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Warning Issued by US Embassy for Americans Traveling in Two Countries

The U.S. Department of State issued a recent travel warning for American citizens traveling between the Dominican Republic and Haiti after a border closure was announced last week.

In a bulletin, the U.S. Embassy released a “security alert” saying the closure would mean that U.S. citizens “planning to depart Haiti for the Dominican Republic on or after September 14 will not have the ability to do so, and will need to make alternate arrangements.” It warned that the embassy, meanwhile, “is not able to facilitate entry into the Dominican Republic through a closed border crossing.”

“Flights from Haiti to the United States and destinations other than the Dominican Republic are still operating normally,” the bulletin stated.

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Several weeks before, the State Department warned Americans to leave Haiti “immediately” due to the country’s deteriorating security situation as criminal gangs have taken over large areas. It cited “kidnapping[s], crime, civil unrest, and poor health care infrastructure” for the warning.

The State Department on July 27 ordered the departure of family members of government employees and non-emergency government staffers, according to the bulletin.

On Monday, Dominican Republican President Luis Abinader said in a televised speech that Haiti border closures started last Friday and will remain in place. His decision to close air, sea, and land traffic was due to a dispute over the construction of a canal targeting a river that runs through both countries.

The construction of the canal seeks to use water from the Massacre River to alleviate a drought in Haiti, it has been said. But Mr. Abinader suggested that high-ranking gang members in Haiti are trying to steal water.

“We do not desire or seek confrontation, but we are confronting the uncontrollable people who keep Haiti insecure, and who, due to their private interests, now also conspire against the stability of their government and the security of our water resources,” Mr. Abinader said during his brief speech, referring to gang violence that has engulfed Haiti.

Accusing Haiti of violating a 1929 treaty between both countries, he said that the Massacre River is a key resource for Dominican farmers and that construction could damage the environment, including a wetland.

“The precedent of an irrigation project built unilaterally can lead to an escalation of constructions that would destroy the river,” the president said Monday.

A vehicle set fire by protesters burns during a demonstration against insecurity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Aug. 7, 2023. (Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo)
A vehicle set fire by protesters burns during a demonstration against insecurity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Aug. 7, 2023. (Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo)

The full border shutdowns came four days after Mr. Abinader announced that his administration had stopped issuing visas to Haitians and had closed the border near the northern town of Dajabon. He said it was important to raise awareness in the international community so it comes to Haiti’s aid.

“There is no Dominican solution to Haiti’s problem,” he stated. “We cannot be asked for more than what we already do.”

A spokesperson for the office of Haiti’s prime minister declined to comment Sunday and referred to a Friday statement condemning the Dominican Republic’s decision to shutter all borders while both sides were meeting to find a solution. Haiti’s government has said it supports the canal project.

While attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Mr. Abinader was asked about the border situation. He said that the closure was initiated to protect his country against armed criminal gangs in Haiti, considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“What we are doing is to protect our country from the bands and the gangs that are in part of the territory, political extremism that does not respect even the Haitian government,” he said, reported the Miami Herald. “As president of the Dominican Republic, I have to protect our country and I hope … they stop the construction of the canal and we can have a solution.”

Elaborating, the president said that Haiti’s situation is “not normal” because the government “cannot control … 70 percent of the territory.” He added: “You don’t have even a person to speak to that you can relay and say, ‘We have this disagreement. We have this development,'” referring to the country’s instability.

Haiti also has requested help to quell a surge in gang violence, with the United States saying it would submit a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize Kenya’s offer to lead a multinational police force. A resolution has yet to be submitted, and no timetable has been provided.

But a top Haitian gang leader, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizer, told news outlets that he would fight against any foreign force that is deployed to the Caribbean country.

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