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Vice Blog

Paraguay - Hanging Out With The Police

Traveling to Paraguay, one expects to encounter corrupt officials. From touchdown in Asuncíon, Auschwitz-looking crowds approach in the airport, murky red eyes popping from their skulls, yearning to 'help' in exchange for 50 cents — or, they hope, your luggage. If you look German or American, they fight over you like rats over a dead bird. "Americano? Americano? Americano? …Alemán?" It's a mode of behavior you'll never escape. When visiting other towns, check out the police. Look in their eyes. You'll find the same obvious rodent criminality that put you on edge at the airport. The police are as emaciated, bewhiskered, sweaty and unpleasant as the bums, only these fuckers have AK-47s and arrogant smirks permanently carved into their faces. Turd World Police have lots of mouths to feed. So do the banditos. But like all successful non–policemen, banditos have the additional expense of paying off the police.

So, in one of my visits to Paraguay, I arrived with a fellow traveler. Christian Kracht and I drove to Nueva Germania, where we stayed for four days, then returned to Asuncíon for three more before catching planes. In NG, we partied with soon-to-be-assassinated Jorge Halke, prettiest girl in eugenics Melissa Halke, Flora Fischer (an old woman who loathes Paraguay and grows Kimjongilia begonias in her back yard), Elisabeth Nietzsche's spiritual heir Magdalena Fischer, and the opportunistic guard of a remote lake called Laguna Blanca—where a massive underwater Kimjongilia has beckoned the international scientific community. Back in Asuncíon the following night, Christian longed for crack. We visited a patio bar located across the intersection from our hotel, in a seedier side of Centro. Two pale blond gringos drinking beer at a sidewalk table, kittycorner from the Asuncíon Palace Hotel, trying to discreetly chat up employees and locals. A lanky waiter with dreadlocks appeared, our best hope. He noticed us noticing him and seemed to understand our quest. He smiled and waved. I turned to see a police truck with two smiling, waving officers bouncing up and down. So, the Rastaman is this friendly with cops. Still, it wouldn't be illegal to ask. Ideally we would chat about life in Asuncíon and then somehow cause him to segue into cocaine, at which point we would indicate the special area of interest.

Christian smiled and remarked to the waiter on the very Germanic label of the Paraguayan beer we were drinking — Bavaria. "Yes, all of the beer companies in Paraguay have Germanic names now. In the past twenty years there have been only two attempts to create Guaraní labels. But Paraguay and Bolivia do have their native products." It was now just us and, at the next table, a pair of middle-age Paraguayan fellows. They were quiet and looked familiar, the way their boney arms flailed and one of their toothy mouths moved sideways, as if the jaw were unhinged and drifting freely. It occurred that these were the policemen who had smiled and waved to the waiter from their truck, now dressed in plain clothes, deadpan, watching and straining to listen to us. As we talked about who they were and what they were doing, they didn't seem to understand. Christian asked: "Would you happen to know where we might find some crack cocaine?". The cops exchanged tiny smiles and went deadpan again. "Possibly," one of them replied loudly. With his classic crack fiend face, he let his mouth hang open after speaking. The caverns between his eyelids and cranium were about the width of the radius of his eyes. His partner cop was smoking a cigarette and had a rounder, less oval skull. He was also emaciated, his cloudy red eyes sunk deep in their sockets. "Where you from? England? United States? Germany?". After introducing ourselves, we invited them to join our table. "We've just returned from Nueva Germania, and now we're looking for crack," Christian declared. "Crack. No problem at all," the smoker officer said.
The pudgy bartendress padded over to our table, the only table in use. "Another round?" She seemed to know the policemen rather well, judging from the frolicsome little smiles they exchanged. Our new little friends seemed suddenly relaxed and reassured in the glow of her presence. And us again: "Do you suppose it's possible to score some crack cocaine now?". "Cocaine's a funny business, at least in Paraguay. Yes, it's illegal. But the bad guys we're after are the handful of cartels pushing tons across the border, mostly by camouflaged airstrip. It would be a joke for us to go after the little guys at the end — especially drug tourists keeping Paraguay alive. Lots of foreigners visit Paraguay to purchase drugs legal here but illegal elsewhere. Ketamine, for example. Also Rohypnol — 'Roofies'. Ever heard of 'em?" Basketball-head speaking. As the other cop scowled at him, he abruptly changed the subject: "So, you're a musician. What instrument do you play?". Christian answered for me: "He conducts — and has a recording of a choral anthem he composed for Nueva Germania. Would you care to visit our hotel and have a listen?" I instinctively felt we were drifting into bad territory, offering too much legit info in exchange for absolutely nothing. Still, getting these fuckers out of the bar did seem a feasible step toward scoring. I quietly attended to my beverage and glanced over at Christian, who was doing the same. But I also noticed that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. So was I. It was only 1:30am. "Happy birthday," the smoking cop said. He shook my hand. "Yeah, happy birthday" the one with the big head repeated with a smile that looked sincere in the context of his whiskers.
Very relaxed, I opened my eyes, not recalling having ever closed them. I was lying in bed fully clothed in my $30 room, very relaxed, my vision slightly blurred, with nary a memory of how I got there. It was late morning, and I was lying on my side, facing the veranda. My boots had been neatly placed beside the bed, my jacket over a chair. To the left would be my SONY Vaio VGN-T250P, SONY HDR-HC3 HDV 1080i, and Canon Digital Rebel XT. The equipment table was empty. On the bed stand would be my cell phones — a Motorola V557 for Paraguay and Motorola RAZR V3 for California. Not there, the chargers missing as well. I eased out of bed to search for my wallet. Still there, no cash. My passport was still there. Oh well — these things are replaceable, I struggled to convince myself. They're merely things in the Heidegger sense — there is no ghost living inside of them. How about the irreplaceable videos and pictures we shot, destined for posterity?  The interview with the Laguna Blanca guard about his having witnessed the only meeting between Reverend Moon and Kim Jong-Il, at the home of President Dr. Nicanor Duarte Frutos? The memory sticks and DV cassettes were all missing.  Okay, but I'm sure I still have the cherished box of Halke family heirlooms entrusted to my care, right?. Wrongo. I checked the table by the couch, under the couch, the bathroom, the shelf thing in the dressing room… The handcrafted box containing Jorge Halke's lifetime achievements handed to me by tiny eugenics goddess Melissa was gone! How could Nueva Germania's eternal jaguar tooth have escaped my protective custody?
The door to my room was slightly ajar. I walked over to Christian's and knocked. His door was closed but unlocked. As he was not responding, I let myself in.  There he was, lying in bed, lifeless.  I did not see any of my valuables in his room, nor his — no Nokia 8800, silver G4 PowerBook or SONY DSC F828. Probably no cash or credit cards either. I checked his wrist — still a pulse. I shook his ankle. "Christian. Christian! Something terrible has happened. Wake up." For an instant it occurred that he was somehow behind all of this. "All of my valuables, and yours as well I think, are gone. Do you remember what happened last night?". He rubbed his eyes. "Uh, no… We were at a table with the police across the street, and now suddenly I'm here. What time is it? When did we get here?". He seemed to be sleeping au natural, his underwear clinging like loose manacles around his ankles. "Christian, how did you get undressed?"


Photo by Angela Dittmar for Lucky S.R.L.