I’m here to report that Haitian Customs, at least, is not sleeping on the job.  In fact, they’re actually doing their level best to block efforts to provide humanitarian relief.

Our office in Miami received some 1400 lbs of relief material (food, baby formula, medical supplies, blankets, etc.) and managed to get this on a southbound flight to Haiti… paying airfreight on the shipment to the cargo airline, by the way.  Now in Haiti, we are told that since this is not electronics components (which we would be able to import duty free for assembly and re-export) we can not clear this from Haitian customs without paying Haitian duty on it, and that for that to happen a customs bill will need to be prepared, etc. etc.  Of course, most customs employees are even showing up to work to prepare the customs bill.

One can understand that duty-free import of consumable items offers the risk of unfair competition to legitimate Haitian importers who pay duty on the same items.  But we are in extreme crisis mode here, and it is not like our company is suddenly planning to enter the local market for baby formula and blankets.  This stuff is here to be distributed gratis to Haitian people who are increasingly desperate.  The shortsightedness of those few in the Haitian government who actually are showing up for work truly astounds.