Aid Cargo Sits Unused in Haitian Customs Lot
(NECN/CNN: Port-au-Prince, Haiti) - In the main harbor of Port-au-Prince, where life-saving supplies are shipped in from around the world, there is a hold put on many pieces of aid sent to help in the relief effort.
Relief agencies claim the cargo is purposely being delayed from reaching its targeted relief area, but the customs director blames failed paperwork on the part of multiple charities.
"People need to have a minimum of respect for the rules," Haitian Director of Customs Jean-Jacques Valentin said. "The buildings may have collapsed, but the law is still there."
Sitting unused in the customs lot were two Red Cross vehicles used as waste trucks to deal with sanitation, a road-building machine and an ambulance, among other cargo. Doctors Without Borders said 20 of its vehicles were locked up in customs for three months before being released.
"Doctors Without Borders knows what they need to do. They're an organization of high esteem. Why would we want to block them?" Valentin said. "If we wanted to block aid, there wouldn't be so much aid that come through since the earthquake."
Many charity groups are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of even tougher customs treatment.
Ed Joseph is a representative for the relief organizations in Haiti, and he said many of the group have waited weeks for vehicles, medical supplies, crutches, mattresses and bedding.
Doctors without borders said they spent $126,000 for rental cars because they could not wait so long for their cars to clear customs. Valentin would not reply to charges that the government was trying to make money of the volunteer relief agencies.
"They don't make any sense. The government does not own rental shops," he said.
He said he does not make the laws, simply enforces them. And he said he must look out for illegal businesses posing as charities.
"You just can't arrive with a container and be waived through," Valentin said. "Imagine if we just said, go through with your drugs and your arms."
CNN's Gary Tuchman reports in the video player above.