The government of the Dominican Republic announced on Thursday that it is closing the border with Haiti as of today, in retaliation for the construction in the neighboring country of an irrigation canal that will be fed by a river that crosses both states.

“From 06:00 [σ.σ. τοπική ώρα· 13:00 ώρα Ελλάδας] of Friday, all borders of the Dominican Republic, land, sea and air, will be closed,” President Luis Abinader said during a visit to an army base.

And “they will remain closed for as long as necessary to bring this provocative action to an end,” he added.

The Dominican government denounces the construction of an irrigation canal fed by the Massacre River (Masacre in French, also known as Dahabon), a natural border between the two countries, intended for Haitian farmers.

Santo Domingo argues that the project violates the 1929 peace agreement, the 1935 border agreement and the 1936 border redrawing protocol.

“This is a completely inappropriate construction, without any study, this is a challenge, which this government is not going to tolerate,” insisted Mr. Abinader, who in recent years has hardened his stance on immigration, ordering more and more refoulement operations and the construction of a border wall.

The Dominican Republic on Monday suspended the granting of passport visas to Haitian citizens and last week closed the crossing of Dahabon, one of the most important, where a joint public market of the two states is organized twice a week.

However, President Abinader assured that he will continue the dialogue with Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, immersed for decades in a political and economic crisis, which has worsened to a frightening degree in recent years due to gang violence.

His administration, he said, had been preparing “for weeks, not only for this situation but for the eventual deployment of a peacekeeping force in Haiti.” The head of state explained that if Port-au-Prince cannot stop the project, Santo Domingo can. He also added that he would raise the issue at the United Nations next week.

The US embassy in Haiti – which recently urged Americans to leave the country immediately – warned on its website that those planning to go to the Dominican Republic would need to make other arrangements.

Thousands of Haitians go to find work in the Dominican Republic, a country with a much higher level of economic development. The two states share the island of Hispaniola.