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Toussant Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Juan Juan Almeida, 5 February 2018 — Haiti is becoming the shortest, cheapest and most popular route among mules and Cuban merchants, who travel there for “shopping tours” to supply the informal street businesses and the dangerous market of illegal surgical drugs and equipment.

“A lot of hidden goods are entering the country from these opportunistic excursions,” a source linked to the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba informed Martí Noticias.

According to the customs official, those seeking business in this market incur the crime of smuggling because they try to evade regulations and import duties.

However, in the case of Haiti, the worst thing, says the official, is not the trafficking in clothes, costume jewelry, household appliances or spare parts and cell phone accessories, but the clandestine importation of drugs such as Diclofenan, vaginal suppositories, vitamins, anesthetics, bottles of liquid silicone, botox, or prostheses for breast surgeries, without proof of origin, which can represent a real danger to human health.

Several travel agencies promote tourist packages to Haiti from Cuba. Some of them, for 945 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), offer a tourist visa good for 3 months, the flight, a hotel with breakfast and dinner, plus a day of walking around the city to make purchases, with all airport transfers coming and going.

But other agencies, as an additional incentive and for 1100 CUC, add to these services the process — from within Haiti — to obtain legal residence and a work permit in the impoverished country.

Cuban entrepreneurs have gone to Guyana, Panama, Mexico, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and other nearby countries to procure the necessary products for their work, but access to those countries is complicated by their visa requirements..

On the other hand, Russia , and especially the Lyublino Shopping Complex in Moscow, has become an ideal destination for island merchants from the non-state sector. There they buy clothes, shoes, food, car parts and a number of items for the informal business of imported merchandise.

However, the cost of travel to and staying in Moscow is high, which is ultimately reflected in the prices that must be charged by the island’s businesses supplies by Russian merchandise.

Despite being the poorest country in America, Haiti is positioning itself as t the most in-demand destination for these ‘working’ trips, because in addition to the short distance, the low prices, the six weekly flights, the natural charm of the country and the new hotel infrastructure catering to Cubans, airline passengers are allowed almost 80 pounds of luggage, of which 13 pounds can be carry-on.

In February 2017, the Haitian airline Sunrise Airways began its trips to the largest of the Antilles bound for Santiago de Cuba, and later added flights to Camagüey and Havana.

Diplomatic relations between Port-au-Prince and Havana were established in February 1904, and since then the bonds of friendship have been strengthened. Brigades of Cuban doctors have been serving in that nation since December 4, 1998, when a group of 100 doctors arrived in Haiti after the disaster caused by Hurricane George.


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