The police station finally re-opened on Wednesday morning, and after finishing layout for the Post, I popped over for what I thought (stupidly) would be a quick and easy visit, only needed a police report for my insurance. I obviously had forgotten that I was, in fact, residing in Nicaragua. Now, the Nicaraguan government is generally acknowledged as corrupt and rather inefficient. I don’t know why I didn’t expect this incompetence to manifest itself in such government limbs’ as the police force. They were closed for a week, for goodness sake, which should have been my first hint. But, alas, I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to get a basic report and be on my merry way. Instead, I walked out two hours later after getting into an argument with a police officer.
A shortened version of my visit:
Arrival, 9 a.m. Wait in line at the Oficina de Denuncias.
9:30: Enter la Oficina de Denuncias; chat with friendly woman police officer
10:00: Still chatting with friendly woman police officer who is very chatty with everyone except me. I’ve already listen to her make lunch plans and ask about the health someone’s uncle. Professionalism this is not.
10:05: We finish the report. I ask for a copy. She looks surprised. I’m told that she will make me a copy of the police report. I wait for it.
10:30: I’m told that I don’t get a copy of the police report. Why? Because I just can’t.
10:45: She sends a male police officer out to chat with me.
“I just need it for my insurance.”
We can’t give it to you. It’s politics.
Pooolitics, he says slower, thinking I didn’t understand the word.
Okay. What do I need to do to get a copy of this report?
We have to do an investigation, he tells me. You don’t get the report until after the investigation.
Sigh. Okay. What do you need to do that? They need a copy of the transaction from my bank detailing when and where 152.42 cents was depleted from my account.
I don’t know how to get that, I say. My bank is in the United States.
Have them mail it to you, he says. We need it so we can look at the video cameras where they used your card.
But, I’m telling you they used it on Friday morning, around 2 a.m.
That is the only way I can get the copy of the police report?
I tell him that I’ll print out my online bank statement that shows that said amount was charged to the Granada Esso station.
11:30: I return with printed bank statement. I wander around the station for awhile looking for someone to help me. Surrounded by a sea of short Nicaraguan police-people dressed in blue, I am in a green sundress, yet somehow invisible. I find the fellow who I talked to before, and give it to him. He wanders off with it.
11:45: I’m now talking to a senior police officer who doesn’t believe my debit card was stolen.
“You said it was stolen on Thursday night. This document shows that you spent money at the Esso station on Monday.”
No. This is when it was posted to my account. My bank is in the United States. It takes several days to post to my account. It was stolen Thursday, used Friday morning at 2 a.m., and I cancelled late Friday morning.
I don’t understand. It says here you spent money on Monday. That’s impossible if your card was cancelled on Friday, as you say.
No. That’s when the transaction arrived to my bank, I say.
We go around and around and around. They have the transaction number of this transaction, per my bank statement. Go to Esso, and have them look up what time it took place, I tell this policeman. He does not understand.
Okay, I just need a copy of the police report for my insurance, I tell him again and again. I can’t give it to you. I just need a copy of the police report so that my insurance will reimburse me. I don’t need you to do anything, I say. I can’t do that, he says. I just need a copy of the report I already filed. You don’t have to do anything. “It’s politics,” he says. What does this mean?
If this recounting is frustrating to read, image me standing in a Nicaraguan police station, dripping in sweat and barely concealed anger, attempting to reason with a senior police officer. I finally walked out of there, steam blowing out my ears, sans police report.
I’m so very happy to be a United States citizen where the penal system functions. Yes, yes, I know it has its share of problems. But I am generally confident that police offers can follow through on their pledge to protect. I’m normally a person who follows the directions of such individuals as police officers, but these blue-uniformed individuals just weren’t being logical. Nicaragua, if you really are interested in being a tourist destination—and hey, it’s cool if you aren’t—you need to make sure your police force knows how to respond to foreigners who get robbed. And the first way is to believe them when they say they were robbed. And secondly… what’s the point of filing a report if you 1. won’t do anything with it anyway and 2. won’t give me a COPY!?
I am still sans police report, although on my way out, I was told to ‘come back later’.
As further evidence of things being a little off kilter in the Nicaraguan government, the battle over municipal elections of last Sunday is still raging, a number one topic of conversation. At least two people have died in Managua as a result of protest violence. The election is getting world attention because, well, it’s a grand example of election fraud in a country that supposedly moved into ‘democracy’ in 1990. Even The Economist is giving this coverage, which is for me a fascinating read because I’ve heard all about these goings-on directly from Nicaraguans.
How to steal an election:NICARAGUA may be a small country but it is an emblematic one. In 1979 the leftist Sandinista movement overthrew a corrupt dictatorship. In response, the United States organised the Contra guerrillas. In 1990 the Sandinistas agreed to hold free elections, which they lost. But their leader, Daniel Ortega, has returned to power, having won a presidential election in 2006 against a divided opposition. Now, armed with an alliance with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, he seems determined to snuff out Nicaragua’s young democracy.