Tag Archives: police

Driving Hazards–Police and Military stops

Transitos are the traffic cops in México and are not armed.

Transitos are the traffic cops in México and are not armed.

Then there are police checkpoints to contend with. Arriving in Celaya, on our trip from Moroleón to San Miguel de Allende (See Getting Legal–Trip 1) we were stopped by the transito (traffic police) because our truck didn’t have a current verficación (inspection) sticker. I put my head down and pretended to be invisible while my husband negotiated the mordida (bribe). On the way back, we were stopped yet again by the same group of transitos (traffic police). Being tired and cranky, my husband made the mistake of complaining that we had already paid our dues in the morning. The transit cop had him get out of the vehicle and then gave him a dressing down for being chismoso (a tattletale) before sending us on our way with his mordida (bribe) of course.

Bribery is called mordida (bite) as in a bite of an apple.

Bribery is called mordida (bite) as in a bite of an apple.

To bribe or not to bribe, that is the question to consider.

Transitos are open to bribery. However, whether you offer a bribe or not depends on who you are. If you are female, typically no bribe is offered and no ticket is given, you may not even be stopped. Unless, of course, you are an aggressive female, then you are treated like any male in this machismo power play. (See Driving Hazards–Crossing the Border) If you are a non-Mexican male, you must understand this an alpha male thing and if the phrase “se puede reglar esto” (this can be resolved) is used by the transito (traffic police), discretely hand over $200 pesos. Transitos (traffic police) will stop you for missing inspection stickers, missing or out of state plates, for the driver not wearing a seatbelt, for anything that might be not working on your vehicle, like a tail light or just because. They will ask you for your license and tarjeta de circular (permission to use the vehicle in the country), so it pays to have both current. A transito (traffic police) can take either card or your placas (license plates) and hold them for ransom until you go and pay the fine.

Los estados are the state police in México and are always armed.

Los estados are the state police in México and are always armed.

The next level up is the random inspection typically done by the state police. These officers wear large pistols, and are sometimes masked, so are not to be confused with the transitos (traffic police), who do not wear guns and never wear masks. Los del estado (state police) may stop you for having out of state plates, for vehicle identification number (VIN) verification to see if you are driving a stolen vehicle, for a license or tarjeta de circular (permission to drive in the country) check, for driving a nice vehicle, or whatever other reason occurs to them. The mordida (bribe) is much higher and trickier to negotiate. They may take your vehicle or any other items that aren’t permanently attached as part of the “inspection.” It doesn’t to any good to go and file a complaint. (See On Safety and Security).

Los federales are national guard in México and are always armed.

Los federales are the national guard in México and are always armed.

Los federales (federal police) cruise around looking for vehicles to confiscate. High risk vehicles are newer cars and chocolates (vehicles that have U.S. plates because they were never legalized at the aduana (customs)) We had more problems when we had a newer truck, but now that we drive a Mexican national that we like to call Butch (Chevy circa 1980) they stop us less. When stopped, the feds ask for the paperwork for the vehicle issued by the aduana (customs). Know that only the registered owner or direct relative may drive a vehicle that has been imported into México. We have had to show our marriage certificate along with the other paperwork to prove that my husband is permitted to drive the truck since it was registered in my name to facilitate border crossing.

Los militares are the miltary police in México and are always armed.

Los militares are the military police in México and are always armed.

Then there are los militares (military police). This is a complete barrier stop for all vehicles. All motorists are subject to search and all vehicles are inspected, for guns or drugs. Civilians do not have the right to bear arms in México, but many have guns. It just isn’t prudent to carry them in your vehicle, even for personal safety. We carry a machete in our vehicle, which is not illegal, and can also be used to cut grass along the side of the road for our animals when the occasion presents itself.

The guns these guys tote are eye-popping big. You can determine whether it is a legitimate inspection or not by whether the police are wearing their cappuchis (masks) or not. A legitimate inspection is done by unmasked military and nothing is removed from your vehicle. Well, the other type, it’s best to just grin and bear it and not give too much information about yourself or risk being marked as a prospective kidnapping target. (See On Safety and Security).

Fortunately, only the transitos (traffic police) stopped us on that first trip. (See Getting Legal-Trip 1)





Filed under Driving Hazards, Safety and Security

On life and liberty

My mother-in-law and father-in-law and 7 of their 11 children. From left to right, B, P, C, father-in-law, mother-in-law, L, Mr, Ma and my husband

My mother-in-law and father-in-law and 7 of their 11 children. From left to right, B, P, C, father-in-law, mother-in-law, L, Mr, Ma and my husband

This weekend marks the 8th month anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law.  Her death has been a devastating blow to this family and there is no closure yet, no peace.  She died as a result of injuries suffered when a police vehicle plowed into the moto that she and my father-in-law were driving through an intersection.  Her body was caught in the front grill of the truck and carried another 200 meters, then it fell to the ground and was run over.  The police vehicle has been estimated as traveling more than 200 mps.  As the police hit the back of the moto, it spun around and hit the side of the truck.  My father-in-law flew into the air and landed on his back, fortunately out of the path of the truck.

