SANTO DOMINGO –
The Dominican president announced on Monday that he was suspending the issuance of visas for Haitians and threatened to close the border in the latest conflict between the two countries.
The move implemented by President Luis Abinader was inspired by the recent excavation of a canal in Haitian land that, according to Dominican officials, will divert water from the Masacre River that runs between the two countries. It is not clear who authorized the excavation of the canal in Haiti.
“If the conflict is not resolved before Thursday, they will completely close the air, sea and land trade border,” the Dominican government said in a statement.
If that happens it will be a big blow to the fragile economy of Haiti, which is the Dominican Republic’s third trading partner, with $1 billion in exports last year and $11 million in imports, according to the Center for Exports and Investments. Republic.
Last week the Dominican government sent a team to monitor the construction of the canal on the other side of the border. Officials told local media that this was not an intimidation tactic but intended to help detain, if necessary, civilians who may have been working on the project without permission.
The excavation also prompted Abinader to announce last week the temporary closure of the border near the northern town of Dajabón, an important crossing for Haitians who sell and buy various products there several times a week. .
The closure of that part of the border has caused a severe blow to Haiti’s economy, where inflation has soared and poverty has deepened amid rising gang violence.
Haiti’s former interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, recently defended the construction of the canal in Haiti and accused critics of the Dominican Republic of being nationalists and racists.
Last year, Abinader barred Joseph from entering the Dominican Republic in an unrelated dispute that added to simmering tensions between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola.
Abinader sought to limit Haitian immigration to the Dominican Republic in recent years and deported tens of thousands of Haitians and their ascendants. He also announced early last year that his administration would build a 120-mile wall along the border.
The last time the Dominican Republic completely closed the border it shares with Haiti was in July 2021, when Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, as a security measure due to the instability created by the assassination.
Since then, it has occasionally closed parts of the border for security reasons. One of them was on August 10 and affected the border crossing in the southern part of the island which was closed due to protests in Haiti regarding the arrest of a citizen of that country in the Dominican territory.