Crime & Justice

Dominican army quietly building Haiti border fence

By Manuel Perez Bella

Jimani, Dominican Republic, May 11 (EFE).- The Dominican Republic has already built 23 kilometers (14 miles) of fence on its border with the impoverished nation of Haiti, a project begun without fanfare prior to President Luis Abinader’s announcement of plans for a frontier-long barrier.

The completed stretches are located at the Jimani and Elias Piña border crossings – second and third, respectively, in terms of binational traffic – and are still under construction, Gen. Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase, the Dominican Republic armed forces combined staff’s director of planning and operations, told Efe.

The work has been carried out discreetly by the army and gone unannounced by Dominican authorities, who are seeking to control illegal immigration and eradicate cross-border contraband, arms- and drug-trafficking and vehicle and livestock theft.

The longest stretch of fence begins on the shores of Lake Azuei, Haiti’s largest, and winds through the arid hills surrounding the Dominican town of Jimani. That urban area is the closest to the Jimani border crossing, which is located on the highway that links Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince.

The fence stands around four meters (13 feet) tall, has a cement brick wall foundation and is topped off by razor wire, now rusted in some places due to humidity from the lake.

Monitored 24/7 by troops with the Cesfront border security force, the fence cuts through rocky paths that smugglers and traffickers had used to travel from the lake to Dominican soil, the soldiers explained.

The other completed stretch, built between 2019 and 2021, is located on hills near Elias Piña, a border crossing located in the center of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

In a speech to Congress in February, Abinader announced plans for the construction of a fence spanning the entire border and said additional security systems also would be installed, including facial recognition cameras and motion and infrared sensors.

The goal, he said, is to completely stamp out illegal immigration, drug trafficking, contraband smuggling and vehicle and livestock theft within two years.

Gen. Jose Manuel Duran, Cesfront’s commander, told Efe the fence won’t actually span the entire length of the border because it won’t be necessary in mountainous areas.

“All the threats we face on a daily basis will be significantly controlled with that project, since there’s no way to move a cow that was taken from the Dominican side over a height of 15 feet, nor a vehicle,” Duran said at the northern border bridge of Dajabon, the main crossing between the two countries and one that still lacks a fence.

Potential contractors are currently readying their proposals for the official border security project, which is to begin before year’s end.

The plans, however, have come under criticism from Dominican and Haitian retailers and other business leaders, as well as human rights defenders.

The fence is a disservice to vulnerable people, especially the thousands of migrants who cross into the Dominican Republic in search of work, Haitian activist and conflict mediator Jesula Blanc told Efe at her office in the Haitian city of Ouanaminthe, located across the border from Dajabon.

She said the project will merely create more conflict and further distance the two communities from one another. EFE


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