Haitian officials meet in Dominican Republic to prevent border closings over canal dispute

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Haiti’s government announced that it met Wednesday with Dominican officials in the Dominican Republic to talk about a recent threat by that country’s president to close all borders in response to a row over the construction of a supposed canal.

The brief statement by Haiti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not provide much detail, except to say that both sides were trying to find a “fair and definitive” solution to squabbles over the use of the Massacre River that runs along the border both countries share on the island of Hispaniola.

The Dominican Republic's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the meeting and said that talks would continue on Thursday.

Simmering tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic deepened on Monday when Dominican President Luis Abinader announced that he had suspended issuing visas to Haitians and threatened to shut down land, air and sea traffic if the conflict over the canal wasn’t resolved before Thursday.

The excavation of a supposed canal on Haitian soil began recently, but it wasn’t clear who, if anyone, authorized the digging. It already prompted Abinader to shut the border last week near the northern town of Dajabon, an economic lifeline for Haitians who buy and sell goods there several times a week.

Dominican officials claim that the canal would divert water from the Massacre River and hurt farmers and the environment. The river is named after a bloody battle between French and Spanish colonizers in the 18th century.

The Dominican Republic last fully closed its border with Haiti following the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Since then, it has at times closed parts of the border for security.