Open and Shut
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The Dominican Republic closed its bother with Haiti this week amid a dispute over access to a river shared between the neighboring Caribbean nations, a decision that could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the New York Times reported.
Both countries have been recently embroiled in a row over construction in the Dajabón River, also known as the Massacre River, that traverses both countries.
Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said the excavation of a canal on the river in Haiti would harm Dominican farmers. Last week, he froze Haitian visas and warned he would close the 224-mile border if the two sides did not reach an agreement.
Negotiations between representatives of both countries failed to resolve the issue last week, prompting Abinader to announce the shuttering of the border on Friday morning.
Following the failed talks and Abinader’s move, the Haitian government countered that it had “the full right” to access the Massacre River.
The river – named for a bloody battle between Spanish and French colonizers in the 18th century – has long been a source of tension between the two nations: It was the site of a 1937 massacre ordered by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo that killed thousands of Haitians.
In 2021, both Haiti and the Dominican Republic recognized a 1929 agreement affirming their shared rights to access the river’s water.
The border closure comes as Haiti grapples with starvation and growing insecurity from armed gangs. Observers and United Nations officials cautioned that the move could worsen the economic turmoil in Haiti, which imports more than a quarter of its goods from the Dominican Republic.
Others noted that the closed border would also hurt the Dominican Republic, which relies on Haitian laborers and Haiti as an export market.
The Dominican Republic temporarily shut its border with Haiti after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Since then, Abinader has occasionally closed sections of the border and has also initiated the construction of a border wall in response to rising violence in Haiti, in an effort to curb weapon smuggling and illegal border crossings.