Berny Leonardo got into the truck and started out of Guatemala City headed back to Puerto Quetzal. This was the fifth time he had made the trip to and from Puerto Quetzal in his efforts to get containers into Guatemala this year. The demands of the Port Authority and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) make this effort necessary. The process is difficult and time consuming. Not because they purposely made it difficult, but more because that is just the way it is in Guatemala.
Water for Life had never tried to get three containers into Guatemala in one season, and our hopes of a smooth process were being slowly dashed. There is a new government in place and the persons in charge of the importation process did not have much experience at it. The new government has instituted new procedures that they are trying to get everyone to follow but the procedures do not take into consideration the ease for the customer.
For example, there is a point at which a fee must be paid to the shipping company MSC. The fee isn’t much, but it must be paid before the importation process can go to the next step. The problem is that there is no MSC office at the port. Berny has to go back to Guatemala City to pay the money at the MSC office. They can’t accept the money, so the process is to go the MSC office, get a deposit slip, then go to the bank to deposit the money, and then back to the office to present proof of the deposit and then to get a receipt from MSC and go back to the Port Authority with the receipt.
This may seem not so much trouble, but it is a 4 hour drive to Puerto Quetzal from Guatemala City one way. There is often a line at the bank that must be negotiated. It takes a whole day just to manage this one step in the process. There are several steps in the importation process and all the while, the Port is charging $140 US per day for storage of the container. It does not matter if the day of storage is a weekend day when all the offices are closed or not. A day is a day when they are adding up the storage fees.
Berny drove out of the city, heading back to the port. He knew that he would have to make the trip again in a couple of days, because this was just the second container and the third was scheduled to come into Puerto Quetzal soon. He approached each task patiently. If he is asked how it is going, he will usually reply, “Well, thanks to the good Lord, we are gaining on it.” He knows all his work is in service to the poorest of his countrymen. He is helping to bring them life and health through the gift of clean water. That is what Water for Life. Thank you for your help.