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I no longer know which way is up. Last week we went back to the Ministry of Health office, to double check that we had the correct information required to get our health permit. Maria talks to the inspector, and he tells her “No, no, no, you don't need all those documents. Just present the same documents as last year and I'll approve it.”

We were going to need an operations manual detailing our good manufacturing practices, and an on-staff food scientist to oversee our operations, among other ludicrous demands.

Then she went downtown this morning, to make another inquiry at the central Ministry of Health office. They told her, “Yes, you need all these documents and processes in place. We don't care how small you are, you have to comply with everything on this new list.” So we have no idea, when the moment of truth comes, if we'll really get our Health permit renewed or not. It appears that we'll be treated like a major food processor, whether we really are our not.

The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Nobody gives you the same answer twice. It's almost impossible to know if what you're doing is correct, and to know if you're complying properly with the operating regulations. Before, it was sometimes a bit murky and ambiguous, and you weren't quite sure if you were doing the right things. Now, it's nearly impossible to tell if anyone even knows what the hell they're talking about, and it's glaringly obvious that there is no coordination between any of the regulatory agencies.

Then, to get our municipal permit renewed, this year they were requesting, for the first time, a zoning permit. So our site had to be evaluated for land use, becaue the Ministry of Production had categorized us as “industry.” However, Maria went and contested this categorization because we are by no means an industry. After getting the buck passed through over three people, she finally was able to corner somebody (during his only available office hours from 2 to 4 pm), who was willing to accept reason and help us get the business recategorized.

Of course, this meant jumping through a bunch of hoops all over again; back to the Municipality after getting our first application for renewal of our license canceled, then resubmitting all over again with the new categorization.

We're now preparing what we can and waiting for the moment of truth.

I no longer know which way is up. Last week we went back to the Ministry of Health office, to double check that we had the correct information required to get our health permit. Maria talks to the inspector, and he tells her “No, no, no, you don't need all those documents. Just present the same documents as last year and I'll approve it.”

We were going to need an operations manual detailing our good manufacturing practices, and an on-staff food scientist to oversee our operations, among other ludicrous demands.

Then she went downtown this morning, to make another inquiry at the central Ministry of Health office. They told her, “Yes, you need all these documents and processes in place. We don't care how small you are, you have to comply with everything on this new list.” So we have no idea, when the moment of truth comes, if we'll really get our Health permit renewed or not. It appears that we'll be treated like a major food processor, whether we really are our not.

The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Nobody gives you the same answer twice. It's almost impossible to know if what you're doing is correct, and to know if you're complying properly with the operating regulations. Before, it was sometimes a bit murky and ambiguous, and you weren't quite sure if you were doing the right things. Now, it's nearly impossible to tell if anyone even knows what the hell they're talking about, and it's glaringly obvious that there is no coordination between any of the regulatory agencies.

Then, to get our municipal permit renewed, this year they were requesting, for the first time, a zoning permit. So our site had to be evaluated for land use, becaue the Ministry of Production had categorized us as “industry.” However, Maria went and contested this categorization because we are by no means an industry. After getting the buck passed through over three people, she finally was able to corner somebody (during his only available office hours from 2 to 4 pm), who was willing to accept reason and help us get the business recategorized.

Of course, this meant jumping through a bunch of hoops all over again; back to the Municipality after getting our first application for renewal of our license canceled, then resubmitting all over again with the new categorization.

We're now preparing what we can and waiting for the moment of truth.

We are now in the process of trying to get our health permit renewed. You never know when things are going to change, and this year the whole process, both with the municipality and with the Ministry of Health has changed. The municipality tells you one thing, you ask them for clarification, and they tell you another thing.

Maria called an office we were directed to yesterday, and talked to six different people without getting a clear answer. Now, we’re at the Ministry of health office miles away from our location, and Maria is trying to figure out if we can move ahead with the Ministry of Health permit even though we don’t have our municipal permit.

