Posts Tagged ‘Paraguay’

At some point it was told to me that if you do not show up in Paraguay every 2 years, you lose your resident status. I could not find proof of this anywhere, could not get real answers out of lawyers or residency fixers, and finally StatelessBob has sent me an excellent find which spells it out legally:

From Ley 978 Migraciones.

Art. 24. –
Los extranjeros admitidos como residentes permanentes perderán esta calidad si se ausentasen injustificadamente de la República por más de tres años. Ese plazo podrá ser prolongado por la Dirección General de Migraciones en los casos que se determinen en la reglamentación. Los que por ausencia injustificada hubieran perdido su calidad de residentes permanentes, para recuperarla deberán acreditar nuevamente el cumplimiento de los requisitos legales establecidos.

Translation, legalese:

Foreigners admitted for permanent residence lose this quality if they unjustifiably depart from the Republic for more than three years. This period may be extended by the Department of Immigration in the cases determined by regulation. Those who have lost status as permanent residents, to recover, must certify compliance with the legal requirements again.

Translation, plain old English:

You lose your legal resident status if you do not set foot in Paraguay at least once every 3 years, or extend it somehow with the Department of Immigration. If you lose it, you must re-apply as if you were a new applicant. Despite the cedula being valid for 10 years.

I hit the road about 8am to head south. Leaving Paraguay was not a big deal, took about the same amount of time (40 minutes) as before to deal with the border crossing. I did get stopped by one police checkpoint on the eastern side of the bridge out of Asuncion, but after looking through my copious amount of papers and repeatedly saying my first name (to which I just nodded and said, “Si.”) he waved me on and wished me a bien viaje.

Then I got stopped again at the first police check in Argentina, they just asked where I was going, I told them Uruguay, and they waved me on. That was the extent of my police stops.

Driving through most of northern Argentina was uneventful. I had though I would pass through Paraguay by way of Encarnacion/Posadas but adding an extra day to my transit time was something I decided against. It’s been a week at this point; it’s time to move on. My body can’t take much more of this gas station food diet.

Most of the fields up here are sitting empty. 9 out of 10 are vacant now, just going overgrown with weeds. Maybe one with a few cows, goats, or sheep, but no commercial production anymore. All of that has gone to Uruguay or Paraguay, thanks to the Kirchner policies that made it nearly impossible to turn a profit in agriculture.

It’s sad, seeing it like this. It has turned into more of a backwards third-world area than Paraguay. And Paraguay has turned into even more of a cleaner, shining beacon of commerce than back when I had visited 2 years ago. From what I can see, Paraguay is the shock absorber of South America. Argentines, Brazilians, and Uruguayans all flock in, to avoid the impossible costs of their former countries. It seems like all of the business owners are foreigners. And it has driven up property costs accordingly. A generic two-bedroom apartment I could have bought 2 years ago in Asuncion for $50,000 is now $150,000. Other costs of living remain ridiculously low, like food and electricity.

Anyways, rolling through rural Argentina is like rolling through a ghost farm.

Then you get past Corrientes, and you are in the land of Gauchito Gil. For those who have never heard of him, including myself, he is a weird sort of Argentine folk hero elevated to religious status. It’s sort of like if Paul Bunyan had the healing powers of Jesus. You can read about it here. There are shrines to him everywhere, bearing red flags, and then at one point in my journey I drove through an entire little village dedicated to his worship. Red buildings on both sides of the road hawking the red flags, effigies, and souvenirs of Gauchito Gil. Strangely, there were also a high number of showers and toilets there. I don’t know what those were for. And at the end of the town, a huge sculpture of Gauchito Gil on a white horse.

450px-Gauchito_Gil_Rosario_1

It was shortly after Gauchito Gil’s pilgrimage site that the road turned horribly worse and after emerging from a massive pot hole, I noticed some ungodly noise coming from the back of the car. As if something was caught in the wheel and smacking around as I drove. So I stopped and had a look. I didn’t notice anything out of place, so then I checked the luggage to see if maybe something had flown out of place and was simply bouncing around in back against something else. Nothing. So I resumed, and so did the noise. Then I checked another few times, and it kept coming back. Ultimately, while I was rocking the car side to side, I saw the rear left shock absorber floating freely within the wheel well. Gauchito Gil was punishing me for not relieving myself at his shrine village.

