Haiti has declined to join their neighbor, Dominica Republic, in important commercial border crossing negotiations, Associated Press reports.
While there have been 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 is in violation of a 1929 treaty and taking water away from Dominican farmers. But due to a drought, Haiti says they have a right to urgently build the canal.
The DR government reopened borders partially on Oct. 11, including the crossing at the city of Dajabon, north of the country, which is a key city of commerce between the countries. However, they only allowed limited trade and banned Haitians from entering the Dominican Republic for work, school, medical reason or touring. Abinadar also banned visas from being issued. Haiti’s northeast region delegate, Moïse Charles Pierre, is calling for their neighbor to apologize and give the border for operation rights. “Abinader needs to respect the Haitian people and apologize publicly,” Pierre said.
Haiti decided to be the bigger person and not mimic DR’s tactics at their 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 is 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 just escalates tensions and adds to the 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 just 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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