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Coca leafs and seeds - Photography by Monika

Only Traditional Producers grow Organic Coca

Since coming to power in 2006, the government of the Chapare coca growers has persecuted the traditional growers in the remote areas of the country. The first time was in September 2006, just after Evo Morales came into power, when law enforcement officers and military personnel killed some young Yungas de Vandiola coca growers. The Yungeños, whose territory is upriver from the Chapare region, grow coca traditionally. A few days after this massacre, Evo Morales commented among his people that the Yungeños had no reason to complain, "because they did not shed their blood" in the struggle for power. Sure, the Yungeños did not participate in the fight: their land is the jungle, inaccessible for the absence of roads; nor did they have to fight eradicators, because they never cultivated for the production of cocaine. While the Yungeños were in mourning in those days that forever ended the tranquility of their community, the minister of the presidency boasted of congratulations received from the U.S. Ambassador for the courageous action. The government never had the decency to apologize for the murder of the two youngsters; furtively it paid seven thousand U.S. dollars to the families, $ 3,500 per life. But until today the government persists in the intimidation of the coca growers from the provinces of Vandiola and Tiraque, the two regions of traditional coca cultivation of the department of Cochabamba.

Lately the government has sent forces to eradicate in the municipality of Apollo, province of Franz Tamayo, department of La Paz. On October 18th, Deputy Minister Felipe Caceres reported that "a group of armed coca farmers prevents the eradication of their crops in Apollo. He announced sending 100 extra troops to reinforce the work of the Joint Task Force that had already started the eradication program. Responding to the minister’s remarks, Gregorio Cari, leader of the coca growers of Apollo, told the press: "Day and night our people are in vigil, on bridges and in other places, because we will not allow eradication. We have no weapons, although we do have sticks, slings and beehives." According to Dionisio Zabala, the priest of Apollo, on Saturday, October 19th, the Joint Task Force raided the homes, “women were beaten and forced to leave their homes, together with their children, at 5:00 am. The JTF entered the houses and gasified immediately, without any respect." "As the women have told me, the JTF entered their houses and looked for their husbands’ documents, to burn them, so that they would appear as undocumented residents, and could be denounced for being Peruvians."
Government sources claim that the police were ambushed, "the peasants carried weapons and attacked from some distance while the soldiers were preparing to eradicate their coca crops."
The prosecutor, Leopoldo Ramos, did not rule out those that took part of the ambush on Saturday the 19th, had gotten military training from the "terrorist group Shining Path of Peru." What is certain is that in the confusion of that early Saturday morning three soldiers and military doctor got killed. Because of these facts the government has militarized the town and has begun the forced  eradication which the coca growers opposed. Eight leaders are imprisoned, held responsible for these tragic events. Although they claim not to be guilty, they will remain for years in the same prison where the Morales government already has confined much of the opposition to its policies.