Violence cuts short visit of Dominican Republic president

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Airiel photograph of Port-au-Prince

Protests against the president of the Dominican Republic turned violent on Monday in Haiti, where tires were burned and thrown at the presidential palace in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince. Leonel Fernandez, leader of the neighboring Dominican Republic, was staying as a guest at the palace.

The police reacted violently, resulting in 3 people being shot and wounded. Protestors had tried to block the motorcade of the Dominican president, which resulted in Haitian police firing shots into the air. UN representative David Wimhurst said UN peacekeepers were at the protests, but only Haitian police and bodyguards of the Dominican president fired shots. President Fernandez cut short his visit and most of the diplomatic staff withdrew from the country. The Dominican ambassador in Haiti demanded an apology for the incident.

The protests were over alleged abuses of Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic, an issue of importance to the relationship of the two countries in the past several months. In May the Dominican government deported at least 2,000 Haitian in response to murder of a Dominican woman. Earlier in December several Dominican villagers burned down settlements of Haitians in response for the death of a business man.

Responding to the tensions that have arisen between citizens of the Dominican Republic and immigrants, President Fernandez said prior to his Haiti visit, "… we must understand that the countries that share borders, mainly if they have unequal economic and social levels of development, historically usually have relations of conflicts."

Provisional President Boniface Alexandre said that he hopes these talks could fuel better relations between the neighboring countries. Dominican President Fernandez says that he deplores any act of violence against Haitians in his country.