A child is sleeping on an armchair in full daylight (Lomas de Zamora, southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina; May 2009). Lomas de Zamora is one of the slums (‘villas’) in which Paco is most widespread.
Two boys – one of them only twelve years old – smoke Paco in Pelourinho, Salvador de Bahia’s old center (Salvador de Bahia, Brazil; March 2010). Paco’s consumption is common among lower class teenagers all over South America.
In dilapidated slums and ghettos across Buenos Aires, the drug Paco is finding its way into the hands of Argentina’s most vulnerable, enticing boys as young as twelve into its cruel snare. Italian photoreporter Valerio Bispuri has taken on the challenge to document this story from the initial stages of the drug’s production to the effects it’s having on its users and the greater community. The drug, also known as ‘the poor man’s cocaine’ or PBC (pasta básica de cocaine, cocaine base powder), is prepared using the waste product of cocaine and it’s laced with toxic chemicals – sometimes even rat poison. Smoked like crack, the drug has short-lasting effects and takes thirty seconds to act; it is also said to be fifty times more powerful than cocaine itself. In the words of Bispuri, it’s a drug that does not forgive. Produced in illegal laboratories or ‘cocinas’ (kitchens), circulation of Paco is expanding like a ripple effect. Most of these photographs were taken in Argentina, but the project also took Bispuri to places such as Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, and Colombia where the drug is also in circulation.