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Amazon Sees in Brazil Continent-Size Profits and Problems

MercadoLibre, for instance, the e-commerce leader that first began in Argentina and modeled itself after eBay, has been in Brazil for 19 years.

“We helped build e-commerce in this region,” said Cristina Farjallat, the head of MercadoLibre’s third-party marketplace. “We have portfolios of sellers and portfolios of consumers that no one else has.”

She said the company had lured more sellers to its site than any other online retailer by working with vendors to create the tools they need. MercadoLibre has a roster of 12 million vendors and its own fulfillment service, and is rolling out a payment service to bypass banks and credit cards.

The company helped Mr. Prado, the vendor, turn a modest business venture — selling satellite antennas door-to-door in his remote village, where cellphone coverage was virtually nonexistent — into a national enterprise, with 20 employees.

“Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but MercadoLibre is the first site people open when they go on the internet,” he said. “They have the brand name, their own payment plan, the logistics infrastructure and they even offer loans to sellers.”

Mr. Prado, who created his company, Lojas Mineiras, in 2008, now offers his satellite and telephone products through nearly a dozen online retail sites. More than half of his sales are made through MercadoLibre.

That doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

This year, Amazon broadened its catalog of products, offering sporting goods, fashion and home accessories, and signed up some major brands — but all remain independently sold and delivered.

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