Crime & Justice

Illicit activities along a forgotten border

Tilory, Haiti, May 17 (EFE).- Groups of children in grubby clothes beg for money as they flank the all-terrain vehicles patrolling the impoverished villages dotted along the mountain highway on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.

These communities are so remote that many inhabitants are unaware of the Domincan Republic’s plans to build a border fence in a bid to end the robberies, smuggling, and irregular migration that blight the frontier.

But the routine corruption of border officials is a major hurdle when mending the country’s border woes.

On the Haitian side of the stretch of international highway shared with the Dominican Republic is the town of Tilory, a poor settlement with no electricity or running water.

Every Saturday, the town turns into a bustling market with stalls selling food, animals and utensils on both sides of the road, some 50 kilometers of which are jointly owned.

The area is remote and police patrols are few and far between.

Dominican merchant Lorenzo Antonio Valenzuela sits in the back of his truck speaking to customers in Creole, a language he picked up over the two decades he has spent coming to Tilory twice a week to sell salt and herbicides.

Valenzuela is one the few Dominicans who come to flog their wares at the market and, in order to do so, he must bribe his way past security checkpoints. The soldiers charge him 4,000 pesos ($70), he complains.

“We have a lot of issues with soldiers,” Valenzuela says. “They want 4,000 pesos per truck of salt. That’s not a tax, that’s not customs.”

Father Regino Martínez has worked with immigrants in Dajabón, one of the main border crossings in the north of Hispaniola, for more than 40 years.

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