Police unit burns amid clashes with coca growers in La Paz
La Paz, Sep 24 (EFE).- Another day of clashes between police and coca leaf producers trying to retake their headquarters in La Paz on Friday resulted in multiple arrests and fire destroying a police unit.
Dozens of coca growers marched again in the neighborhoods of Villa El Carmen and Villa Fátima with the intention of reaching the headquarters of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca), where one of the two legal markets authorized for the sale of coca in the country operates.
The police, who have been deployed around the market since the conflict began, once again stopped the march with tear gas, to which the protesters responded by throwing stones and detonating firecrackers.
At one point a fire broke out in a police unit in Puente Minasa, torching five patrol vehicles.
“The preliminary information is that there is no injured person, there is only substantial material damages inside this police unit,” the departmental director of La Paz Firefighters, Colonel Marco Navia, told Efe.
The problem originated in a dispute between two factions of coca growers, led by Arnold Alanes and Fernando Calle and identified as related to the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, and a third faction related to the government critic Armin Lluta, who was also the president the Adepcoca.
On Monday, Alanes proclaimed himself the new president of Adepcoca, despite the rejection of the factions led by Lluta and Calle.
Alanes took control of the headquarters and the market on Tuesday morning with the support of the police, who used tear gas against coca growers from Lluta’s group that had been maintaining a vigil there for months.
The leadership of Alanes has been endorsed by the government of President Luis Arce, causing rejection among the coca growing factions critical of the leader and who say the government should stay out of the matter.
On Friday, a fourth coca-growing faction called Self-Defense Committee emerged, demanding the resignation of the three leaders, the legitimate election of a new leader for Adepcoca and that they be allowed to enter the market to sell their products.
The ruling party and the opposition parties blame each other for the conflict, while the vice president of the country, David Choquehuanca, called all factions to dialogue on Saturday. EFE