Caravan Carrying Unlicensed Goods to Cuba Clears U.S. Customs
Posted by Clif Burns at 8:49 pm on July 26, 2010
Category: Cuba Sanctions • Customs
A convoy of buses organized by Pastors for Peace with goods destined for Cuba cleared U.S. Customs at the U.S.-Mexico border despite its cargo and its ultimate destination. The convoy, which originated in Canada and which was carrying 100 tons of medicines, medical supplies, computers, school supplies, sports equipment and construction supplies, was detained at the U.S. border with Mexico for seven hours. Even though the goods in the convoy had not been licensed for export to Cuba, the convoy and its cargo was ultimately allowed to proceed across the border.
Why the goods were not seized by Customs at the border is far from clear, but Pastors for Peace have a history of carrying humanitarian aid to Cuba without a license as an act of civil disobedience. In 1993, when Customs seized a bus on its way to Cuba as part of a Pastors for Peace convoy, the group conducted a hunger strike and the goods were eventually allowed to cross the border on their way to Cuba. Apparently, a decision has been made to allow the convoy to pass simply to avoid bad PR. On its website, the group goes so far as to say:
[Each] time the US Treasury Department backs down in the face of our challenge and allows one of our caravans to cross the border with unlicensed aid for Cuba. …
My opposition to comprehensive unilateral sanctions, such as those imposed on Cuba, has been well-documented on this blog. Even so, enforcement of the sanctions must be uniform and even-handed. OFAC can’t go after some violators and then decide to ignore others who might go on hunger strikes. Of course, the answer here isn’t to jail the religious group or seize their goods but rather to re-evaluate the whole enforcement posture of the agency with respect to humanitarian exports of this kind.
Customs did decide to make a gesture here and, as a token of ill-will, seized five laptops from the group, allegedly to see if they could be used by Cuba “for military purposes.” These were Pentium 4 laptops. I suppose these could be used by the Cuban military to play Minesweeper.
The CBP Is Mightier Than The Sword
Posted by Clif Burns at 9:28 pm on October 27, 2008
Category: Customs • USML
ABOVE: USML Category II(a)
I always tell clients that even an obsolete military item can be on the United States Munitions List (“USML”) and require an export license. Still, not all obsolete military items are on the USML. Maces, catapults, jousting poles, caltrops, scythed chariots, spears, arrows, and siege hooks immediately come to mind. Swords too. Unless, it seems, you are a special agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
According to this op-ed column in The Capital Times by Howard Waddell of Albion Swords Ltd. in New Glarus. Wisconsin, U.S. Customs recently seized an export by him of replica swords modeled after the ones used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian:
I received a telephone call on Friday morning indicating that a shipment we had made to our European distributor was being held by U.S. Customs because of a possible ITAR violation — shipping “weapons of war” without prior authorization from the State Department.
When I pointed out that the shipment in question consisted primarily of reproductions of swords from the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and were not, in fact, “weapons of war” per se, the dutiful customs officer pointed out that the U.S. Marine Corps still uses swords, therefore swords are still considered to be “weapons of war.”
Oh. Good. Grief. Don’t go searching your copy of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) for “weapons of war,” because you won’t find that phrase anywhere. Nor, frankly, will you find a category on the USML which encompasses sword replicas. The closest I could find was “close assault weapons systems” in Category I(c), but, although that term isn’t defined in the USML, it is a clear reference to a now-discontinued type of highly accurate short-range rifle for urban warfare, not to swords, which haven’t been used on the battlefield for, oh, four or five centuries.