded any details or resolution thus far.

Meanwhile, Jean Brévil Weston, the leader of a farmers’ group near the border, expressed his determination to proceed with the canal project despite the closure, reportedly stating, “It’s the canal or death. We are ready to be buried by the canal.”

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office could not be reached immediately for comment. Claude Joseph, a former prime minister of Haiti and a presidential candidate, expressed the view that the canal excavation does not violate any agreements or treaties between the two countries. Joseph urged workers to continue working on the project. It is worth mentioning that Joseph has previously clashed with Abinader on an unrelated issue, which led to his ban from entering the Dominican Republic.

At the Dominican border town of Dajabon, a line has already begun to form as people await the opportunity to cross into Haiti for various reasons. Dominican authorities are currently opening the gate only three times a day, exclusively for crossings into Haiti.

Among those waiting is a 47-year-old Haitian man called Egnel, who works on a banana farm in the Dominican Republic. Despite the risks of being unable to return to his job, he mentioned that his objective is to take care of his daughter, for whom he needs to seek medical attention in Haiti.

Reporting by: Coto from San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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