April 26, 2013
“What a drag. We were stopped by a policeman, actually a small group of them. The guy who walked up to us ran through a list . . . we had everything. So they thought up something and “fined” us ……in US Dollars! Now we knew it was bogus. And the amount was ridiculous considering the income of most Argentinians. We were not totally surprised. We had heard that this could happen.”
We were within a half hour of crossing the border out of Argentina and into Uruguay. The police had a road block set up and waved us over. First, Chris was asked for his driver’s license, he handed it over. Next, entrance papers for the vehicle and the car title . . . handed those over (actually copies). Next came the list: first aid kit, check; fire extinguisher, check; warning triangles, check . . . . . wait a minute . . . . . we only had one. That is all we were told we needed. Pretty minor huh?
Now for the shake down. For the terrible “infraction” of having just one triangle . . . we were told we needed to pay a fine of $142 US Dollars, payable now. Now, this was a ridiculous amount over basically a bogus reason AND they wanted US dollars. Asking for US dollars (not pesos) was a sure sign it was a shake down.
We were still new at this so we ended up paying $100 USD. We learned to pay less as time went on. There is not much you can do to avoid paying something. The people who live here justify it saying the police are not well paid and need to make extra money. They accept that this is OK. BUT . . they do not get shaken down for the amount of money that we do. For them, it would be closer to $5 or $10 Dollars . . . and it would be in pesos, not dollars. Part of our problem was the fact that we were driving a nice vehicle with US plates (Minnesota).
This turned out to be the only time we were “shook down” in Argentina. There are many roadblocks set up in all the countries we visited, but most were not used for increasing someone’s income; at least not in southern South America. Perhaps due to encountering less corruption in Argentina, we fell in love with the country and have returned a number of times. However, corruption did become a major issue for us in other countries.
We finally reached the border crossing. That went well. It did take 2 hours. Most of the time was due to our car. Having a US car and title requires a lot of explaining. If we had been without the car, we would have received our visa stamps in less than 1/2 hour. The next 1 1/2 hours was spent explaining why we had a US car in South America, the fact that the chassis and motor have the same VIN number (they are two different numbers in South America), helping them decipher our US car title (this is where copies are a necessity – we would offer them a copy to keep), and last, they needed to search the car. Not having the dogs with us saved us some time.