It's not supposed to look like this.

It’s not supposed to look like this.

Yes, the Argentine rural roads are so bad that they will break your car. The shock mount was literally sheared off of the frame. Fortunately this is not a fatal injury, so I was able to drive another 30km to the little town of Curuzu Cuatia to find a mechanic to weld it back together for me. I asked around at the gas station, and they told me to head down the road that-a-ways and I would see the mechanic places on the right. So I did, and they were indeed there. One was closed, but the other, fortunately, was open.

I went in and told the guy in charge, “Uh, there’s a problem with my car.”

“You and the entire neighborhood, man,” he joked. So then we went to have a look. “Yeah, I can fix that. But I can’t get to it for another hour or so. Can you wait?”

“I don’t really have much of a choice,” I replied, and he then noticed the Chile plates. He gave me a knowing nod, then I told him I’d head to the gas station, where they had tables to sit and wait and watch the football game, and I’d be back. “How much do you think it will cost?” I asked.

“Eh, about 150 pesos.”

Hmm, well, that would exhaust the very last of my peso supply. I had nearly run out paying for gas before but fortunately I talked logic into the station attendant. After I filled up he told me that they didn’t take cards for payment, despite me seeing two card readers right behind him. After explaining I had no other way, he reluctantly agreed to use the card, and it worked without any problems. I assume that they don’t want to do card transactions because it takes a while for them to get their money, in pesos, and by the time they receive it, it has devalued. It was during this fill-up that I found, days later, well-cooked and smelling quite ripe, one of the suicidal birds from the crossing of the Chaco, wedged firmly headfirst in my radiator. I took a photo but somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to post it here. But I digress…

I returned in an hour and we got to work. It was dark, and I held the flashlight while he welded. All in all it took about 30 minutes to get it finished but now it is as good as new.

I didn’t want to separate myself from my few remaining Argie pesos, seeing as there were a couple hours of Argentina remaining and I did not want to get stuck at a toll booth without proper money again, so I offered him a US$20 bill. He didn’t want to take it, he wanted pesos. “But this is worth, at the official rate, more or less 150 pesos Argentinos, and at the Dollar Blue rate, 200 or more.” He still wanted the Argie pesos, so that’s what I gave him. Weird considering that in Buenos Aires they can’t wait to trade with you, but out here where if they had banjos they would be a-pickin’, they don’t seem to get it.

I got back on the road, and maybe within half an hour the roads widened out to double-lane interstate highway style roads, without opposing traffic, and nice smooth pavement. Ahhhhhhhhh

And, fortunately, no more tolls.

I got to the Uruguay border at Salto around midnight. There was nobody else there. So we all joked around at the immigration/customs counter because nobody knew exactly how to deal with a guy coming in with an American passport, with an Argentine entry fee sticker in an older passport (which has a different passport number than the newer valid one), a Uruguayan cedula, and a Chilean car. For shits and giggles I gave them my Paraguayan cedula and Chilean cedula, to see if that would help. At this point, they said, “Well, so long as you’re not also Russian… are you?” to which I said, “Not yet” and we had a good laugh.

They approved everything and on I went with yet another stack of papers nobody will ever see or need or check. Crossing the Salto Grande dam, I entered Uruguay and the final few hours of my outward-bound journey. About an hour into this, it started to rain heavily. As in buckets. No visibility, tree branches blowing down into the road, wind throwing the car around, so I found a safe spot to pull off the road where I wouldn’t die, and slept in the car.

The sun woke me up, on Day 8, and I had 2 hours to drive to Montevideo to meet SwingDanceBob for some empanadas. We had a good lunch and good conversation, catching up, and then onward another 2 hours to Punta del Este to crash with MexicanBob. Now I have the fun task of packing up the last of my old stuff, attempting to do the paperwork to renew my gun permits, and then heading back across to Chile, a journey which I hope will only take 2-3 days.

