NEW YORK. – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an urgent “humanitarian exemption” to allow this global organization to provide aid to Haiti during the conflict between that country and the Dominican Republic over access to a waterway. Criticism shared by both countries.
The dispute has led to the closure of the entire 220-mile border between the two countries, which share an island in the central Caribbean.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes that humanitarian exemptions from border closures are urgently needed to ensure the continuation of all UN activities in Haiti,” said spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
The United Nations is storing part of its humanitarian stockpile in the Dominican Republic, which its aid agencies would need to access in the event of an emergency in Haiti, where gang violence and growing hunger have increased the need for aid.
ANCIENT SOURCE OF CONFLICT
This has long been a source of conflict between the two neighbors. The Masacre River in northeastern Haiti was the site of a massacre of thousands of Haitians by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937. However, it owes its name to a bloody battle between French and Spanish colonists in the 18th century. The river passes through the town of Juana Méndez on the Haitian side and the Dominican municipality of Dajabón on the other side.
Recently, a group of Haitian farmers and politicians resumed construction of a canal along the river, angering the Dominican government, which protested a similar attempt in 2021 by then-President Jovenel Moïse. The two sides then met for negotiations and decided that neither country would act unilaterally on river projects.
Moïse was assassinated shortly afterwards and construction was halted because the Haitian government did not pay the company that built the canal. In addition to the 2021 agreement, the 1929 “Treaty of Peace, Perpetual Friendship and Arbitration,” signed by both governments, also established the right of both nations to use the waters of all rivers along the border fairly and equally.