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Kidnapped and Robbed in Bolivia

BOLIVIA | Monday, 9 January 2017 | Views [569]

It was such a perfect day. I had been in South America for two weeks. I was averaging 13 miles walked/hiked a day and was generally at 9000 ft or higher above sea level. I was tired tired tired and although it was November, it had been cold and even snowing and typically no heat in my transportation or rooms. I was nearly jubilant about getting to go home. I had a cable car tour scheduled to meet in San Francisco plaza in La Paz, Bolivia. I just needed to exchange enough money to get lunch and dinner and I needed to find an open exchange. That's where I made my big mistake. Normally, I move quickly when traveling abroad and don't make myself a target by looking lost or just generally acting slowly. But, on this last day in La Paz I found myself scanning the buildings looking for currency exchange. So, a sweet girl grabbed me and asked if I could help her find where she was. It was obviously stupid given that we were surrounded by locals that spoke Spanish, but I sort of thought she might have been trying to make friends with a foreigner. Regardless, I told her I couldn't help at all and apologized and started to walk away. She grabbed my arm and started to pull me down the street, insisting that I take a picture. Just as I was telling her I didn't have the time and tried to head back toward the plaza, a man approached. 

The man was squat, middle aged, dumpy, and had an easy smile. He tried to make small talk, then suddenly got serious and agressive, pulled out a badge "Policias Nationales", and demanded our passports. I wasn't that shocked, having read in several places including Department of State that you should always have your passport with you and that many traveler have gotten in trouble when their papers were demanded. He looked through, checked my visa, then said we needed to go to "the station" to verify the authenticity of our papers.

He casually brushed back his sport coat as he hailed a cab, showing the gun on his waist. I said I had a tour and he said they would be fast, but I had no choice; again noting the gun.

We all filed into the cab and, although there was a police station a block away, we swiftly wisked out of town. We got to El Alto and pulled into an alley or side street where he turned around to talk to us, placing the gun on the center console, for comfort.

Tags: bolivia, crime, police, robbery


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