Chiri in AMETland

Chirimoya

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Dec 9, 2002
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I have tried to go through life as an expatriate resident of the DR without having to experience too much of the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare side of life here. One notable exception was my immersion into the residency process a couple of years ago, which I catalogued for the benefit and amusement of fellow posters here.

In fact, this reminds me of a friend whose intricate and often lurid personal problems would make for very good dinner table conversation, and she would say - often through sobs - "I only do these things to amuse my friends". The lesson for me has been, in times of adversity, however frustrating, never lose sight of the fact that it will make for a great anecdote, or at very the least a mediocre DR1 post, some time in the future.

Anyway, the more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed my passing reference to having been fined for a minor traffic offence in AZB's recent AMET thread.

This happened last week, on a main Santo Domingo intersection where, apparently, it is forbidden to turn left. In the dimension I inhabit there is no indication that such a manoeuvre is prohibited, so when the light changed to green, I swung my little tin box leftwards, only to realise my mistake when I saw the stream of oncoming traffic. The AMET chappie on duty asked for my licence, and before I could deftly extract the photocopy I keep handy in my wallet, he got his paws on the real thing, also tucked into my wallet. Anyway to cut a long story short, and swiftly skimming over the bits where I lose my usual ice-cool demeanour and start kicking inanimate objects on the roadside, he wrote me a ticket and retained my licence.

On closer inspection, it turns out I don't just have to pay a fine (amount to be determined) but I had to attend a tribunal on Friday 29th October. Great! I think. That gives me time to prepare my case!

My attorney (well, my husband) and I marched into the AMET HQ this morning in full courtroom drama attire and armed with photos of the intersection that demonstrate the absence of any 'no left turn' signpost, and showing the road surface markings with a big arrow pointing left. This, BTW, had been dismissed by my AMET buddy as 'the responsibility of Obras Publicas'.

We were met with total pandemonium. Forget Kafka. Think Dante. A dimly-lit sweaty entrance hall with a sizeable horde of angry men waving traffic tickets in the air, in the direction of an official standing on a small flight of stairs. A helpful bystander points me towards the court room, explaining that women don't have to go through this indignity. Lesson no. 1: if you are careless enough to get fined, make sure you are not a man. My husband was prevented from entering the court room with me, even when I tried to persuade the man at the door that I needed him to interpret for me. He wasn't having any of it.

The courtroom was crowded but a little less chaotic, in that my details were swiftly taken by a polite and sympathetic clerk, and the official who fixes the amount of the fine took his time to listen to my case and agreed that I should have had a verbal warning from the AMET cop, and not a fine. He said that the judge was not there today, otherwise she had the power to cancel the fine, but that he would fine me the symbolic minimum of RD$25. I don't know how common this is, but sneaking peeks at other people's slips of paper they were getting fines of RD$250, 500 or more.

The people in the courtroom were - if you can go by appearances - from the lower end of the social-economic spectrum. There was no-one there who resembled the people I see violating traffic laws on a daily basis. You know the types: the baseball cap wearing jevitos in new cars, the elegant ladies with big hair and long nails, expensive cellphones and luxury cars or SUVs, or the bigshot men in similar vehicles. These people were not represented in this group, which appeared to consist mainly of carro publico drivers, commercial vehicle drivers and the odd middle-income professional who just about manages to afford a 15 year old car. Few of the people there looked smart enough even to be a chauffeur or messenger for a wealthy person. Lesson no. 2, as if we needed to be told, is that if you want to do whatever you want in this country, don't make the mistake of being poor.

The impression one gets is that if an AMET official has the temerity to stop some powerful, wealthy or well-connected individual, they face getting into trouble, or at the very least the offender manages to get off the hook with a quick cellphone call to the corridors of power and influence. Who is left then? The small fish. Not that concho drivers are blameless, on the contrary, but I am sure many of the people there were in the same category as me. I wonder if in the recent AMET crackdowns they have to fulfil a quota of fines, because fining me was really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of traffic offenders.

