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Hailing Hitler

On our second day in Lago Agrio, at 8 p.m., Hitler picked us up at the intersection of Guayaquil and Venezuela. MHP, Amy and I scrambled into the backseat. Amy propped her camera on the windowsill while I wired Hitler. Yes. Hitler. This is the third of our nighttime cabbies with a penchant for after hour adventures and a good nose for nightclubs.

Hitler gave us the redlight district tour: La Casa de Citas, Las Munecas, El Boricua, La Pantera advertised their presence with loud graffiti, lewd murals and neon lit nudity. Some were little more than shacks. Only La Casa Blanca, a freshly painted hillside villa with an armed guard and silver SUVs outside parked, aspired to an air of distinction. Every time my camera flashed, Hitler hit fifth gear in fear of being identified.

At 11 p.m., our driver reversed his pickup truck taxi down a steep riverside road. Klo-Klong. The taxi boarded the Gavala moored in the water. Gavalas are floating metal contractions that look light but are solid enough to support the weight of several cars. We crossed the river. The only lights on the water came from car headlights and the carnival colors spilling out of waterfront clubs.

We crossed over to the neighborhood of Aguarico. A few months ago a shoot out broke out between police and residents who had an arsenal of small weapons for trafficking. Now, Hitler explained, most of the crime comes from this neighborhood but they are not committed in the neighborhood. Still, he started and stopped the car with unease every time we drew near a nighttime establishment. To our surprise, many had shut down.

The area of Aguarico, unlike the rest of Lago Agrio, felt like a ghost town. The roads were rough. Petrol tanks doubled as trash containers outside rundown homes. It was hard to believe that this was narcotrafficking nexus. The occasional clue came from suspiciously high quality cars given the context. It could have been any community in the world beyond recrimination.
-- Dominique Soguel

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