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Canada, Dominican Republic at odds over Haiti police aid office

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.

Joly said Canada would set up an office in Dominican Republic; its foreign minister says it was never told

A woman in a white shirt speaks near three microphones.

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 Mélanie Joly announced plans to set up a Canadian office to co-ordinate support for Haiti's national police this summer in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, her Dominican counterpart denied any deal authorizing an office on Dominican territory.

In a post on social media, Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez said no deal had 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."

Haitian-Dominican relations strained

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 co-ordinate a police support operation from a base in the Dominican Republic and thanked Álvarez 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 fuelled 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.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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