Unfortunate Asunción Living Tip: Your (My!) Mugger May Be a Cop

In news guaranteed to bring anguish to any (and especially my) mother, I was mugged at gunpoint in Asunción at 10pm a few nights ago. The downside: I had to purchase my fifth cellphone in Paraguay in a little over a year (I lose these sorts of things all the time). The upside: this is great data, as I study the Paraguayan state.

We were only a few blocks from our building on a well-lit street that had cars on it (we were at Cerro Cora, at the corner of Caballero) and, at 10pm, might still have bus service on it. The mugger dude approached us on a really nice motorcycle (I took him first to be yet another really annoying Paraguayan male offering sex in the most unappealing way)-- more on the bike later-- and pulled out a revolver which, um, he fired to emphasize his demands. I reached slowly into my purse to get my wallet--and as I did so, removed my debit card from it--handed it to the dude and then followed with my cellphone. Yes, I almost asked him if I could take out the SIM card, but thought better of it. My friend also lost her cellphone and then mister dude took off into the night.

A few lessons from the incident: For women travelers, two women walking down the street is as safe as one woman walking down the street. Take the same precautions you would if you were alone. I.e., I would have taken a taxi were I alone, I was, instead, lulled into a sense of some security because there were two of us. Wrong! The other wrong thing we did was to speak in English as we walked. Yes, yes, I know. This is the most obvious error. Well, now we've tested it and proven empirically that it's a bad idea. We then called the police, the US embassy (021 213 715), and I had my parents assist me in canceling the one credit card I was not able to remove surreptitiously.

And now, for lowered expectations: the US embassy reception is supposed to report the incident to security personnel (particularly since there was the use of a firearm)--this didn't happen, but we got in touch with really helpful (and upset about the whole incident) folk a few days later. And, as for the Paraguayan police. Well, as we gave our statement at the comisaria, the interviewer repeatedly and persistently changed the data he wrote down as he took our statement: first, the date of the incident was wrong. Next, the description of the subject was pointedly different (they changed his age and the color of his clothing). And when challenged on this latter bit, they intransigently refused to accept our description of the perpetrator.

We finally found the spitting image of the red motorbike used by the mugger dude: parked among the other police bikes outside the comisaria.

Incidentally, I wonder what percentage of anthropologists are mugged on the field...

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