DAJABON, Dominican Republic — The president of the Dominican Republic announced Thursday that he would close all borders with Haiti starting Friday due to a dispute over a canal that will divert water from a border river, noting that last-minute talks between the countries did not They had managed to avoid closure.
President Luis Abinader said air, sea and land borders would close at 6 a.m. local time on Friday and remain closed “until necessary.” It is an unusual measure for the Dominican Republic and could affect the economies of both countries, although it will be felt more acutely in Haiti.
The impending closure is a response to the digging of a canal by a group of farmers on the Haitian side that targets the waters of the Masacre River, which runs along the border shared by the countries of the island of Hispaniola.
In recent days, Abinader also suspended the issuance of visas for Haitians and closed the border near the northern city of Dajabon, paralyzing a key economic lifeline for Haitians who buy and sell goods. Those who live in Haiti, but work in the Dominican Republic, also cross the border daily.
“They are suffering a lot here in Dajabon, and in Haiti too, because there is merchandise that is being damaged a lot”said Haitian businessman Pichelo Petijon. “There are million-dollar losses”he added.
Abinader accused Haiti of trying to divert water from the Masacre River, and said that would affect Dominican farmers and the environment. The river is named for a bloody confrontation between French and Spanish colonizers in the 18th century, and was also the site of a mass killing of Haitians by the Dominican army in 1937.
Meanwhile, Jean Brevil Weston, leader of a farmers’ group near the border, was quoted by Haiti’s Magik9 radio station as saying he will not stop working on the channel.
“It’s the canal or death”said. “We are ready to be buried by the canal.”
The office of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Claude Joseph, Haiti’s former prime minister and presidential hopeful, said the excavation does not violate any agreement or treaty between the two countries and urged workers to continue working on the project.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.