by Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Oct. 18, some 2,500 campesino coca producers (cocaleros) from San Gaban
in Carabaya province, Puno department, began blocking several points of a
highway leading to the neighboring department of Madre de Dios. The
cocaleros also blocked the main entrance to the San Rafael mine and
threatened to seize the San Gaban hydroelectric plant in nearby Shuane.
They were demanding that the government immediately suspend a coca
eradication operation being carried out by agents of the Anti-Drug
Department (Dirandro) in San Gaban.

According to Carabaya mayor Michel Francois Portier Balland, some 350
police agents had been carrying out the eradication operation for several
weeks, backed by seven helicopters, a small plane and several troop
transport vehicles. The agents destroyed not only coca plants but dozens of
hectares of fruits and other crops. The cocaleros say they grow only small
subsistence plots of coca leaf for domestic use, which they trade with
neighboring communities for food. Portier called on Interior Minister
Javier Reategui Rosello to suspend the eradication operation and begin a
dialogue with cocalero leaders and local authorities in order to avoid a
confrontation between cocaleros and police.

According to Adolfo Huamantica, mayor of San Gaban district, the cocaleros
had called for the open-ended strike on Oct. 13 after waiting all day for a
commission which the government’s National Commission for Development and
Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA) had promised to send, but which never showed
up. DEVIDA president Nils Ericsson said he had sent representative Jose
Figueroa to the zone but that Figueroa had determined it wasn’t necessary
to meet with the cocaleros. Portier said the cocaleros also sent a
delegation to Lima during the week of Oct. 11 to seek a solution, but they
received only promises of future dialogue.

On Oct. 19, more than 1,000 cocaleros approached the San Gaban
hydroelectric plant and prepared to occupy it. While they gathered there,
police burned the camp where the cocaleros were staying, destroying their
tents and possessions. As the cocaleros neared the hydroelectric plant’s
main building, police agents first used tear gas then fired their weapons
at the crowd, killing cocaleros Florencia Quispe Coaquira, Jose Sonco
Palomino and Wilber Campos, and wounding five others, at least one of them
seriously. Four police agents were also hurt, one seriously. The agents
finally withdrew after running out of bullets. (La Republica, Lima, Oct.

In the afternoon of Oct. 19, following the incidents at San Gaban, Peru’s
Council of Ministers held an extraordinary session and instituted a 30-day
state of emergency in the districts of San Gaban and nearby Antauta.
Reategui, the interior minister, accused the protesters of being drunk and
incited by "narco-terrorists"; he claimed police fired their weapons in
self-defense after being attacked. Defense Minister Roberto Chiabra Leon
alleged that the protesters were not cocaleros at all, but
"narco-terrorists" who were angry because government anti-drug forces had
recently destroyed 10 local maceration pits, where coca leaves are pounded
into base cocaine. (La Republica, AP, Oct. 20)

On Oct. 20, after the cocaleros withdrew from the hydroelectric plant, the
government set up a dialogue commission headed by Agriculture Minister
Alvaro Quijandria to meet with protest leaders and local and regional
authorities. (La Republica, Oct. 21)

Some 1,000 cocaleros marched in San Gaban on Oct. 21, after lifting their
strike to allow a 10-day truce and await the results of the negotiations.
Protest leaders laid out a platform of 17 demands, including a census of
cocaleros, an end to eradication operations, the titling of cultivated
lands, the promotion of profitable alternative crops to replace coca, and
simplified requirements for agricultural loans. (La Republica, Oct. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 24

See also WW3 REPORT #103


Forwarded by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Oct. 4, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution