The controversial wall with which the Dominican Republic wants to divide the island it shares with Haiti | BBC World Special

It was not an ordinary day in the Dominican Republic.

On February 20, 2022, the country’s president, Luis Abinader, wearing a reflective yellow vest over a white guayabera, directed the concrete towards a ditch over which thin steel rods rose. And they took pictures of him, lots of pictures.

It was the first step in the construction of the “intelligent perimeter fence” that will separate the Dominican Republic from Haiti and that everyone calls a “wall” on the border. In the background the music of Juan Luis Guerra and two bishops and the military leadership were attentively following the actions of the president and the concrete mixer.

The construction is a new episode in the conflictive historical relationship between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola and a porous border of more than 390 kilometers, one of the most important land corridors in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The Dominican Republic cannot take charge of the political and economic crisis in that country (Haiti) or solve the rest of its problems,” Abinader said in an act with strong patriotic symbolism in which the national anthem was sung vigorously a few meters from the neighboring country, the poorest in America.

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According to the latest data from the World Bank and the Dominican government, 60% of the Haitian population lives in poverty, compared to 24% in the Dominican. Extreme poverty reaches 24% in Haiti while it is 3.5% on the other side of the border.

The first few meters of the fence can already be seen in dajabónin the northwest of the Dominican Republic, one of the main border points with Haiti.

Eight days after the start of construction, BBC Mundo visited the site. The work was stopped. Only one bulldozer remained with its engine off. Two bored soldiers guarded the area. Cows mooed in the adjoining plot. Next to what will be the fence were discarded plastic containers.

A few steps from the wall and the place from which Abinader spoke, some Haitian children were bathing and some women were washing clothes in the massacre riverwhose scarce trickle of water forms a flexible limit between both countries.

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The wall promises to be much firmer.

In a first stage, which is scheduled to conclude in the first half of the year, according to the Dominican government, 54 kilometers of reinforced concrete and metal structure will be built, like the one outlined in Dajabón. It will have 19 watchtowers and 10 access gates. It will not cover the entire extensive territorial border, but will rise above the “most populated and sensitive areas of the border.”

In the second phase, which should begin as soon as the first is finished, another 110 km will be built for a total investment of 1,700 million pesos (about US$30 million), according to government data.

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