HAVANA (HPD) — While gangs in Haiti blockade and loot major fuel supplies, the gasoline crisis is spreading to the neighboring Dominican Republic.
In the wake of rising gasoline prices in Haiti, an illicit oil smuggling industry has sprung up along the 240-mile (391-kilometre) border that separates the two nations on the island of Hispaniola.
Both Dominicans and Haitians buy subsidized fuel at $5 a gallon (3.78 liters) in Dominican border towns and smuggle it into Haiti, where a gallon can fetch $50.
This has caused gasoline shortages, long lines at service stations and has at least doubled sales in Dajabón, said the border city’s mayor, Santiago Riverón.
“This is a worrying situation because not only Haitians cross to buy gasoline,” said Riverón. “Now, many Dominicans traffic in gasoline, and that is dangerous.”
As the trade of products such as flour, meat and eggs between the two countries has been reduced by the crisis in Haiti, many have been smuggled.
The situation in Haiti deteriorated last year after the assassination of former Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse. Things took a turn for the worse in September when his replacement, Ariel Henry, announced the removal of fuel subsidies, doubling their price.
Protests broke out and the country’s most powerful gang blocked the main source of fuel in Port-au-Prince. This, in turn, has led to shortages of other necessities such as drinking water, coinciding with the nation’s worst cholera outbreak in years, and has left hospitals and universities without a source of power.
“The shortage and the rise in the price of gas on the black market that we have already been seeing have only increased,” said Diego Da Rin, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Jhonny, who lives in the border city of Pedernales, in the south of the Dominican Republic, said that the poorest populations have taken advantage of the increase in prices and spend their days carrying gasoline from one side of the border to the other on a motorcycle.
“Many fill their motorcycles at the gas station, then go home, take it out and accumulate gallons,” said Jhonny, who asked to be identified only by name.
Just two weeks ago, Dominican border forces announced the seizure of nearly 2,700 gallons (10,200 liters) of fuel that was being smuggled into Haiti in a single raid. Ramón Pérez Fermín, Deputy Minister of Internal Trade, pointed out that these types of incidents have increased in intensity in the last six weeks.
The official said that this situation represents a great economic loss for his country, since the government has invested large amounts of money to lower the price of fuel after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the first nine months of the year alone, the Caribbean executive paid more than 574 million dollars in subsidies in the sector, more than double the total investment of 2021, he added.
“The government is subsidizing some fuels that don’t even go to the Dominican Republic,” he said. “They do not end up in the hands of the Dominican consumer.”
The country’s president, Luis Abinader, said last week that he banned the passage of two-wheelers across the border in an attempt to curb the growing smuggling network, and indicated that he would close it in the event of an international intervention in Haiti, something that the United Nations Security Council will discuss on Monday.
Last year, the president began the construction of a border wall, a measure that, according to his administration, will improve security.
But Riverón, the mayor of Dajabón, and other officials maintain that the only real solution to a real crisis they are following with growing concern is international intervention.
“The solution is in the hands of the international authorities,” said Riverón.
Associated Press journalist Martín José Adames Alcántara in Santo Domingo contributed to this report.