An Expensive Mistake

7 Oct

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L.A. Bank Robbery by colin.brown.
Photo by colin.brown

Before leaving for Ecuador, I signed up on the U.S. State Department’s database as a citizen residing in Ecuador. This was mainly so they could keep track of me in the event of an emergency, and it’s something that everyone should do regardless of whether or not they live in a foreign country or are simply traveling through for a week.

Upon returning to the U.S., I removed myself from the database and added myself to the embassy in Argentina, but every once in a while I still get emails from the embassy in Quito. The majority of the emails are safety related, though some have to do with elections and other services to expats. This was part of an email I got this morning from the embassy in Quito:

“On Wednesday, September 29, at approximately noon, an individual departing a local hotel with $44,000 USD en route to a nearby bank was shot and killed when his vehicle was intercepted by armed assailants.”

Now, for a moment, you might find yourself a bit shocked and horrified that someone was murdered in what looks like a pretty sophisticated heist. You probably also feel sorry for the person who was killed. But, if you’re like me and you’ve spent some time in Latin America, the feeling that reigns prominent after the initial shock is just awe.

I am awed that someone could be so stupid as to walk outside with $44,000! What was this person thinking!? Not only is that not safe to do anywhere in the world, but especially in Latin America, in a country where crime has been on the rise for the last few years, and where guns are everywhere. What could prompt someone to walk outside with that much money, whether or not someone else could have known how much they had? There was probably just as much of a chance of a regular thief hitting it big as a well-coordinated attack going through.

Ask enough people in the U.S. who’ve hit hard times if they wouldn’t be tempted by $44,000. You’re just asking for trouble doing that. Last year I heard that a bar owner in Quito, who was from New York, was shot and killed on his way to the bank with $7,000. I’d met him and talked to him just a few weeks before. After hearing that I thought how irresponsible it was to walk around with that kind of cash, (though to be fair, he apparently pulled out a gun while getting robbed to defend himself.)

But $44,000? What would the bank even do with that? It would be putting them at risk as well, considering no one in the country wants to have more than $20 on them at all times. I would never even go out with $44 unless I knew I had to buy something expensive, and once a month when I walked from the bank to my house with my paycheck, I was always scared and paranoid, looking around to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

But still, $44,000? Come on. Everyone should learn from this poor person’s mistake. Long story short, don’t walk around with $44,000 in your pocket.

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