I hit the road at 8am after figuring out how to shower in the tiny bathroom (with a door that opened inward). I didn’t catch any creepy-crawlies. That I can find right now…

I got to the Paraguayan/Argentine border right at 10am, and it took 40 minutes to transit the madhouse. First you go to the Argentine immigration window, then to the Paraguayan immigration window, then to the Paraguayan police window, then they sent me on to the Aduanas window where I sat for 15 minutes while this old guy filled out a form with all my car’s information at 0.0000000001 lines per century, regaling me with tales of his brother-in-law who went to the USA to work as a police officer and then came back to Paraguay after the twin towers were blown up. So since he was a nice guy and it was a pleasant conversation, I forgave his slowness. Then from him to his supervisor, who again asked me the same questions that were already filled out on the form and signed to, told me to watch out because thieves like my model car, and then I was done. At which point I drove through without even a glance in my car or my belongings. So, in theory, if one were to arrive there with papers that looked official, one could probably just breeze past it all without a second look. They only pull over the ones who look “lost” to go and fill out all the papers and stamp this and that.

All told, it took 40 minutes to get through the whole thing.

Bienvenidos a Paraguay!

Bienvenidos a Paraguay! Member of Rotary International!

So, through my first entire portion of Argentina I have not been stopped at any of the police checkpoints. The way between Paraguay and Uruguay is reportedly the worst for this sort of thing, so we shall see.

I got into downtown Asuncion around 11:30, found the mall where I was meeting Ex-UruguayanBob for lunch, and found him. We had a good buffet at the pay-per-kilo in the mall. I am completely unaccustomed to prices here so I was a bit worried at the $31,000 price tag but it turned out to be about US$6.00 for a heaping plate of stuff. We had a good chat, interesting guy.

I had forgotten how cheery and helpful Paraguayans seem to be. The Argentines have become as tragically depressed and hopeless as the Uruguayans. I had also forgotten the bizarre, lawless, border-town vibe you get in Asuncion, the mix of skeezy and high class, trash and bums in the street in front of Gucci (which probably isn’t official Gucci).

The roadside empanadas I ate last night are fighting back, so I am getting additional rest tonight in Asuncion before I hit the road out again in the AM. Last night I didn’t sleep well because, in a not-thinking-well moment, I took half a modafinil to stay awake, about half an hour before I got to Formosa. I was tired as hell, had been on the road 12-13 hours, and the GPS was telling me I would be in Paraguay at 10pm. So, thought I, I can just hammer down and get it done. But then I remembered it was payday and I had to pay my employees, and then I was feeling my physical body fall apart, and it all came crashing down once I reached Formosa and saw the hotel.

So I sort of had to force myself to sleep. Put in earplugs, and moved my alert brain into dream mode. And had some freakishly weird dreams. BUT the bed was severely uncomfortable and the sleep was a sort of conscious-of-your-surroundings dream sleep. Not restful.

 

7332km. Unknown number of days. Loads of fuel. Lots of fast food. Lost sleep, car ass, stiff beds and scumbag cops! Sounds like fun? Maybe. But hey, why the hell shouldn’t I?

bigmap

BobQuest will begin in Santiago, Chile, head up north through the Atacama Desert, then across Argentina into Paraguay, down through Argentina and Uruguay, to Punta Del Este. There I shall load a bunch of stuff (which is TOTALLY not worth the expense of this trip) to take back with me to Chile, on a straight shot through Argentina. I shall drive the BobMobile, a sad, bedraggled $4000 Suzuki Vitara that is equipped for zombie apocalypse warfare and survival. Stay tuned for future reports. Same Bob time, Same Bob channel.

bigfoot

It seems that the Paraguayan embassy in Santiago is as elusive as Bigfoot. I have to get some documents legalized there and so I began my search on The Google.

The first address that comes up turns out to be an abandoned office in a dark building downtown, with decor that looks like it belongs in a 1940s film noir hard-luck detective movie. This is the kind of door that shows the silhouette of a woman in distress, knocking; a few moments later it swings open to reveal a sexy dame who promptly lights up her cigarette and pours out her lies as she begins her process of ruining the detective’s life more than it’s already been ruined. Maybe the door has been kicked in a few times; definitely seen a crow-bar or two. I look through the crack between the door and the frame, and there is nothing inside. Empty office.