I was too angry to post about this until today. Now, having only wasted a few hours of my time, and just RD$25 poorer, I can just about see the funny side. I hope you did too.
 
Apr 26, 2002
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Next time, try fainting dramatically during the hearing while your doctor from the Clinica Abreu rushes to your side yelling something about your heart condition. Or is that reserved for blueblood murder cases and Baninter elites only?
 

Jersey Devil

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Chiri

Thank you for sharing. I am sure AMET court is one place none of us wants to go. I always enjoy your view on things ;)

JD
 

dominicangirl

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Oct 9, 2002
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Just curious...

"The AMET chappie on duty asked for my licence, and before I could deftly extract the photocopy I keep handy in my wallet, he got his paws on the real thing, also tucked into my wallet."

Is it normal for people to give them a photocopy instead of the original?
 
Apr 26, 2002
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dominicangirl said:
Is it normal for people to give them a photocopy instead of the original?
For people who don't want to be extorted from it is. Dominican police are known to demand $$ in exchange for one's own license.
 

Lambada

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Loved it Chiri! Next time (hope there never is) try the cushion under the dress routine & go into full labour in the courtroom. Well, they believed I was pregnant when I mistakenly parked in the expectant mothers' spot at Tropical & you know how old I am! They even saw me across 27 de febrero with elaborate concern.......probably thought I was going to 'drop' any minute! At least you're the right age.
 

URock

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Great post Chirimoya. Very imformative and easy to visualize. I do get a kick out of the photocopy thing though. That would never fly here in Canada.
 

AZB

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Jan 2, 2002
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If you can't beat the devil then join it. I have become friendly with a few AMET police and personally know a supervisor who is in charge of my area where my office is. Santiago is small so they all know each other. Whenever I get stopped by one, I make them call my buddy on the walkie talkie and I am set free the next minute. I even Hit an AMET with my car while driving and was able to go free with a smile and a hand shake. I was looking at something and didn't notice AMET police had come in the middle of the street stopping traffic. By the time I realized he was in front of my car, I slammed on my brakes but still managed to hit him. All hell broke loose and I was about to get arrested. I was able to calm him down and convinced him that I was his supervisor's friend. I was let go with a hand shake.
So get to know a supervisor and make your life easy.
AZB
 

Chirimoya

Moderator - East Coast & Headline News
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Next time? There'd better not be a next time. The fine is the least of it.

Lambada said:
Well, they believed I was pregnant when I mistakenly parked in the expectant mothers' spot at Tropical & you know how old I am!

More to the point, I know how slim you are. I long for the day when I am flattered at being mistaken for a pregnant woman.

Without wanting to hijack my own thread, am I the only person who thinks that those 'pregnant women' parking spaces are ridiculous? Since when does pregnancy prevent anyone from being able to cross a car park? It would be more helpful to have 'parent and child' parking spaces that are nearer the exit, and wider to make it easier to strap them in their child seats. I know. All together now: "What child seats?"
 

Larry

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Mar 22, 2002
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AZB said:
If you can't beat the devil then join it. I have become friendly with a few AMET police and personally know a supervisor who is in charge of my area where my office is. Santiago is small so they all know each other. Whenever I get stopped by one, I make them call my buddy on the walkie talkie and I am set free the next minute. I even Hit an AMET with my car while driving and was able to go free with a smile and a hand shake. I was looking at something and didn't notice AMET police had come in the middle of the street stopping traffic. By the time I realized he was in front of my car, I slammed on my brakes but still managed to hit him. All hell broke loose and I was about to get arrested. I was able to calm him down and convinced him that I was his supervisor's friend. I was let go with a hand shake.
So get to know a supervisor and make your life easy.
AZB


Chiri, you have a gift for storytelling. Interesting, informative, humorous, educational.

However, it appears that AZB has the proper mindset when it comes to things like this. His approach would save one all the inconvenience and annoyance and reflection. I mean, who needs it?

