Federale Police Shakedown – Cancun Mexico – Travel Warning

When traveling in the Yucatan it is not uncommon for the local police to pull over marked rental cars and shake them down for money.  Often the grift starts at the speedbumps throughout cities and the borders between towns.  On my last trip this was exactly what happened to me. Supposedly I went over a speed bump at 30 km an hour and the officer suddenly appeared behind me.  First the agent asks you for your ID and tells you that he is confiscating it for the day. You can pick it up at the police station and pay a fine.  If he is a real showman he writes the number down on paper to make the number appear large and make your eyes bulge out of your head. Then he will make up a number that seems less if you pay him directly. If not, then you should ask.  This is the start of negotiations.  He goes high, you counter low and do your best to take the smallest hit.  For me it began at $3500 pesos to be paid at the Police station. I hesitated, looked confused like he was suddenly speaking Sandskrit, scratched my head and countered at “NO, that seems unreasonable.  Can we settle this now?”  Then the policeman will want a number to counter. Try to distract, and ask uncomfortable questions, keep calm, do not panic. Get him to make a number.  He threw out $2300 pesos to him, cash money.  I tried for $30 American, we met at $60 after getting the captain involved and being quiet, calm and patient. Foolishly, I feigned not having cash as I pulled out a wad of $20’s wincing and invoking as best of David Copperfield’s best misdirection that I could muster while fumbling for 3 $20s and shaking hands before they changed their minds.  Its a simple shakedown and you are about to lose some money, so minimize the impact as much as possible, and consider it a tourist tax. Remember to be polite and friendly and calm. Welcome to the Yucatan!

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