I go back outside into the bustle of downtown. I cough in the smog-heavy air and the diesel fumes, and light up my own cigarette. The smoke washes away the city, clearing my lungs. Ahhhhh, much better.

I didn’t really smoke, but I should have to keep with the theme.

So I got my gumshoes walking to try the second address. Sure enough there is a Paraguayan flag in front. Nice-enough looking house. Signs point to go around the back. Around said house, in the pool house, is the consulate.

I go in, and it’s clean and orderly. Smells good. The nice girl at the desk greets me, and I sit down to present my papers like a good worker drone. Sharp fees, USD$95 per document, not payable to the consulate directly. I will have to go to the bank, and do a deposit in dollars, and bring the deposit slip back. But not today. Today after 12:00 the receiver of papers turns into a pumpkin, their inbox turns into a pumpkin, and a field of dense and unmovable spacetime forms around them which completely forbids any submission of documents until the next morning.

No sense in leaving these for pickup later tomorrow then?

No.

Because leaving papers-that-are-ready, today, to be processed tomorrow, so I only have to come back once tomorrow, and they only have to see my ugly face once tomorrow, is an act of efficiency and logic that is entirely unwelcome in a bureaucratic office. So I shall just have to bless them with my unique and sunny presence twice more.

As I shriek inside my head “Why, God, WHY?!?!??!!?!” I smile and nod and save up Postal Points for later when I go on the rampage which will be echoed throughout eternity by generations of fearful and fascinated historians. Vlad the Impaler will be forgotten and I shall be his replacement.

So tomorrow I shall need to wash, rinse, repeat, and make sure to shove the papers into the black hole before it closes.

According to this article, Paraguay’s Banco Central recently increased its reserves from 33.8 to 426.5 million dollars (nearly 400 million more) worth of gold to expand their precious metal reserves and diversify from the US dollar.

Rafael Lara, a director of the Banco Central, explains, “We aim to diversify our assets with currencies which provide no risk to the parent bank, and also because Dollar investments are kept close to 0% interest, a trend which will continue until the United States decides to withdraw stimulus to its economy, which markets predict will not happen until 2015.”

We are now official permanent residents of Paraguay. Hooray!

My plans to take over the world are coming together… muahahahaaaaaa!

The Musical Presidents in Paraguay has caused lots of havoc with our file being processed. The “express” version of the story is that Lugo was unliked by just about everyone, especially with his increasing Hugo Chavez fanboy behavior, and his opponents were just waiting for a slip-up to kick him out of office. The whole scenario with the gunfight may have been set up, but the world will never know until 30 years from now when the confidential files with the truth are released.

Anyhow, according to GermanBob, any time there is a transition in the regime (ie: after every election), there is general housecleaning in all branches of government, so all work immediately ceases.

To top it off, the guy in charge of Migraciones got the axe, and the new director stepped in ranting about how she will eliminate corruption.  I can picture her now, completing her speech about how she will turn the system around and clean out the corruption on all levels, and as she stands proud on the podium to thunderous tear-jerking patriotic anthem music, raises a fist in the air, and says, “Who’s with me?”

…cricket… cricket…

Well, that’s what happened.

So then in retaliation she put a stop order on all files in-process that were ever signed by the former director, legitimate or not. You see, in Paraguay, the lower level functionaries cannot compute more than the most basic instructions, and if a stamp is 3 degrees off-angle and a millimeter to the right or left of where their training paper says it is supposed to be, they will reject the application or declare the paper un-usable. Sometimes, and this happens in Uruguay too, they will flip their lid if you use two different colors of ink on one form.

Such was the case with one of my papers which was signed in the wrong place, but it was nonetheless legalized at their own consulate in the USA which sees these same papers all the time and knows exactly what is fake and what is real. One would think that this should be respected once the document arrives in Paraguay but “es lo que hay.”

