We have now been in Antigua for 3 weeks trying to sort out this whole robbery thing. I want to say that it’s been a nightmare, but after hanging out with the police so , we have heard stories about real nightmares: narco crimes, human trafficking and prostitution rings, rape, murder. We’ve heard about all of the crimes that go completely unprosecuted and so we know that we are actually lucky to have caught the guy and prosecuted him. We may not have our money back, but at least the bad guy is in jail. For now. But he’ll be let go as soon as the trial is over (It is ridiculously hard to prosecute crime in Guatemala because the history of humans rights abuse here in the past. But that is a double-edged sword because it only frees up the actual bad guys along with the innocents to keep doing bad guy stuff.) The truth is, we care a lot less about the bad guy going to jail than getting our money back.
We are comparatively wealthy to most people in this country, but that does not authorize crime. We are living on savings now and we worked our asses off for years to be here now. Besides, this kid is not exactly Robin Hood- he’s a transsexual teen with a drug habit and a bad attitude. It feels like no one is on our side in this situation; we go to court and can almost feel the judge’s scorn for us, like we’re two rich Americans taking up his time, whining about a little bit of money when there are more important crimes to be dealt with. The thing is, we wholeheartedly agree! We know that this is a non-violent and relatively minor crime. We also have the criminal in custody and all of the evidence. We want nothing more than to be done with this thing and leave, but the court is having us jump through hoops, seemingly without reason. But why? Are they protecting him? Are we being punished somehow? All we are asking for is the little bit of our cash back that wasn’t spent and the stuff that he did spend the money on, so we can try to return or resell for compensation.
It’s all flowers and ruins, until somebody gets robbed!
I almost wish we had just walked away after it happened. I’ve had stuff stolen before in other countries and even from my own home. No one was ever caught and I got over it after a few days. If we hadn’t been so suspicious of this guy or if we hadn’t had such high hopes of getting our money back, we could have just chalked this up to a loss that is not entirely unexpected on a trip like this. At this point, though, we have spent almost as much in food and lodging to stay in Antigua than we lost in the first place! And, although I’m not a quitter, I’m completely over this town, this situation, and the complete lack of support we’ve gotten from both the justice system and many of the locals we’ve talked to. We’ve been told a number of times to just walk away and suck it up- again, operating on the assumption that the loss of several hundred dollars is no big deal to a couple of American tourists; we’ve also been told to our faces that Americans always get their money back from their banks, so we have no business complaining or seeking recommendation. We have now dragged in two vendors of the three with whom our cards were used and they are being completely uncooperative. The thing is that they are the only ones who win in this situation. The thief is being nominally punished, we are out the initial amount that was taken, plus the cost of sticking around for a few weeks more, but the vendors get to keep the money that was clearly bought with stolen cards. In the US, the bank will take back the money from the vendor if a fraud claim is filed, but it is much harder to do internationally. So now there are vendors here in Antigua who are profiting off crimes committed against tourists. Which is why there will allegedly be an investigation opened against these vendors. I don’t get off on the idea of putting these people out of business- wait, scratch that- I totally do now. After all of the nasty responses and bad attitudes from the vendors who had no problem swiping several cards, several times for large amounts without checking ID, I get the sense that they are complicit in this whole thing, or are happy to turn a blind eye while tourists get hosed.
Beware: criminal activity lies beneath these cobblestones
We have one more date in court to provide testimony yet again, and then I am ready to surrender. The date was supposed to be this morning, but a huge storm last night has made the roads to Chimaltenango (the town 30 minutes away where we have been driven to court every time) impassible. I have gotten so pissed, so offended, and felt so sorry for myself over this whole thing. And now I am ready to go. Suck it up, like everyone has been telling us to. It is not a good feeling to know that we might be able to make this thing right if we are just willing to stick around long enough to see it through. But the psychological stress of feeling like everyone is against us, or at least is not working for us, has gotten to be too much of a bummer and now we have got to just go, if we want to get on with this trip and, hopefully, make it to South America before winter comes.
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