Saturday, April 29, 2006

Customs inspectors shake down Cuban visitors

Customs inspectors shake down Cuban visitors

LA HABANA, Cuba - April 24 (Hugo Araña / - Cubans who
live abroad arriving at Havana's international airport are the preferred
target of customs inspectors who solicit bribes to smooth their way.

The scam usually takes one of two forms. In the first, the inspector
will search the visitor's luggage until he or she finds some item whose
legality is doubtful, and then in a melodious voice will ask: You
wouldn't have a present for us, would you? The going rate is said to be
no less than 40 dollars.

The second is more subtle; the inspector winks at an unsuspecting
visitor who's getting ready to leave the terminal, approaches him or her
and asks for a payment of 200 dollars to overlook certain irregularities
in, say, the excess weight of the passenger's belongings.

Should the visitor not prove cooperative, the inspector may call in a
policeman to search again for suspected illegal articles being brought
into the country.

In spite of continuing campaigns by the government to erradicate
corruption and the number of inspectors fired, extortion of visiting
Cubans goes on over their frequent complaints.

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