Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ecuador: US Expatriate Assaulted by Taxi Drivers, Always Negotiate Fares in Advance


US expatriate Richard Bodeker, originally from Arkansas, now living in Loja, hailed a taxi at 2000 hours on October 22 in Cuenca. Subsequently, he realized that the driver was taking him on a less than direct route, at which point he asked the driver to stop and let him out, fearing the fare would be exorbitant. Not agreeing to stop, Bodeker jumped out of the taxi at the next stoplight.
The driver then proceeded to demand a US$30 fare [the US$ has been legal tender in Ecuador since March 8, 2000] for a five-minute ride in the wrong direction which should have cost US$2. Bodeker then REFUSED to pay the fare, knowing it was intentionally inflated and began to walk away, at which point the driver radioed other taxis in the area, telling them he had been robbed by an American.

To Bodeker's surprise, several taxi drivers subsequently converged on him and began beating him about the head and shoulders, at which point the expat threw money toward them so that the assault might end. It didn't. Unfortunately, the drivers called the police to the scene, at which point the drivers continued the physical attack on Bodeker after he was in police custody.

COMMENT: To make matters worse, Bodeker was jailed, denied medical attention and charged with attempted robbery, even though Bodeker was never armed.

Thanks to Bodeker's Ecuadorian wife, she retained a local attorney and had Bodeker released the following day (October 23). Subsequently, the American visited a hospital for treatment; a week later he is still suffering from bruised ankles, abrasions, several sprains and bruises on his head from the beating.

Bodeker's troubles are still not over, as he is now scheduled to face a judge on attempted robbery charges, which is no small problem, as he could very well face serious jail time. 

Now, the reality. Mr. Bodeker reminds me of a German expat in Thailand a couple of years ago who "stiffed" a samlor driver because he was charging too much, only to subsequently be put into a coma after a number of drivers ganged up on him and beat him unconscious.

Please look at it this way: What is worse? Being out US$30 because you FAILED to negotiate the fare in ADVANCE or being beaten up by a group of guys, jailed and charged with "attempted robbery," for which you could be jailed for some time, considering that a foreigner is almost always going to get the "short-straw" when arrested in another country? 

Even though Bodeker has filed a complaint against the taxi driver who inflated the fare, who do you think will get MORE justice in Ecuador, an Ecuadorian or an American?  

Loja is the capital of Loja province, which is located in the south of Ecuador, sharing borders with the provinces of Zamora-Chinchipe and El Oro and with Perú in the south. The city is home to two major universities and has a population of 200,000. It is situated 2,060 meters (6,758 ft) above sea level.

CAREFULLY evaluate whether being beaten up senseless is worth US$30. I would say...NOT.

And, ALWAYS negotiate a taxi fare BEFORE you get into the vehicle!