Customs inspectors are the ones making the most easy money in this country, after politicians. To give you an example of how shameless they are, a friend of mine moved from Germany to Brazil and was obliged to pay a bribe of 500 euros for the Santos inspectors to release the container with his personal stuff. His family slept on the floor of their apartment on borrowed mattresses and blankets for two weeks. The strategies of these bums is to slow down the release of goods until the daily storage fees run so high that people pay the bribe in order to save money! And no one does a thing. –Anonymous comment on the Cisco case, estadao.com.br, October 16, 2007; see also “American Tech Firm Cheats Tax Man of Gazillions”
This on top of storage fees on a shipment we had been assured would pass directly through customs without delay.
Paid to whom, for what, we are not quite sure, I hasten to add. The context of the conversation was conducive, let us just say, to requesting that information. All we know is that an unscheduled, ad hoc R$200 cash payment was suddenly necessary to complete the transaction.
The boxes arrived with all the books we put into them, but with about 75% of the clothing we put into them missing.
That is, plundered. Ripped off.
Including my classic black “my name is Vinnie from Bensonhurst, so don’t fuck with me” leather jacket, which I have worn through terrorist attacks, killer thunderstorms, countless perilous existential adventures in flyover country, and stellar evenings of idle conversations in the sidewalk cafés of Little Italy and New York City generally, and which I am (was) extremely attached to.
This development is extremely depressing.
If you travel to Terra Brasilis in search of a vita nuova, it seems you still run a good risk of washing ashore naked and bereft, like the figure of the naufrago in Góngora and Gracián.
Next step in this experiment in South American home economics: Explore the avenues for registering a complaint to see kind of action might, or might not, result.