You see, before you can apply for your Ministry of Health permit, you have to get your municipal license renewed. But the municipality says but getting your municipal license renewed can take up to 180 work days. However, your Ministry of Health permit has to be renewed within the first six months of the year not later than July 15. So even if you started the renewal process for your municipal license on 1 January, it might not be ready until the September. That would mean there’s no way to get your Ministry of Health permit renewed in the legal time allowed.; therefore, we will be fined $1,500. Of course, no one seems to know or care what anyone else is doing, so you can never figure out if what you’re doing is correct or not.

The Ministry of Health says they might make an exception since the municipality is moving slowly on things, and the “might” accept proof that you have begun the renewal process. Big “might.”

Update soon.

After being dissed on, threatened to have my visa revoked for no apparent reason, and subject to all manner of arbitrary humiliation, I finally got my papers submitted to transfer my visa from my old passport to my new passport. Actually, it was the exact same process as originally applying for the visa, just to have it transferred.

When Maria and I went in Thursday to resubmit our papers, we carefully checked to see who was attending that day. The same guy that mistreated us on Wednesday was at the same window again on Thursday. But, it appeared, he was not dealing with the same procedures.

When our turn finally came up, we walked up this time to a different window. It was like night and day. The guy was extremely courteous, dare I say even cheerful. He chatted with us about the process, offered additional advice on applying for citizenship, and was just an overall pleasure to do business with. It’s too bad there’s so little to say about nice experiences, but I guess that’s the news for you. If it bleeds, it leads. And this doesn’t bleed, not even a little bit.

So, my papers are now submitted, and next week I’ll return to submit my passport, assuming that all is well and the papers are approved.

I just went to submit my visa transfer form to the MInistry of Foreign Relations. My old passport expires in May, so I have a new one and need to get my residency visa transferred over.

After getting 7 documents notarized as required for the transfer (copy of marriage certificate, copy of the old visa, copy of the old and new passports, copy of my Ecuadorian ID card) and preparing a letter to the current director of foreign affairs, whatever that is, I got my number and waited in line.

Maria accompanied me to see the “gentleman” who is supposedly there to receive the documents and enter them into the system. Immediately, he said, “Well, this letter is not written to the proper person.”

We pointed out that we had gotten the name on the letter from the MInistry Offices. He said “He's due to go abroad as Ambassador and if the letter is not directed to the proper person your visa could be annulled.” He then went on to tell us that if, for any reason, they (they being the “judicial department”) decided that the original visa was improperly issued in the first instance, it could be cancelled.

We asked, how are we supposed to know who the proper person is when we have called and called here and gotten no answer, and finally did get an answer at the Ministry. He said, “We don't take phone calls or give out any information here.” So we asked, well how are we supposed to know who the right name is? “Well, you should have come here and asked.”

“You just said you don't give out any information here.” He didn't know where to hide.

He went through each page one by one, slowly, looking for an error or something to call us on. It was painfully obvious he was just looking to trip us up so he wouldn't have to accept the papers. Who knows if this is plain laziness, plain meanness, incompetence, that they've been instructed as bureaucrats to make the process as slow and agonizingly painful as possible, or maybe he was just having a bad day? Who knows? But it's hard not to ask what is wrong in this country when nearly every public transaction is similar to this one.

Finally, he said, this paper needs notarization-the copy of Maria's ID card. Maria pointed out that nowhere on the web page does it say that the ID needs notarization. “Yes, but according to article 22 as a public employee I can ask for any additional documentation I deem necessary.” Ok, so that opens it up to the fact that you can make this process as arbitrary, arduous, and long as you wish! Great.

I haven't even filled in all the details of the ridiculous back and forth that went on between Maria and this guy, but it was obvious he was not looking to help us out. I don't know where these people get their knack for finding ways to vaingloriously waste their own and other people's time, but it's a notorious trait in this country. Welcome to Ecuador! Stay tuned for the update tomorrow!

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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