IranianBob had a similar problem in that one document was a copy from the Iranian government who apparently does not wish to part with the original. No amount of explaining that they will not under any circumstances, ever, release the original, would convince the Paraguayan desk drones to accept the document, not even the fact that it, too, despite being a notarized copy of the original, was signed and stamped and legalized in triplicate by the Iranian Justice Department and the relevant Paraguayan Consulates. The paper, aside from the Paraguayan consulate legalization stamps and notes, was in Persian text, as if anyone in Paraguay will be able to read it anyways. The accompanying translation pages, also legalized, could have said anything, but seriously, if you have already bent over backwards to provide all these absurd documents, are you a harmful person? If we were scumbags we’d just walk in with a briefcase of cash and walk out with a frigging passport.

Anyways, we had to fight for various “solutions” to get our papers pushed through. But desk idiot after desk idiot kept coming up with the same problem, and this kept delaying our file. And then the fact that it was signed by the old guy got it stuck in a cabinet somewhere with hundreds of others.

The natives are restless and insisting that this new director be replaced at the end of the month. Nobody likes a boat-rocker in a place like Paraguay.

Rumor has it that our residency process is in the part where the ID cards are made, which is good news, meaning that either the director was shown the door, or threatened with the door and/or bodily harm if she continued her anticorruption rampage.

The Mitsubishi Wanker Jr.

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Humor, Stupidity, Travel
Tags: , ,

What an unfortunate name. It probably sounds like something cool to the Japanese, but down here in SouthAm, it means Wanker, as in, one who spanks their monkey. What’s worse, it’s Wanker Junior.

Not to be confused with the full-size Wanker model, which is simply called the Wanker.

The Mitsubishi Wanker Jr

Paraguay summary

Posted: March 11, 2012 in Travel
Tags: ,

We arrived in Paraguay carrying a dark and heavy opinion about it. Several of my friends bashed it and berated it and complained about how horrible it was, and how stupid and slow the people were. ExceptionalUruguayanBob relayed quite a few stories about the density of the people, how it was a disorganized hellhole. Some of his stories included details about how other people with which he did business, when finding out he was Uruguayan, congratulated his homeland on doing something the surrounding places did not: exterminating the indigenous population. GermanBob goes on and on about the retardedness of the people and how he wants to remain the last one of his group friends who have not been mugged at gunpoint in Paraguay.

During an analytical conversation over some rotgut booze (a horrible concoction of “El Abuelo” Argentine Sherry which ExFedBob had picked up because it was surprisingly cheap, and over-sugared Pulp brand Guarana to try and mask the lack of flavor) about how racist Uruguayans tend to be, we found some interesting things that correlated not only the Uruguayan perception of Paraguayans, but some other key pieces shifted and fell into place from previous experiences. The scales falling from my eyes, all the clues came to light, like watching the subtle flashbacks at the end of a thriller mystery movie when the protagonist completes the puzzle and suddenly I understood…

Flashback: I was in Orlando, Florida, helping the brother of ExceptionalUruguayanBob move into his college apartment. UruguayanMomBob was there too. Her comments about Orlando were harsh but I agreed 100%: “This town is so ugly. Every square inch of it is commercial.”

Yes, indeed, Mom, but this place is responsible for so many wonderful technological developments that you use in your everyday life, courtesy of Walt Disney, that your head would spin.

Eventually UruguayanMomBob found I was not offended by her comments and then really let it out. Each day was building and building in her and she couldn’t stand the place, couldn’t wait to leave. Interesting.

Flashback: About 18 months later, when BrotherBob was ¾ of his way through his 2-year accelerated degree at FullSail, he decided he could no longer stand it in Orlando, abandoned his almost-complete degree, and left for another school in Seattle (a hive of scum and villainy, built on the trampled bones of commerce which the locals all take advantage of while simultaneously declaring it to be evil).

Flashback: ExceptionalUruguayanBob describing how horrible Ciudad del Este was, because of all the people running about doing business.

Flashback: AnotherUruguayanBob described Ciudad del Este as “Hell, complete Hell.”

It all gels into place in one cohesive, solid realization:

Uruguayans are completely, utterly, shit-their-pants afraid of commerce.

