Conflicts & War

Bolivian coca growers march again to demand closure of parallel market

La Paz, Aug 15 (EFE).- Hundreds of coca growers from Bolivia’s La Paz department marched again on Monday demanding the closure of a parallel market promoted by a group affiliated to the ruling Movement for Socialism while residents set up barricades to “protect” their homes.

Men and women of the Adepcoca coca growers association, headed by Freddy Machicado, began the march after noon from Calle 10 of Villa El Carmen to Calle 1, where the parallel market is located.

The market was set up last year and is managed by Arnold Alanes, whom the protesters accuse of having links with President Luis Arce’s government.

“Nobody here is being paid, we are going to ensure that our rights are respected and prevail, we are neither from the right nor the left, I want that to be clear,” said Carlos Choque, leader of the Confederation of Peasant Federations of the Yungas Region.

The Villa El Carmen market, located very close to that of Adepcoca, was guarded by hundreds of police officials who fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters.

This is the third consecutive week in which the coca growers are marching to demand the closure of the parallel market.

One person was injured and some 24 people were arrested during the protest.

The residents of Villa El Carmen set up barricades using sticks, wood and other objects at the entrance of their streets to prevent the protesters or the police from causing damage to their homes, as has happened in previous weeks.

La Paz Mayor Iván Arias asked on Twitter for the march to be “peaceful,” saying “there is fear among the residents.”

The so-called “Steering Committee,” affiliated to the government, filed a criminal complaint with the Attorney General’s Office against Machicado for crimes of conspiracy, public incitement to crime, criminal organization, criminal association, illegal possession and carrying of and attacks against members of the State security agency.

Meanwhile, the coca growers of the tropics of Cochabamba declared themselves in a “state of emergency” and said that it was not possible for the coca growers “to side with the pro-coup right wing.”

The Bolivian government sent a letter to Machicado on Monday with an invitation for talks.

“We reiterate the invitation to engage in dialogue, with the sole purpose of reaching an agreement that benefits coca leaf producers,” said the letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Coca and Integral Development Arlem Lovera.

The guidelines regulating the sale of coca leaf for legal and traditional consumption only recognize the Villa Fátima market in La Paz and that of Sacaba in Cochabamba, which is why the members of Adepcoca are demanding that the legislation be complied with and the other market be closed. EFE


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