Letters to The Editor

 Letters to The Editor

Thanks for responding. I am a married male, 64 years old, and have driven from Canada as far as Hualtuco, Mexico on my own. I love Mexico, its culture, beaches, and the people. This was my second time driving down the Baja to Cabo. I usually fly and rent a car, but since I was planning on staying for 5 to 6 months, having my own car made more economic sense. My wife flies down to meet me at a later date.

I have been pulled over a dozen times on the mainland and Baja. Usually, I give 500-1000 pesos to the officer, and I’m on my way. Their excuses for pulling me over are often the same: you were speeding, went through a flashing light, or crossed some imaginary line. Of course, none of these infractions ever occurred. I’m never intimidated or fearful of being pulled over by the policia. Right or wrong, I have accepted that this is a common practice on Mexican highways when driving with a foreign license plate.

This past Saturday, September 30, I had been driving for about 10 hours. I needed to stretch my legs and stopped to get a coke from the OXXO at El Centenario, a couple of hours’ drive north of La Paz, around 3:30 p.m. Outside the store, a homeless man noticed a piece of plastic hanging from my front bumper. Without asking, he went under my car and tied it up with some string. As this was happening, the federal policia pulled into the parking lot and observed us. I thanked the man who fixed my bumper by giving him 200 pesos. Leaving the lot, I had a gut feeling I was being targeted. And sure enough, after rejoining the highway, I saw the policia following me in my rearview mirror. I ensured I was traveling at the speed limit, but they soon flagged me down.

A masked police officer approached and asked for my insurance and driver’s license. When I inquired about the reason for the stop, he claimed I was speeding. I retorted that I adhered to the 80 km/h speed limit, but he insisted I was speeding around a curve and that this was an “arrestable offence.” I found it amusing at first, thinking he was joking. However, the situation escalated as two other masked officers surrounded my vehicle. I tried to negotiate, saying a fine for speeding is typically 500 or 1,000 pesos and offered to pay it immediately. The officer feigned a call to the office and then demanded a payment of $25,000 pesos, equating to $1,200 USD or $1,600 Canadian. Given the officers were eyeing my belongings, including my golf clubs worth about $4,000, and the substantial cash I had for my Cabo rent and deposit, I was in a dilemma.

With three armed officers, their intimidating gear, and our remote location, I felt cornered. I assessed my situation and decided it was safest to pay instead of facing potential dire consequences. This incident has been deeply troubling. The threat of arrest and the extortionist sum demanded was a departure from my previous experiences. I felt the need to share this story, even if I cannot with my loved ones. They have always been skeptical of my praises for Mexico, particularly Baja, and would likely admonish me for this. Sadly, this event has tainted my perception of Mexico, a country I have long loved and where I have considered moving with my wife.

Thanks for taking the time.

Sonny Daze, Canadian traveler.

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