Inside Paraguay's black market

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, is home to a thriving black market where drugs, pirated DVDs, guns, and crappily-made "Startar" baseball jackets, can be easily purchased for remarkably low prices. The sellers will even help with "shipping." In the new issue of GOOD Magazine, Sacha Feinman visits the markets of Ciudad del Este that generate an estimated 30 percent of the country's GDP. From GOOD:

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One shop in particular, I'm told, is a clearinghouse for drugs. Armed with the proper introduction, in I went. In lieu of a traditional greeting, the owner simply asks me what I'm looking for, and how much of it I'll need. "And, yes, we have cocaine," he adds as an afterthought…

He quizzes me, asking where I live in the city, if I have the cash on me, and if I'll need assistance getting it back home from Ciudad del Este. Satisfied with my answers, he reaches under the counter to produce a narrow tan brick of densely compressed Paraguayan Brown (marijuana), barely softer than a rock. It looks like AstroTurf.

He asks me again how much I'm looking for and I stutter, blurting out that 50 kilos should do it for now. He chuckles. "We usually sell more than that, 200 or so, but we can do 50. One second."

He leaves the room to make a phone call, and a moment later returns: "It'll be $20 U.S. a kilo," he says. "And are you sure you don't need any help getting that to Argentina?"