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Category: Blogs

Thank you

March 3, 2008 | Comments (0)

Noel and I are back in the Tobacco Reporter office now, and this will be my last official post. I would like to thank you for joining us on this exciting journey. Your virtual presence added a whole new dimension to editorial travel We received many comments, suggestions and words of wisdom—both through the feedback […]

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February 29, 2008 | Comments (0)

As the plane taxis toward the runway for the flight back to Miami, I reflect on our mission. While I learned a lot about the illicit trade from legitimate manufacturers, I didn’t manage to talk my way into a Paraguayan cigarette factory supplying the black market. That means I cannot report on the types of […]

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Meanwhile, back at the gate

February 28, 2008 | Comments (0)

Pablo tells me to remain in the car as he walks up to the gate. He talks with the guard, occasionally pointing in my direction. I am not sure how to behave. Should I wave, pretending to be a regular visitor, or should I ignore the two, as if I am preoccupied with the latest […]

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Buenos Aires

February 27, 2008 | Comments (0)

As I write these words, Noel and I are enjoying the evening sun on a terrace in Buenos Aires, hundreds of miles from the tri-border area. Described as the Paris of South America—but with palm trees—Buenos Aires is a far cry from the bedlam of Ciudad del Este. But contrary to what their appearances suggest, […]

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To the factory

February 25, 2008 | Comments (0)

Pablo motions for me to have a seat behind the counter of the money exchange booth and starts making calls on his cell phone. The director of the factory turns out to be in Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital, and my new friend seems to be trying to track down somebody who can authorize my visit in […]

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February 24, 2008 | Comments (0)

Today’s the day. I wash and shave like a holy warrior preparing for battle. But just in case divine protection is withheld, I also put on my running shoes. Under normal circumstances, I jog a respectable-but-not-spectacular 7.5-minute mile. With a gang of irate cigarette smugglers in pursuit, I reckon I could probably shave two whole […]

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February 23, 2008 | Comments (0)

You’d think we’d know better after more than a decade of international business travel, but we’ve underestimated the size of Brazil and overestimated the number of appointments a person of flesh and blood can squeeze into a single workday. By the time we arrive at our hotel in Londrina, it’s 3:30 a.m. Our first appointment […]

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February 23, 2008 | Comments (0)

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

February 22, 2008 | Comments (0)

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?

February 21, 2008 | Comments (0)

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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