Larry
 

Lambada

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I think Chiri now has one up on the rest of us who have NOT had her experience. The day will come when one's 'buddy supervisor' is not available, or one has just asked too many favours. Chiri now knows the system & it only cost her 25 pesos (in monetary terms!) to find out. That 'knowing the system' is invaluable should a much larger offence be alleged in the future. You can now set yourself up as legal consultant to gringos in times of stress, Chiri! ;)
 

Larry

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Mar 22, 2002
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Lambada said:
I think Chiri now has one up on the rest of us who have NOT had her experience. The day will come when one's 'buddy supervisor' is not available, or one has just asked too many favours. Chiri now knows the system & it only cost her 25 pesos (in monetary terms!) to find out. That 'knowing the system' is invaluable should a much larger offence be alleged in the future. You can now set yourself up as legal consultant to gringos in times of stress, Chiri! ;)

I don't know. I still think it would be better to have a friend who could fix things. If he was not available like you said, I would rather pay the 250 or 500 pesos on that rare occasion instead of spending a whole day taking pictures and trying to learn the system. That's just me I guess.

Larry
 

Pib

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Anyone who uses the word 'Kafkaesque' deserves to be fined.

Just joking. :nervous:

I don't know whether to be glad or offended at the idea of a special 'women's court'.
 

Chirimoya

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Anyone who uses the word 'Kafkaesque' deserves to be fined.

Just joking. :nervous:

It's worth more than RD$25, I agree, but there are times when no other word will do. At least I didn't compare anything to a certain European political movement that rose and fell in the first half of the 20th century. ;)


Pib said:
I don't know whether to be glad or offended at the idea of a special 'women's court'.

It wasn't a women's court. What happens is women are allowed straight in while those not so fortunate have to go through a procedure of some sort beforehand. I didn't stick around to find out what it was. There were only three or four women in the courtroom, and about ten times as many men.

I also feel ambivalent about the special treatment. I was grateful at the time, but would've preferred there to be some orderly process where everyone gets seen to in turn. This was a case where I wished there were some more government employees available.
 

Chirimoya

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Combined with the fact that had I been in the exact same circumstances in the US - making an illegal left turn where it was demonstrably not signposted - I would have become rich overnight by suing them for wrongful detention, psychological distress, and whatever else the weasely lawyers could come up with. Not saying this is right, just stating facts. When in Rome and all that.

I agree that those penalties sound harsh. Where I come from you have to accumulate a whole series of traffic offences or do something really serious to lose your licence, even temporarily.

My post is there to inform and entertain. The fact that it gave me a platform to let off steam was an added bonus, so please don't begrudge me this indulgence.
 

AtlantaBob

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Hey Chiri,

Your post is well written and I think it would be a good editorial for the Caribe or Listin Diario or whatever. I think you can do that now days without being carted off to Cuarenta in the middle of the night, right??

Anyway, I got ticketed for the same thing, here in the States. I made a left turn, which I had been doing for years. Did not notice the new "no left turn between 7-9am". U$60 :cry:
 

ustelephone

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Chirimoya said:
Combined with the fact that had I been in the exact same circumstances in the US - making an illegal left turn where it was demonstrably not signposted - I would have become rich overnight by suing them for wrongful detention, psychological distress, and whatever else the weasely lawyers could come up with. Not saying this is right, just stating facts. When in Rome and all that.

I agree that those penalties sound harsh. Where I come from you have to accumulate a whole series of traffic offences or do something really serious to lose your licence, even temporarily.

My post is there to inform and entertain. The fact that it gave me a platform to let off steam was an added bonus, so please don't begrudge me this indulgence.

I thought your post was great and informative. I enjoyed it and learned from it. I only meant to make you appreciate the DR a little more. I say a little more because I assume you love it here or you wouldn't live here.

To the poster who informed me that the US is the most modern country in the world and the DR is the least, you need to travel the world more. I'll take England's traffic system as more modern and friendly any day. I can think of at least 50 countries that would make the DR look modern.

