Getting Arrested in Peru (Not Really!)

I didn’t get arrested, but for a moment I thought it might.  Peru has many road blocks and checkpoints where the police stop cars randomly and ask for documents.  Specifically they want to see your license, your safety inspection, your insurance, and your title.  In our car’s case, they want to see our authorization to drive a car with tinted windows.  All of these we have, and I am always careful to have them available in the glove compartment of the car.  They have all been obtained through much effort and repeated trips to our provincial capital of Albancay, 1 1/2 hours away from Curahuasi.  Tonight on the way home from Cuzco, I was stopped at one of these random traffic stops.  I smiled and eagerly handed over my documents, hoping to be on my way quickly.  I had a young, very serious, unsmiling officer addressing me.  He looked at my license and decided it needed to be checked in the computer system.  Why?  I don’t know.  This had never happened before.  So I got out of the car and followed him into a police station that happened to be nearby.  He got on the computer and said my license was not registered in the system.  I know that it is registered, because to obtain my authorization to drive a car with tinted windows, they had used my license to do a check on my driving record.  But I still wondered if something had happened, and even more I wondered what was I going to do about it.  They began to tell my that my license was a fake (in a related event, in the past I have had someone tell me my work visa was a fake as well) and that they were going to give me a ticket and impound my car.  I began to get nervous, as I did not really know how to work out this situation.  If they impounded my car, how would I get home?  How would I get my car back?  How would I prove my license was real?  And I was by myself, in a small room surrounded by 5-6 police officers, armed with rifles and pistols speaking a language that to me is still a trial, accusing me of driving with false documents.  I tried telling them that I had done everything to follow the law, taking my psychological exam, my physical exam, passing the written test and the driving test, and paying large sums of money for the license and different authorizations.  The group of officers in the office strangely kept asking me if I was Peruvian.  I had two internal responses to that.  One was, “Do I look like a Peruvian?” and the second was “If you think I sound Peruvian when I talk, thank you for the compliment!” By this time, because of nervousness, I was losing the ability to make grammatical sense in Spanish.  The young officer took me back to an empty room, to talk to me alone, and unbidden the thought came to my mind that maybe this was when I was supposed to offer a bribe.  I had already decided that I was not going to knowingly be a part of a bribe, so I just took the opportunity to explain again that if there was a problem with the license, it was not my fault, and how could we fix this.  Around this time Nolan, a friend who was traveling with me came in.  Outside he had made a connection with one of the other officers outside, making sure he knew that we worked at the hospital.  It is always helpful to drop that information whenever possible, as it seems to alleviate many misunderstandings.  This officer happened to be the brother of one of the nurses with which I work frequently.  I eagerly told him I knew her.  A female officer came in and ran my card again and found that it was registered.  We were cleared, thanks be to God for his help, and Nolan and I made a quick exit.  I debated whether to take a picture, but headed down the road, thankful that we were in our own car and not lugging our purchases which included a hot water heater into a taxi.  Needless to say, I am glad to be home in a warm house with my family as I listen to the rain fall outside.

5 thoughts on “Getting Arrested in Peru (Not Really!)

  1. Oh, my goodness…I suppose you are just a suspicious looking character…to them. Congratulations on the water heater and thank you, God… and Nolan.

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  2. Yikes! That would be so scary! It sounds like you are probably right, a bribe was expected. Maybe slowly you will be changing the culture! Maybe word will get around and they will think, “oh it’s one of those international doctors at the hospital. No way we will get money out of him!”

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