Heightened tension in Bolivia as coca producers block roads

For eight days the coca growers federations of the Yungas region (northern La Paz, Bolivia) have blocked roads to the area to protest a new law that limits the amount of coca they can sell. The conflict appears to be getting more serious as truck drivers threaten to attempt to unblock the roads themselves, which could lead to violence.

Numerous trucks, buses and cars have been stuck behind the road blocks and many are losing their income as fruit, vegetables and other produce begin to rot. Meanwhile, passengers are running out of food and water and many have set up temporary tents to shelter them from the rain. There are numerous children involved.

The road leads to popular tourist destinations such as Coroico, Chulumani, Caranavi, and eventually, Rurrenabaque.

El Dia, 19 October 2010. Yesterday coca sellers held a noise protest on Tejada Sorzano avenue in the Villa Fatima neighborhood of La Paz and warned they may mobilize daily in the city. For over a week it has been impossible to purchase coca in the legal markets to be taken to the mining centers of Sucre and Potosí and other southern regions.

Justino Mendoza, leader of the coca leaf sellers, asked Adepcoca (Departmental Association of Coca Growers of La Paz) protest leaders to allow them two hours to remove their belongings and products (coca) from the area because many of their coca leaves may expire.

Simultaneously, the Yungas truck drivers union is staging a ?counter blockade? at the Urujara toll booth, along the road that enters the Yungas region, demanding the coca growers and the government resolve their conflict. The drivers complain of financial losses due to the road blocks.

The Yungas coca growers have rejected an agreement signed between the government and some of their leaders, Government Mnister Sacha Llorenty, and Rural Development Minister, Nemesia Achacoll, and have made the decision to continue the blockades, reported Ramiro Sánchez, president of Adepcoca.

The government has proposed preparing a new coca leaf sales regulation, requesting that in exchange the coca growers re-open the roads. Yesterday the coca growers held a mass march in which they carried their bags of coca. / ANF

Caranavi threatens to intervene

Bernardo Quispe, representative of Caranavi area settlers, also warned that his sector is evaluating the possibility of intervening to unblock the roads. As stated previously, truck drivers are of the same opinion, and as of Saturday, have not allowed food to be sent to the area of the conflict. In addition, Alto Beni settlers have begun to take legal action against the coca growers to demand they repay them for their losses.

Nicolás Chincha, an Adepcoca leader, reported yesterday that the sector ?continues to wait for the government to be willing to negotiate?, adding that Adepcoca has no official knowledge of the statements made by the three sectors that now oppose them.

This is a translation. Read this Article in Spanish.

Source: El Día
Date: 19 October 2010

Comments for Heightened tension in Bolivia as coca producers block roads

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Oct 20, 2010
The road is open now
by: Anonymous

The Yungas coca growers, who have blocked the roads to the area for nine days, have lifted their road block because their leaders have signed a pre-agreement with Government representatives in La Paz. Over 500 trucks, buses and cars were stranded the entire week because of this.

Oct 19, 2010
who profits from this conflict
by: Anonymous

There are some who stand to profit from this conflict, and are already doing so.

The Yungas coca leaf is preferred for chewing because of its superior quality while the coca leaf produced in the Chapare region (where Bolivia's President Morales is also president of the six Cochabamba coca federations) is used to elaborate other products.

Currently the lower quality Cochabamba coca leaf is being sold at an elevated price of Bs. 50 per pound (up from Bs. 36 per pound).

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