Archive for February, 2008

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Doubts

Doubts

| February 23, 2008

As we get closer to Foz do Iguaçu, the Brazilian border town facing Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, I am starting to have doubts. When we first proposed investigating Latin America’s black market, I knew smugglers and counterfeiters would not necessarily welcome a pesky journalist sticking his nose in their lucrative business. But I also […]

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Staggering numbers

Staggering numbers

| February 22, 2008

This morning, I received an unsigned e-mail from a person who says he has studied Paraguayan cigarette production. The writer estimates 2008 cigarette consumption at 2.43 billion cigarettes. There are 50 licensed factories, and based on export activity, the e-mailer suspects that 32 factories are producing on a regular basis. Paraguay’s total production is around […]

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Can Brazil sustain its integrated system?

Can Brazil sustain its integrated system?

| February 21, 2008

While cigarette smuggling primarily affects cigarette manufacturers, Brazilian leaf dealers are facing an entirely different set of challenges. The U.S. dollar—the currency in which they are paid for their exports—has lost some 20 percent of its value against the Brazilian real in recent years, while the cost of production has gone up. The exchange rate […]

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Chicken feathers

Chicken feathers

| February 20, 2008

Last night, we had dinner with a representative of a major leaf merchant who was too diplomatic to question our sanity but impressed on us to be very careful as we probe the black market. Apparently, manufacturing cigarettes is so lucrative that some Paraguayan tobacco executives drive armored cars to protect themselves against kidnapping—not the […]

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Reality check

Reality check

| February 20, 2008

I knew Santa Cruz had a sizable population of German heritage, but there’s something bizarre about speaking German with a tanned taxi driver while zipping past palm trees in balmy 32-degrees-Celsius (90 degrees F) weather in a very un-European landscape. Santa Cruz is said to have the world’s second-largest Octoberfest after Munich. Too bad it’s […]

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Santa Cruz do Sul

Santa Cruz do Sul

| February 19, 2008

While Paraguay obviously has the manufacturing capacity, it is not a major leaf-producing country. Where does it obtain its tobacco, and are leaf producers in a position to help curtail the illegal cigarette trade? To find out, we’ll travel to Santa Cruz do Sul, the largest tobacco-producing area in the region.

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