No wonder they hate Paraguay. Paraguay has come out of a dictatorship and a mere 15 years later is booming. Uruguay has had a 10-year lead on them and now they are sinking into the muddy bog of socialist fascism. Uruguayans think they are sophisticated and special, and they hate to see a bunch of sweaty Mestizos, Asians, and other mixed breeds showing them up.

They have more things available, cheaper, than Uruguay. We found all of the items we had to previously smuggle in, in normal grocery stores: real maple syrup, clear gelatin, spices, whole vanilla beans, juniper berries, the list goes on and on. I should have bought that $330 Playstation. Here in Uruguay it costs $550, and that is the cheap price.

In one sentence, what is Paraguay? Paraguay is the most upwardly-mobile country I have yet visited, in the worst location in South America I have yet visited (Chile is next on the list, who knows, it may prove better still). Brazil has the best beaches, Uruguay has the best tranquilismo, Argentina has the best cosmopolitan vibe. But each of those places has major problems holding it back. Argentina is burning in the iron grip of the fascist Kirchner mafia. Brazil has too many diverse regions controlled by too few concentrated centers of power, and it seems fit to burst at the seams somewhere. Uruguay’s socialist bureaucracy guarantees a stranglehold on anything that dares to move.

Paraguay cares for none of that. It heads in its own direction. Sure it has some problems but none that are keeping anyone down or preventing them from taking their chance at making their way in the world. Yes, it’s a little bit backward, but the people know it, and they are playing an excellent game with the hand that they have been dealt.

===

Some other observations about Paraguay that I did not find a way to insert into other posts:

Nosepicking seems to be a national sport. In public, while driving, while standing on the street corner, everyone is drilling for oil.

Volleyball seems to be everywhere as well.

I see fat people. Lots more obese people here than in Uruguay. I assume it has to do with a much more bread-heavy diet, also native Americans tend to have more problems with obesity and diabetes.

LawyerBob explained to us how it is dealing with the Indios: They are very immature thinkers, and have no concept of the future. If you employ them you only get 3 days of work out of them per week. And you have to pay them daily or weekly, never monthly. Monday they cannot come into work because they are hung over from drinking too much on the weekend. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday they work. Friday they cannot work because of some religious holiday thing. Saturday and Sunday they are out getting drunk with their friends. If you pay them monthly, they will blow it all in a few days and then come crying back to you for more, because their family is starving. Hmm… sounds a lot like Uruguayos.

In Asuncion, every square inch that can be covered by commerce, is. The local poor sell handicrafts or fruit or vegetables, people hawk wares they got cheaply at Ciudad del Este, there are street vendors everywhere. In Uruguay it is pretty much outlawed except for special areas or unless you have a permit (which is hard to get unless you have a whole life to waste chasing after whatever desk jockey who issues it). In Uruguay, nobody wants to try because they are beaten down by both the government and their fellow man. At the airport in Asuncion, I had to send a pair of shoe-shine kids away twice, explaining that no, my hiking boots do not need to be polished because they are for work and are always dirty. Instead of being resentful, they smiled, wished us a “Buen viaje,” and left. The shoe-shine kids are learning the basics of business early– they probably make enough to keep their shoe polish supply from running out, and whatever is left over they probably spend on candy (which is what I would have done if I were that age). They will learn the concepts of time, money, and resource management at age 10. Uruguayans, if they were even able to move themselves to run around the airport to shine shoes, would have told me to fuck off because they deserved the work I was hoarding away from them. I have never seen an Uruguayo shoeshine kid. They won’t let their kids work.

Only in a few instances did we see people with their hand out wanting something for nothing. Most cases were people with deformities or crippling problems who could not work under normal circumstances. In this case, however, some of them still made the best of it and would be selling lottery tickets or trinkets or something which at least had value. Anywhere else, if someone wanted money, they were trying to sell you something. Except for the instance with the scumbag road cop. Contrast this to Uruguay where the indigent expect you to take care of them, hassling you for money while offering nothing in return, and then treating you with open resentment because you won’t give it to them.