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Bolivia: After heavy clashes with police, coca producers take control of La Paz market

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Shouting “The Yungas united, will never be defeated!” and “Yes, we did it! Yes, we did it!” carrying the national red, yellow and green flag, the farmers entered the market that legally sells coca in the Villa Fatima neighborhood, the gateway to the sub-Andean Yungas valleys, where coca has been grown since before the Inca empire.

The incidents began at noon, when the farmers organized to take control of the Association of Coca Leaf Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA) market, after complaining that another group, supported by president Luis Arce’s government, had taken over its management, amid political and economic differences in the control of the legal coca market.

Several thousand coca leaf producers from Bolivia’s Yungas region took control of a coca market in La Paz on Monday. (photo internet reproduction)

Dozens of riot police officers who had been guarding the site for a week used tear gas, but were forced to retreat several blocks in the face of massive pressure from the farmers. Farmers hurled rocks, sticks and petards while burning tires and mattresses. The clashes left at least 2 police officers and 2 peasants injured.

The officers left the ADEPCOCA market unprotected, thereby allowing the peasants to enter.

A self-appointed emergency committee, which led the seizure of the market, announced that an electoral committee would soon be formed to organize elections for a new ADEPCOCA leadership.

INDIGENOUS BOLIVIANS SEEK DIALOGUE WITH THE 4 GOVERNMENT BRANCHES

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon and eastern Bolivia, who have been marching for over a month towards Santa Cruz, the largest city in the country, hope to hold a dialogue with representatives of the 4 government branches to present their demands for respect for their territories and traditions.

In recent days, the indigenous peoples sent letters to the highest officials of the 4 branches of government seeking to discuss their demands, but have so far received no reply, as only the Executive has made a statement, said leader Marcial Fabricano.

“We come looking for the 4 powers of the State, the Executive, Judicial, Legislative and Electoral. At this level because each of these structures has much to say to us, they have to address many aspects that are of interest to us as indigenous peoples,” Fabricano said.

Luis Arce’s government sent 3 Vice Ministers to Santa Cruz to hear the indigenous peoples and asked them to submit their demands in writing, but protesters insist on holding a dialogue at the highest level.

In 37 days, the indigenous peoples traveled on foot the nearly 500 kilometers between the Amazonian city of Trinidad and Santa Cruz to demand full respect for their rights in light of invasions of their territories, forest fires and government projects on their lands without prior consultation, among other issues.

The mobilized sector has formed an “indigenous parliament” which, according to Fabricano, has not been set up to disturb politicians, but is an “ancestral structure” based on their right to self-determination through which they seek to negotiate and dialogue with the 4 state powers.

The lowland indigenous peoples have marched before several times to draw the government’s attention to different demands; the first was in 1990 for dignity and territory.

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