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[News] Puno coca growers strike: what has empowered them to radicalize their protest?


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Days after coca growers from the Loromayo sector attacked the vehicles carrying the eradicators of the Special Project for the Control and Reduction of Coca Cultivation in Alto Huallaga (Corah), the protest has become radicalized. Protesters have now blocked several points on the Interoceanic highway, including the Inambari Bridge, which links the Madre de Dios and Cusco regions. This situation has caused that passengers and vehicles cannot circulate.

Un bus fue estacionado en el puente Inampari para impedir el tránsito. Los manifestantes piden que se suspenda la erradicación de los cultivos de coca. Exministro del Interior advierte que el destino de la producción es el narcotráfico y que estos sembrios  de Puno se vienen cultivando en zonas protegidas como el Parque Nacional Bahuaja Sonene. (Foto: PNP Puno)

READ HERE: coca in Vraem and the root problem: hectares planted increased, and also the price of the leaf
The protest is due to the fact that the Government resumed the eradication of coca crops in the Puno jungle and, although it has not been much, it immediately generated a reaction from the people who are now protesting.

As El Comercio reported in a recent note, drug traffickers -the comparators of coca for drug production- in the last four months had begun to buy a lot in the jungle of Puno and that caused the price of the arroba of coca (11.5 kilos ) will reach up to 250 soles, to the detriment of the price of the coca leaf in Vraem.

Although the price of coca has fallen, the arroba would cost 40 soles, the eradication of this crop for the illegal coca growers in the Puno jungle is a severe economic blow.

READ HERE: Puno: coca growers burn belongings of CORAH workers and police | VIDEO
But this is also limited to a recent political issue: before taking office, the now Minister of the Interior, Luis Barranzuela, waved the flags of the non-eradication of coca cultivation. He is very close to the congressman from Peru Libre (PL), Guillermo Bermejo, who also says no to eradication.

Jaime Huanca, leader of the coca growers, stressed that the protesters' request is that the eradication of the coca leaf be stopped "because before the law we are in unequal treatment." He indicated that while their crops have been eliminated in past years, this has not happened in the coca growing basins with the highest production.

Madre de Dios: Inambari Bridge is taken by coca growers from the San Gabán area.
-Specialists say-
Experts agree that coca growers feel empowered after hearing misleading messages from the Interior Minister and a sector of PL, the government party, regarding the fight against the eradication of coca cultivation.

“What happens is that the coca growers, with everything that happens, are empowered. Since they have an ally, the Minister of the Interior, what they want is to surround the Government, withdraw any act of eradication of coca leaves, ”said Pedro Yaranga, a specialist in drug trafficking.

In his opinion, drug trafficking would be behind the mobilizations, paying for the expenses.

On his part, Rubén Vargas, former Minister of the Interior, questioned Barranzuela for inciting the po[CENSORED]tion to oppose the elimination of this crop and for promoting it; He also criticized Bermejo for promoting a bill to legalize all coca cultivation in the country, "knowing that 90% ends up turned into cocaine."

He indicated that with these messages, when the police try to unblock the roads, the people will put up resistance. Hopefully a tragedy doesn't happen, he said.

He added that the problem is not only the destination of the coca, but where it is being grown in Puno. He indicated that in Carabaya and San Gabán, there are at least 10,000 hectares of illegal coca leaf crops that are in the buffer zone or within the Bahuaja Sonene National Park.

“We Peruvians need an urgent and clear definition from the President of the Republic regarding the fight against drugs and illicit coca leaf crops. We need to know what is or what will be his strategy to face these two threats, "he concluded.

The different blocked points of the Interoceanic highway are in the province of Carabaya. These areas are Cuesta Blanca, El Carmen, Lechemayo and Loromayo.
Yesterday, coca growers leaders, authorities and officials met in the Regional Government of Puno. According to the mayor of Carabaya, Fabio Vargas, the regional authorities promised to ask the Government to suspend the eradication of coca crops while the dialogue table, suspended in 2019 due to the pandemic, resumes.
According to sources in this newspaper, in 2020, in the Puno region there were 8,717 hectares of coca cultivation, while in 2015 there were 4,452 hectares. In six years, it almost doubled


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