A Haïtian government committee is visiting the Ouanaminthe canal site after pledging to provide support. The shift marks a significant development in ongoing tensions with the Dominican Republic.
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti’s government has agreed to provide financial support to finalize the controversial Ouanaminthe canal construction, marking a significant development amid ongoing tensions with the Dominican Republic even as locals expressed skepticism about the cabinet’s motives. The new pledge of support is the second time Haiti has publicly demonstrated official support for the farmers, who firmly expressed their right to use resources, even as it navigates diplomatic relations with neighboring Dominican Republic.
The development follows an Oct. 26 meeting with the committee overseeing the canal’s construction and representatives from the ministries of agriculture, environment, public works, transport and communication. The government was planning to visit the site on Oct. 30 to assess.
Wideline Pierre, who spoke on behalf of the canal committee, expressed gratitude for the government’s involvement. However, she iterated, the local group would maintain its timeline for completion.
“As the state’s studies take time, they may be surprised to see the work progressing because the construction of the canal is not going to stop,” Pierre said.
There is no official information publicly shared about the total amount of money the government will allocate to complete the canal. However, the proposed government commission created to work alongside the local committee is a clear indication that the government reiterated its position. Prior, Leon Charles, Haiti’s permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), said during a special meeting that Haiti had every right to build the Massacre River canal.
Haiti’s long-standing diplomatic tensions with the Dominican Republic have once again come to the forefront. For years, the two neighboring nations have grappled with a range of contentious issues, often centered around Haïtians force deportation, migration, border security, visa to Haïtians, birthplace for Haïtians born in DR. This latest crisis situation arises from the construction of a canal on the Haitian side on the Massacre River, which led to Dominican President Luis Abinader to force Haitians to suspend work, including the closure of the Dominican borders on Sept. 15.
Other events have further complicated the relationship between the two countries. Weeks after the Dominican Republic opened its border residents of Ouanaminthe still keep the border on the Haitian side closed.
Some residents in Ouanaminthe are skeptical of the government’s involvement, questioning why the government didn’t intervene earlier. Some even reject government assistance, asserting that they have the capability to continue the work independently.
“If the government decides to send us materials, let them do so, but it does not need to be on the site,” a local construction worker said at the Oct. 26 meeting. “We have the strength to continue, and we are used to working day and night.”
Others voiced similar sentiments, expressing disappointment that the State hadn’t supported them from the project’s inception.
“We don’t need people who will betray us in secret,” another worker said at the same meeting. “The canal would be a deliverance for us in the Maribahoux plain and if the government had supported us from the beginning we would have gone further with the work.”
“This work on the Massacre River is a work of the government, it was time for the State to be on our side,” adds Pierre, saying he has no expectations regarding the State’s promises.