Friday, June 8, 2012

Dirty Cash, Crooked Cops: The Buenos Aires Police Strikes Again!

I've heard the stories. The ones about illegal bribes and lucrative back-room deals. When in Buenos Aires, it wasn't just the criminals that you had to look out for, but the cops, too. Crooked ones, the sort that would feature prominently in the occasional episode of Law & Order but were crawling all over the BAPD. For them, crime pays indeed. Call it naivete or just plain old cluelessness, but I was never 100 percent certain about the veracity of the claims. Now I know that sometimes you should believe everything you hear.

Six weeks ago, my apartment in Buenos Aires was robbed for the second time, and even from such a safe distance, several continents away in Thailand, this break-in has been even more enlightening for me than the first one. I haven't learned anything about the Argentine psyche that I didn't find out in the great robbery of 2007, and the burglar mentality might always be a mystery to me (I mean, what's the point of having things you didn't earn?), but I'm finally getting confirmation of how BA's corrupt police system works.

Thanks to a major oversight on my part -- not giving legal power of attorney to Brigitte, the woman who manages my BA apartment, before leaving BA for Australia last year -- nobody has been able to enter my apartment in the six weeks since the April 28 robbery, not even to see what has been stolen. Supposedly this is for my own protection, but it feels more like a punishment, thanks to the kilometres of bureaucratic red tape that I'm having to work my way through from a distance.

Yesterday I found out just how dirty the BA police can be. As I mentioned, I'd heard stories, and having dealt with cops in BA a number of times over the course of my four and a half years living there, I knew how inept they were. The corruption, though, was something I'd yet to experience firsthand. But I finally did last night -- via Bri, my representative in BA, who shared all of the sordid details during a Skype chat.

At one point, shortly after the robbery, Bri was approached by the police, who pretended to be concerned about the contents that may have been stolen from the apartment. They asked her what valuables were inside the apartment. She was on to them immediately, but there really wasn't anything to give away. She told them that it's a rental unit, so there's nothing to make a robber's day, only furniture. Even the television is a clunky piece of crap! (After the first robbery, in which my expensive flat-screen TV was hauled off, I bought the cheapest model I could find, knowing that I might not have it for long in the crime zone that is BA.)

More recently, the police approached Bri again, this time offering her access to my apartment -- for a fee. Bri told the lawyer handling my case, who advised her to cut off all contact with the police as the situation is out of their hands anyway. It's now a court matter, which hopefully will be resolved soon.

As Bri told me about her adventures with the BA police, I let go of my frustration and for the first time in nearly six weeks, I started to laugh at my situation. The robbery had become a comedy of errors (mostly mine) as well as a comedy of manners, bad manners (the police's). If I didn't laugh, I'd cry, which I might do anyway, once my shock over the brazen boldness of the impudent cops wears off. Hopefully, by then I will have reached the end of the bureaucratic red tape, and there'll be nothing left to cry about.

Leave it to BA to give me something worthy of both tears and laughter. What a joke!

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