Crooked cops in the barrio

 Crashing a motorcycle in rural Argentina and breaking one’s leg creates problems. Recovering from the injury takes time and I had to get back to Atlanta for additional medical treatment. The motorcycle had minimum damage, but had to be stored pending my diagnosis and progress. Six – eight weeks is the normal healing time for a fractured fibula, but my age and cancer treatments might make it longer. If I could ride after two months, the bike would be shipped to Panama and I’d begin riding Section 3. Longer recovery could mean flying it to Australia to begin Section 4. Worst case would be shipping it back to Atlanta.

After Thursday January 6th’s crash, I flew to Buenos Aires and my bike was loaded on a truck headed the same way. A notary had me sign a power of attorney so an agent could control the disposition of my bike. The bike had still not made it to the receiving warehouse by the time I had to catch my flight to Atlanta. My agent, who was a US citizen living in B.A., would pick up the bike for me and store it in his garage awaiting disposition. Following is the story of that adventure. Now that my bike is safely out of Argentina, it can be told.

My agent hired a van to meet him at the trucking company’s warehouse and took a taxi out there. About ten yards out of the warehouse he was accosted by two uniform police officers, who demanded to see the original title for my bike, plus identification indicating that my agent was the owner. This barrio is famous for corrupt police and he was in the hands of the worst of the worst.

The original title was with me in Atlanta, but I had given a notarized copy to him. The police would have nothing to do with the copies! They were obviously looking for a bribe and this became evident when they threatened to confiscate the bike and arrest him … until the original title could be produced and a large fine was paid. “There was no way in hell this red- blooded American boy was going to pay one red cent to those crooked police! Nor did they know who they were dealing with!!!”

Now everyone was extremely nervous… the van driver most of all because he risked losing his van for attempted transport of bikes without proper documentation.

By this time a crowd had gathered – about 20 people including all of the employees from the shipping company, whose absence had alerted the manager that there was a big problem with the police.

When the manager appeared my agent gave him a nod and that was all it took for him to realize that the police were shaking us down for as much as they could get. He winked at my agent and began to explain to the police in Spanish, that we were with the DAKAR rally, which had just started from B.A., and they should not detain us. Catching his clue, my agent chimed in, about having to get the bikes repaired quickly so we could rejoin the rally.

This took the two corrupt officers back a step or two, because now they were attempting to bribe not just dumb foreigners, but dumb foreigners who were connected with the DAKAR RALLY. This made a big difference in their attitude.

The crowd was now really into the fray – each knew a shakedown was going on and all sided with the manager of the warehouse, as he probably had hired all of them at one time or another. My agent was trying to look enraged without looking threatening.

This went on for more than an eternity in the dirty streets of the depth of oblivion. The police were now very fearful of losing face before the crowd of spectators and retreated with the manager into the warehouse – where the crowd would assume they were being paid off. THEY WERE NOT!!!

This saved face for the corrupt police and gave us a chance to collect a little and the crowd to show their support! Upon returning, without a glance in our direction, the police hurried into their squad car and took off as if they had more important business than dealing with dumb foreigners.

The crowd applauded. After that the “conspirators” laughed. Even the van driver came around, as they were all now comrades in arms against a common enemy. The taxi driver said we got off easy and that we had been very close to losing the bikes – with a court docket booked for at least six months before a judge could even review the case!!!

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