Ciudad del Este – Where Everything Goes

Ciudad del Este/Paraguay: South American capital of smugglers, black money launderers and shoppers as the place where everything goes

Han Solo: What’s the cargo?
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi: Only passengers. Myself, the boy, two droids… and no questions asked.
Han Solo: What is it? Some kind of local trouble?
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi: Let’s just say we’d like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.

Ciudad del Este (ESP: City of the East) is the economic capital of the Paraguay. But 5 times more value of the Paraguayan legit economy flows in here with smuggling. According to Forbes, it was the third biggest commercial city in the world, between 1990 to 2002.

Why? Because there’s nearly no tax on electronics, watches, drinks, cigars, perfumes, toys. Huge planeloads of planes, arriving from Asian countries, dive into the small airport of the city, with rock bottom import tax. Electronics make the 65% of the sales in malls.

I guess you didn’t know Argentina, Uruguay & Brazil have protectionist economy policies for imports. There’s a saying in Brazil: “I’m poor, I buy from US”, as buying a plane ticket, spending 2 days, bringing back electronic stuff from Miami would cost you the same than buying it from the Brazil. Not surprising that I’m still seeing pirated Playstation 2 CDs on street vendors, which got extinct in Turkey, as a memory from my childhood.

Less visible, but drug&arms trade is the real origin of money. Even though they’re not legitimately displayed behind shiny iPhone or whiskey shop windows, one can find them easily in backstreets. Did this, i was offered cocaine&heroin then left, as my “spider-senses” were warning me like Spiderman. I wonder what he would have offered more if I was a more interested buyer. When you ask a difficult to find product, they take you to some other streets and shops, asking their other friends, who forwards us to their other connection of friends. (Paraguay is the world’s second biggest marijuana producer after Mexico).


Most of the taxis in Ciudad del Este/Paraguay are moto-taxis. And the traffic is like İstanbul, but more messy&chaotic. So, its very exciting to take over cars, takes away your stress, unlike being in a car in traffic 🙂