The government's decision to close the border with Haiti leaves Dominicans feeling the pinch of the U.N. embargo, too.
They complain that the sealing of the border last week means they can't sell their produce or buy enough gasoline to power their vehicles.Nearly half of the Dominican Republic's 23,200 soldiers are guarding the 240-mile border. More than 10 people have been injured in clashes with soldiers, who have arrested dozens of Dominican and Haitian smugglers and seized thousands of gallons of contraband fuel.
The soldiers even turn back Haitians who try to enter the Dominican Republic to buy food and medicine, which are allowed under the new embargo, border residents said.
The Dominican military limits each sale of gasoline in border towns to four gallons. Dominican merchants and farmers need written permission from the local military commander to buy enough fuel to start a generator or tractor.
Armed Forces Commander Constantino Matos Villanueva says soldiers caught selling contraband fuel have been dismissed.
One farmer near the border said the fuel limits have caused his production to fall more than 70 percent.
But despite the complaints, dozens of Haitian smugglers continue to cross into the Dominican Republic at night to buy gasoline, border residents told The Associated Press.
And goods continue to enter Haiti via sea through Dominican waters, the military chief has acknowledged. With only 19 vessels, the Dominican Armed Forces can't stop embargo-busting boats, he said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Kathleen deLaski told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the Clinton administration may help the Dominican Republic seal the border by sending helicopters, night-vision goggles and patrol boats.
The embargo was tightened May 21 by the U.N. Security Council to force Haiti's military leaders to step down and allow the return of the country's freely elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, overthrown in 1991.
The Dominican Republic began cracking down only last week when President Joaquin Balaguer pledged to cooperate after persuasion from U.S. officials concerned about the porous border thwarting the embargo.
Belaguer has been visited by President Clinton's new envoy on Haiti, former U.S. Rep. Bill Gray, and U.N. envoy Dante Caputo, and spoken by telephone with Vice President Al Gore.