Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic –
The president of the Dominican Republic on Sunday defended his decision to close air, sea and land traffic with its neighbor Haiti amid their dispute over the construction of a canal targeting a river that runs through the two countries.
President Luis Abinader said in a televised address that border closures started Friday will remain in place until construction of the canal, which aims to use water from the Massacre River to alleviate drought in the plain, is stopped of Maribaroux in Haiti.
“We neither desire nor seek confrontation, but we are faced with uncontrollable people who keep Haiti insecure and who, because of their private interests, are now also conspiring against the stability of their government and the security of our resources in water,” Abinader said. during his brief speech, referencing the gang violence that has engulfed Haiti.
Accusing Haiti of violating a 1929 treaty between the two countries, he said the Massacre River is a key resource for Dominican farmers and that construction could harm the environment, including wetlands.
“The precedent of a unilaterally constructed irrigation project can lead to an escalation of construction that would destroy the river,” Abinader said.
The river owes its name to a bloody battle between French and Spanish colonizers and was the scene of a massacre of Haitians by the Dominican army in 1937.
The full border closure came four days after Abinader announced that his administration had stopped issuing visas to Haitians and closed the border near the northern town of Dajabon.
He said it was important to raise awareness among the international community to help Haiti.
“There is no Dominican solution to the Haiti problem,” Arbinader said. “No more can be asked of us than we already do.”
A spokesperson for the Haitian prime minister’s office declined to comment Sunday and pointed to a Friday statement condemning Abinader’s decision to close all borders as the two sides met to find a solution. The Haitian government has said it supports the canal project.
Haiti has also requested assistance to help quell a surge in gang violence, with the United States saying it would submit a resolution to the UN Security Council that would authorize Kenya’s bid to lead a multinational police force.
No resolution has yet been submitted and no timetable has been provided.