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Clashes erupt between police and coca farmers in the Bolivian capital

#Clashes #erupt #police #coca #farmers #Bolivian #capital

Clashes erupted Tuesday between police and coca leaf producers in the Bolivian capital of La Paz over a dispute over control of the coveted commercialization of the plant.

Several uniformed officers and a journalist were injured, multiple sources reported, as hundreds of growers from the Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca), as well as opponents of leftist President Luis Arce’s government, marched to demand the closure of a parallel market for the coca plant from which they say it is illegal and supported by the government.

Last October, thousands of coca leaf farmers stormed the country’s main coca market in La Paz after violent clashes with security forces.

The Adepcoca market has become the focus of a dispute between two groups of coca farmers – one pro-government, the other anti-government – since last year.

About 90 percent of Bolivia’s $173 million-a-year legal coca leaf business goes through the Adepcoca market, according to the UN.

The argument revolves around who should control the market.

Violence erupted last year when the pro-government group, which it supports, ousted an opposition figure to take control of the compound.

Armin Lluta claimed he was held hostage for hours and beaten up by the government-backed group before they took control of the market.

On Tuesday, protest leader Carlos Choque announced over loudspeakers: “We demand that this alleged market for the sale of coca, which has nothing to do with the legal market of Adepcoca, be closed immediately. We won’t be scared if they want to ‘shoot’ us, we’re here.”

Producers began firing firecrackers and low-intensity explosive devices known as dynamite cannons, while police responded with extensive use of tear gas, AFP witnessed.

“We have several police officers who were injured by the blast from the dynamite that was aggressively thrown at us,” police said in a statement.

Adepcoca leaders said they would not end their protest until the market closes.

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#Clashes #erupt #police #coca #farmers #Bolivian #capital

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