After a night camping at a familiar spot by the river in Yapeyu, we continued south towards B.A.
Not long ago, I had a map passed on from another traveler and they had written ‘BAD POLICE’ and circled this section of road in Entre Rios. I didn’t know if they meant corrupcion or if they were just bad at being police. It turns out… both.
We first entered Argentina about a year ago (!) and have driven all over the country – from north to south and back again… and have never seen anything quite as ridiculous as this. Police checkpoints are common in most South American countries, and we’re accustomed to the routine. In the rest of Argentina, the police are professional. Here… it’s something else.
I won’t rant and rave too much, but a few things are worth mentioning. We were pulled over at least 10 times in one day – maybe more. We were asked for all sorts of things we’ve never been asked for. Fire extinguishers -not required, but they insisted they were (we have one). Insurance – not required and never asked for it in over a year. International driver’s license – not required and they insisted I was in big trouble for not producing one. We were searched repeatedly. They would point at the wrong page in our passports and tell us we were in the country illegally, or that we had smuggled Bode. We were asked how much money we have – cash – many times. And, I kid you not… I was asked to open the front hood.
Each time I was polite and told them I was not doing anything wrong and indicated I knew the law. I politely showed the one guy that our engine was in the back and that the front didn’t open.
For the most part, these guys just seemed to be fucking with us. I don’t know how they would have gotten a bribe unless I was just an idiot and started throwing money at them. Driving this stretch of road is just a huge headache… until you actually do something wrong.
They have radars and cameras, and mobile ‘police offices’ – unseen anywhere else in Argentina. This is where I got caught actually breaking the law. I’m now a true international criminal.
After a brief stop to stretch our legs, I pulled back out on the carretera without turning on my headlights. A major violation. They got me.
First, we went through the tired old routine. I was driving illegally without an international permit. We had illegally entered the country, etc, etc. We were in big trouble. We were searched. They wanted to know how much cash we had (answer: none) and insisted we must be carrying plenty of cash. After 30 minutes of explaining away all of our other major offenses, I was left with one thing – what I was actually doing wrong – the headlights.
These yahoos insisted it was an 800 peso (about $200 USD) fine and they would impound the car if I didn’t pay up immediately. They insisted it was all on camera (doubtful) and there was no possible way they could let me off without paying. Another 10 minutes went by and suddenly the multa went down to 400 pesos, and they continued to insist that there is no possible way I can be traveling without that kind of money because of all the toll booths (they’re actually pretty good at this). I continued to deny I had any money and couldn’t pay and insisted on a written ticket.
Almost an hour after getting stopped, I walked out of their mobile police office with a written ticket for 114 pesos. I slapped down my exact change and they gave me a receipt without saying a word.
Note: there are also federal checkpoints with military guys in green uniforms – these guys are legit. Just watch out for the local yahoos.