Haiti, Dominican Republic

Haiti Declines Dominican Republic’s Border Negotiations Amid Canal Dispute, Escalating Tensions

Haiti has declined to join its neighbor the Dominican Republic in important commercial border crossing negotiations, The Associated Press reports.

Amid debates over the construction of a canal on Haitian soil, Dominican President Luis Abinader closed his country’s border for close to a month in protest, claiming the work violated a 1929 treaty and took water away from Dominican farmers. But due to a drought, Haiti says it has an urgent right to build the canal.

The DR government partially reopened its borders on Oct. 11, including the crossing at the northern city of Dajabon, which is a key area of commerce between the countries. However, it allowed only limited trade and banned Haitians from entering the Dominican Republic for work, school, medical reasons, or touring. Abinadar also banned visas from being issued.

Haiti’s northeast region delegate, Moïse Charles Pierre, called for its neighbor to apologize and give the border for operation rights. “Abinader needs to respect the Haitian people and apologize publicly,” Pierre said.

Haiti decided not to mimic DR’s tactics at its own border gate in the community of Ouanaminthe.

On the world stage at the Organization of American States meeting on Oct. 12 in Washington, D.C., the issue came up, and Roberto Álvarez, foreign affairs minister for the Dominican Republic, and Léon Charles, Haiti’s permanent representative to the OAS, exchanged some harsh words. Charles told Alvarez that Haiti was open for discussion but not on their terms, “under the threat of dictating a solution to the Haitian population.”

“The construction of the canal is not going to stop,” Charles said.

Pointing out the toxic history between the two, including Haiti occupying the Dominican Republic for 22 years in the 1800s, Álvarez called Charles’ response “reckless.”

“We are not intimidating anyone,” he said. “Our intention is to protect our border, our natural resources.”

The bout between the Caribbean nations only escalates tensions and adds to their history of strained relations. By closing Haiti’s only land border, things can get worse for the country’s already struggling economic, security and humanitarian issues, according to The Washington Post.

Human Rights Watch Crisis and Conflict Director Ida Sawyer said shutting down the border shows how the world continues to fail the people of Haiti.

“A border closure would essentially lock Haitians within their country amid extreme levels of violence, including large-scale killings, kidnappings and rapes,” Sawyer said, “and with much of the population struggling to feed their families or access clean water and health care.”

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