Binational market withers as Haitian-Dominican border remains closed

Santo Domingo, Oct 13 (EFE). – The binational market in Dajabón (northwest of the Dominican Republic) opened its doors on Friday only with Dominican sellers and buyers, as Haiti decided to keep its border closed to trade with the neighboring country.

All eyes were on the traditional fair, the busiest on the border, as it was the first since the Dominican Republic reopened trade with Haiti on Wednesday.

Trade had been hindered since September after the Dominican government adopted a series of measures in response to the construction of a canal on the Haitian side of the bordering Masacre River (Dajabón on the Dominican side).

The reopening of trade – called “commercial corridors” by the authorities in Santo Domingo – is limited to specific products, mainly food and medicine, all under increased security measures and military control, as this was the only sanction lifted by the Dominican Republic.

On September 15, the Dominican government decided to close the borders completely, suspend the issuing of visas to Haitians, reopen a channel on the Dominican side of the river, and prohibit entry into the country of the people responsible for the water diversion.

Little activity at the market

Although the mayor of Dajabón, Santiago Riverón, told the press that everything was ready for the resumption of the binational market and that Dominican merchants had arrived, Haiti did not open its border gate, preventing the passage of its citizens into the Dominican Republic.

There was preparation for increased controls on the Dominican side of the border, such as biometric registration equipment for Haitians entering the commercial corridor, but this was optional.

The closure of the gate by Haiti resulted in little activity in a market that, until a month ago, had been very lively every Monday and Friday.

On Wednesday, just a few hours after the opening of the commercial corridors, a fire broke out in the binational market of Dajabón.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation; no casualties were reported, but there was considerable damage to 28 premises where goods were stored, most of which belonged to Haitians.

The impact of border closures

Traditionally, Dominicans, from whom Haitians mainly buy food products such as chicken, eggs, vegetables, or bananas, account for the bulk of sales in the binational market.

The fact that Haitians have been unable to buy food in the Dominican Republic due to the border closures and trade blockades has raised concerns in various sectors.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Nearly 50% of the population suffers from food insecurity; half of its more than 11 million people live in poverty.

However, as the American organization Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) pointed out on Thursday, the closure of the Dominican-Haitian border has had a “limited” impact on the acute food insecurity in Haiti.

“Apart from spices and certain garden products, goods imported from the Dominican Republic have a relatively limited importance in the Haitian diet since 95% of rice comes from the United States.” the organization explained.

The trade crisis comes amid a deterioration in relations between the two neighbors due to the construction of the canal on the Haitian side of the Masacre River and the retaliatory measures taken by the Dominican government.

The tension is evident, and on Thursday, Dominican President Luis Abinader, in a clear reference to Haitians, assured that foreign labor “has its days numbered” in the Dominican Republic.

Abinader announced that his government would promote a program to reduce the hiring of foreigners, especially in sectors such as construction and agriculture, where thousands of Haitian citizens work. EFE

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