Haiti, Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Closes Borders With Haiti Amid Canal Dispute and Racial Tensions

On Sept. 15, President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic announced the closure of all land, air, and sea borders to its neighboring country, Haiti.

After building a wall at its border with the violence-ravaged country, the Dominican Republic turned its attention to immigration, deporting tens of thousands of Haitians, The Washington Post reported. The plan comes amid an ongoing disagreement over Haiti’s plans to build a canal along the Massacre River. By closing the former’s only land border, the Dominican Republic stokes longstanding racial tensions between the nations by locking Haitian people in their country, which has been overrun with bloodshed and poverty. Haiti is also struggling with access to clean water and a failing healthcare system. As previously reported, over 80% of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, is under gang control, and large-scale killings have crippled the population with fear.

Dominican officials maintain that the decision to close its borders is necessary, due to Haiti’s violation of a decades-long treaty that “governs the fair use of waterways” shared by the two countries. The 1929 agreement prevents either nation from altering the natural course of their shared waters. Abinader has called the country’s canal plan a “totally inadequate construction without any type of engineering” and a “provocation that this government is not going to accept,” the Post reported. Haitian officials vehemently disagree with Abinader’s remarks, calling the move by Abinader a bid for reelection at the demise of its people.

“The canal issue is just an element to reactivate hatred,” said the Rev. Germain Clerveau, a Haitian priest who has lived near the border for decades.

According to The Associated Press, the canal project began in 2021, with 65% of the work completed before the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

Maismy-Mary Fleurant, a former officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, believes Dominican officials are simply joining in on centuries of anti-Blackness hurled at Haiti, dating back to the reign of Rafael Trujillo.

“These actions are not driven by concerns for international law,” he said, “but rather by local politicians aimed at demonstrating who can be the most vehemently anti-Haitian. Unfortunately, Haitians consistently bear the brunt of these local political maneuvers.”

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