As Haiti’s police struggle to contain powerful armed gangs, a disagreement between the Dominican Republic and Canada spilled out into the public on Friday, further complicating an international plan to boost Haiti’s outgunned police force.
A day after Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced plans to set up a Canadian office to coordinate support for Haiti’s national police this summer in the neighboring Dominican Republic, her Dominican counterpart denied any deal authorizing an office on Dominican territory.
In a post on social media, Foreign Minister Roberto Alvarez said no deal been struck, adding that the Dominican government has not even discussed such a plan.
In a subsequent statement to Reuters, Canada’s foreign ministry said it continues to work with 20 countries and international organizations to strengthen the Haitian police and boost security, pointing to ongoing talks “to finalize a location that will support the group’s work in geographical proximity to Haiti.”
The statement did not say whether the location would be in the Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Haitian-Dominican relations have long been strained. Since gang violence escalated last year in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Santo Domingo has stepped up border security and deported tens of thousands fleeing the crisis back to Haiti.
On Thursday, Joly announced plans to coordinate a police support operation from a base in the Dominican Republic and thanked Alvarez for providing it, according to a transcript from a Canadian government official.
Since last year, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has called for an international force to rein in the gangs. The groups now control large parts of the country, which has fueled a humanitarian crisis that has displaced tens of thousands of Haitians.
The United States has pushed Canada to take a leading role, but to date no country has offered to lead an international force.