Again, my point is only that we are fortunate here. I usually go down the Duarte with the pedal to the medal. Here you don't have to watch for guys hiding behind trees with radar guns or helicopters measuring your speed.
 

Chirimoya

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ustelephone said:
I thought your post was great and informative. I enjoyed it and learned from it. I only meant to make you appreciate the DR a little more. I say a little more because I assume you love it here or you wouldn't live here.

To the poster who informed me that the US is the most modern country in the world and the DR is the least, you need to travel the world more. I'll take England's traffic system as more modern and friendly any day. I can think of at least 50 countries that would make the DR look modern.

Again, my point is only that we are fortunate here. I usually go down the Duarte with the pedal to the medal. Here you don't have to watch for guys hiding behind trees with radar guns or helicopters measuring your speed.

Believe you me, I love this country. That's precisely why I'm critical of the people who give it a bad name, and those who think there is no scope for progress. Thanks for the kind words, too. :classic:
 

Tordok

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Oct 6, 2003
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Good one, Chiri. Dealing with traffic police in the DR is typically a frustrating endeavor. Let me share with you -one, of many- of my Dominican police anecdotes.

While idly waiting on a red traffic light, I was once hit by a concho car -that crossed a busy dowtown Santiago intersection in reverse straight towards my car! I was boxed in by cars and pedestrians, so to me it all seemed to have the crispness of a slo-mo replay. This was all witnessed by the corner traffic cop, whom I immediately summoned for assistance. I insisted on registering the event so that the other guys' insurance would cover my car's damage as it was clearly his responsibility.

We went to the Fortaleza San Luis to provide testimony for the official record. The policeman wanted to ride with the concho to the police station, but I demanded that he come with me instead. That was not enough to prevent them from taking off together "to have lunch" while I waited for the police clerk to take notes on my case.

The view inside the plaza of the fortaleza is reminiscent of "Midnight Express"-like incarceration, with immates limbs and faces showing through the bars and shouting for food or money.The corporal in charge of transcribing the events as per my testimony was more slo-mo than the car crash. This guy took the 1 letter per minute approach to typing, using his right index finger only. Of course, the official record would not be complete until the other party could give their version of events. The other party - the concho driver- was treating the impartial policeman -and "my" witness- to a moro de guandules, a cold Presidente, and tostones somewhere near el parque Col?n. I was infuriated after waiting for approx. 2 hours and should've given up right there and then, but I didn't. I instead demanded to see the unit commander to have the more junior officer brought to the office and give his declaration. The major couldn't have been more cordial, or useless. He ordered some underling to radio-call the patrolman in question. A few minutes later the underling reported that the policeman had jsut had a family emergency and could not come back until the next day or maybe even next week. The major told me to come back next week and all would be taken care of by then.

I was such an idiot, I did come back if only to confirm that I had been duped. No police affidavit. The concho driver gave a totally false testimony that made me look responsible. I then decided to let it go and just go ahead and fix my car. My insurance company, surprisingly, accepted my report alone and covered my expenses without raising my premiums. So I was kind of lucky in that sense.

But it is clear to me that those concho drivers are regular customers of the traffic police and make their payments on time, so whenever thay can, the cops will just look the other way and leave us regular people to fend for ourselves.

- Tordok
 

Chirimoya

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Tordok, that was a good one, if that's the word to use. Please share some of your other stories with us.

AtlantaBob, this may make it to the papers. Mr Chiri, who is a photo-journalist took photos of the intersection and of the chaos in the AMET building, thinking it would make a good story.

In fact, when I first told him what had happened, he said it was not worth getting worked up about and that I should just accept the situation and pay the fine. A couple of days later he happened to drive the same way and saw that there was indeed no "no left turn" sign. Since then he's been on the warpath, but I think the anticlimax of the RD$25 fine has put a damper on his combative spirit. :tired: