Newsbrief: Three Dead in Peru Coca Confrontation -- Cocaleros Occupy Buildings in Provincial City 10/22/04

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A confrontation between the Peruvian government and coca growers turned violent Tuesday in the town of San Gaban in the Peruvian state of Puno, according to Associated Press and Peruvian media reports. Hundreds of peasant demonstrators seized a local electric plant and other buildings in the city to demand an end to the eradication of their coca crops, and police fired on and killed three protestors as the crowd tried to seize the town police station.

In Lima, the government of President Alejandro Toledo met in special session and declared a state of emergency in San Gaban and another nearby district. Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero told reporters in Lima that police reinforcements were being sent into the area at the rate of 50 an hour. "We don't want to become a narcotics state," he said. "We are defending the people."

Protests broke out after authorities launched eradication operations against 7,400 newly discovered acres of coca plants and destroyed 10 jungle labs where coca leaf was being processed into cocaine paste. "Eighty-five police were forced to use tear gas and then, because the mob was overrunning them, to fire shots to prevent the police station from being sacked and weapons stolen," the interior ministry said.

The mayor of San Gaban, Adolfo Huamantica, was much less enthusiastic than the authorities in Lima about repressing the protests. The violence broke out only after the government reneged on a promise to send a group to evaluate the situation with the coca crops, he told CPN Radio. Coca growers are demanding an "immediate end" to eradication and "direct talks" with the government, Huamantica said. Calling in police reinforcements "could bring regrettable consequences," he warned.

Peru was once the world's leading coca producer, but has slashed production some 70% since its heyday in the mid-1990s. Still, coca growers across the country continue to organize to protect their traditional crop and best cash crop. And with an unrelenting coca eradication program underway in recent years in Colombia, coca has been on the increase again in Peru.

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Issue #359, 10/22/04 Editorial: Twenty Years? | California Initiative to Rein-In Three-Strikes Law Appears Headed for Victory | English Drug Reformers Map Route to Post-Prohibition Drug Policy | In California Senate Race, Judge Jim Gray Gets No Respect from Media, Polls, or Debates, Despite Strong Showing | DRCNet Book Review: "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," by Tony Papa with Jennifer Wynn Feral House Press, $22.95 HB) | A Message from the Executive Director on What DRCNet is Planning After Election Day and Why We Need Your Help | Newsbrief: Kerry Says Feds Should Butt Out of Oregon Laws | Newsbrief: Alaska Marijuana Initiative Backers Sue Lieutenant Governor Over Election Pamphlet | Newsbrief: Bush, Kerry, Nader Respond to HEA Query | Newsbrief: African-American Professional Groups Form Coalition to Change Drug Policies | Newsbrief: Federal Judge Rules Cops Can Lie on the Stand | Newsbrief: End of Opium Cultivation Spells Looming Disaster for Burmese Peasants | Newsbrief: Three Dead in Peru Coca Confrontation -- Cocaleros Occupy Buildings in Provincial City | Newsbrief: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Runs Up Against Law of the Market | Newsbrief: Actress's Marijuana Bust Challenge Causing Waves in South Korea | Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Reintroduce Marijuana Reform Bill, But Adds Driver Drug Testing, Too | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | The DARE Generation Returns to DC: Students for Sensible Drug Policy 2004 National Conference Next Month | Apply Now to Intern at DRCNet! | Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar
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