Conflicts & War

Bolivian coca growers affected by parallel market burning demand justice

La Paz, Sep 12 (EFE).- Producers sold coca leaves on Monday at the door of La Paz’s so-called parallel market, which was destroyed last week, demanding that the Bolivian government declare their property as the “only” one legal for this activity, and announced marches to demand justice.

On Monday morning, coca growers from the Arnold Alanes bloc arrived at the parallel market in the Villa El Carmen neighborhood in northern La Paz. The market was violently taken over last week by thousands of coca growers who came from the Los Yungas area, led by the leader of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca), Freddy Machicado.

While the facilities have been sealed off for investigation, through a video broadcast on social media networks Alanes urged supporters to sell their products outside the market.

Some posters hanging on the walls of the burned building refer to requests for justice for the damage and ask for jail for Machicado.

“They have shown that they have come to assault our heritage,” Armin Aliaga, secretary of the Alanes bloc, told EFE.

Meanwhile, in the traditional Adepcoca market, located in the Villa Fátima neighborhood, also north of La Paz, the coca growers commercialized the coca leaf as usual.

Alanes announced Monday at a press conference that in the face of the “humiliations” experienced last week they will hold an assembly and a “peaceful” march from Villa El Carmen to the offices of the Ministry of Rural Development and Lands.

“All the partners are going to be leading our assembly, a peaceful march seeking justice and stability in the commercialization of the coca leaf,” said Alanes.

The march is announced for Sep. 19 in which they will ask President Luis Arce’s government to authorize the operation of the parallel market and that justice be done over attacks on its infrastructure.

Vice Minister of Communication Gabriela Alcón indicated that Machicado’s people tried to threaten the lives of the other coca leaf producers and that “criminal and delinquent” images have been seen of how they took over the properties last week.

“Dialogue happens not because of threats, but because of a predisposition to sit down and listen and come up with solutions – that is what the country wants,” Alcón stressed.

Meanwhile, the ruling deputy Gladys Quispe said that coca growers are “afraid” of reaching the Adepcoca market due to the situation and that 70 percent of the growers did not participate in the Machicado protests.

The Adepcoca conflict has been dragging on since September last year when a group elected Alanes leader of the organization, and who later received recognition from the government.

After several days of protests, the opposing bloc, which claims to be the majority, expelled Alanes from the Adepcoca headquarters. A few days later he opened the parallel market near the traditional market, which again unleashed the protests that led to the burning of the building and without a view to dialogue between the parties.

Before the violent takeover, thousands of producers led by Machicado traveled more than 116 kilometers for five days to demand the closure of that business. They then marched to the seat of government to leave a petition and ask Arce for a direct meeting with them and for the Villa Fátima market to be declared the only coca leaf market in La Paz.

Meanwhile, the residents of the neighborhood took to the streets again Monday to demand that the coca growers leave the area to avoid more violence and destruction.

Bolivian law recognizes two legal markets for the sale of coca leaves: one in Sacaba, in the department of Cochabamba, and another in Villa Fátima, in La Paz. EFE


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