Both were taken to the hospital.  My father-in-law was released the next day and arrested by police waiting at the hospital door.  The law here is that all parties involved in an accident are detained and the vehicles impounded while an official investigation takes place.  The officer had already posted bail and was out on the streets on active duty by this time.  It took us 24 hours to come up with the 8000 pesos for my father-in-law’s bail.  During his incarceration, he was not even given a glass a water, nor his pain medications.

Immediately upon his release, he returned to the hospital.  My mother-in-law meanwhile had been transferred to the regional hospital.  The small hospital she had first been admitted to said she would be fine in a few days, however, they didn’t have the staff to operate on her shattered leg.  Thus, the transfer.  She was conscious and in extreme pain, however, the small hospital did not take x-rays of her bruised sides and therefore missed the fact that her 2 broken ribs had punctured her pancreas and she was bleeding internally.

When she arrived at the regional hospital, she was rushed into surgery.  She had been 24 hours without any sort of treatment besides a seeping bandage on her leg. Her condition was upgraded to grave, life-threatening.  She had severe head injuries and her arterial vein of her leg was severed. Not only was her pancreas in pieces but a large section of her liver was damaged.  She lapsed into a coma. We contacted her children in the States and told them to come if they could.

We waited three days at the hospital.  She was now on artificial respiration.  She was authorized to be transferred to Léon, however, her doctors did not think she would survive the trip, so she was not moved.

Her best friend Doña T came to visit and stayed with her for over an hour, talking with her and encouraging her to open her eyes.  Her eyes fluttered.  Within an hour, she had returned to consciousness.

Meanwhile, unexpectedly, her son J, who she hadn’t seen in 18 years, contacted me through the miracle of Facebook.  My husband and I hadn’t heard from J since we left Virginia, in nearly 5 years.  J was living in Tamaulipas, near the Texas border and wanted to talk with my husband.  We immediately called him and made arrangements that he come to see his mother.  He was on the bus that night. He arrived the day my mother-in-law was released from ICU and he was able to visit her.

Now that she was no longer in ICU, but still needed around-the-clock attention, and the family was required to provide someone to care for her.  Her daughters, L and P, were the primary caregivers, however, the daughters-in-law, G and myself were also pressed into service.  My shift was that Saturday, 8 pm until 8 am.

It was exhausting, both physically and emotionally.  When I arrived, she was conscious and alert, however, wasn’t able to speak.  I jabbered for several hours about the PAN meeting I had gone to in her stead and various bits of gossip she had missed out on during her hospital stay.  However, she became weaker and I noticed she had an extremely high fever.  When she drifted off, I went to the nurses’ station and asked that someone please come and look at her.  They took her temperature and said she needed a specific medicine immediately.

I texted her son B who was staying in the albergue (beds provided for family members of patients).  He had to go to an all-night pharmacy several miles away for this medicine as the pharmacy at the hospital was closed for the night.  While we waited for him to return, the nurse gave me a bowl of water and a cloth and told me to try and get her temperature down using wet compresses.   The elderly woman in the next bed also had an extremely high temperature and her husband and I took turns at the sink in our battle against the raging infections.

The medicine arrived and was administered, however, the relief was temporary.  In the wee hours of the morning, she was again feverish.  Meanwhile, our elderly neighbor died and her body removed to make room for a new patient, whose was in agony and extremely vocal about it.

My mother-in-law lingered another day and all her family that was present in town were able to make their last farewells.  She was conscious briefly at the end, made her confession and received the last rites.  Then she was gone.

We weren’t given any time to grieve.  Now that she had died, the charges against my father-in-law were upgraded to homicide and his bail revoked.  The police had begun their cover-up while we were still at the hospital.  They claimed that my father-in-law was racing the police car across the intersection, that my mother-in-law did not have her helmet on, that there was some urgent police business that necessitated the excessive speed of the police vehicle, that the moto hit the police car first, that my father-in-law was to blame for his wife’s death.

It was a race against time.  My mother-in-law’s body was taken to Yuriria for autopsy and would be released that afternoon.  All of her children needed to make statements with a lawyer immediately or my father-in-law would be rearrested.  We needed to make arrangements with the funeral director and inform the family in Cerano. And to top it all off, Jesus had sent another lawsuit that needed immediate answer, or I too would be in jail.

Now, 8 months later, this court case is still in limbo.  The police are still denying fault even though we have submitted a video taken seconds after the accident that refute the officer’s version of events.  Witnesses that at first were willing to testify have been ‘convinced’ otherwise.  Anonymous threats have been made against the family as well should we continue with the lawsuit.  And the thing is, at no time were we asking for monetary damages, even though my mother-in-law was the sole income provider for her household.  Nor were hospital or funeral expenses present in the demands.  There is not even a demand for a new moto as it was completely destroyed in the accident.  All that we are asking for is justice.  That my father-in-law does not go to jail on charges of involuntary manslaughter for the death of his wife.  That these charges brought against him by the police officer that drove over my mother-in-law are dropped.  Seems like we are whistling in the wind for all that we are heard.

The police officer, who is identifiable from the video, has been transferred to another place.  In my opinion, for our family, that is for the best.  The anger and grief his careless actions have caused have left this family with bitterness and rage.  Should this police officer be seen by any of us, there is no telling what might be attempted and with what result.



Filed under Death and all its trappings, Health, Safety and Security