Coca Farmer Wars With Bolivia Gov't
Jun. 13, 1998
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ A top leader of the coca leaf farmers union faces expulsion from Congress for urging armed resistance to a government plan to end Bolivia's cocaine trafficking, a Congressional leader said.
Lawmaker Evo Morales has retaliated by dredging up old, unproved accusations that President Hugo Banzer is involved in drug trafficking activities.
Banzer has pledged to end cocaine trafficking before 2002. His decision to use of troops to help destroy illegal coca leaf plantations has prompted recent violent confrontations that have left eight dead in the Chapare, the main coca-growing region.
``The police and military are trying to rob everything,'' Morales said Saturday. ``In the face of such delinquency, any citizen would defend and organize themselves.''
Two policemen were killed in the last two weeks in the Chapare, a lush tropical region in the heart of Bolivia where Morales receives most of his support.
Last week, Congress referred Morales to the ethics committee to consider charges of sedition, which could result in his expulsion.
``The Ministry of the Interior wants him out of congress so he loses political immunity and can be quickly brought to trial,'' said Adolfo Anez, party whip of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Action party.
Bolivia is one of the world's leading producers of coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine. Morales and others say entire communities in the Chapare region are dependent on the coca harvest for their livelihoods.
The president of the Bolivian Human Rights Assembly said the charge of sedition _ loosely defined in the legal code as actions that attack and undermine the public order _ does not apply to Morales.
Meanwhile, thousands of coca leaf farmers have broken ranks with Morales and have agreed to voluntarily eradicate coca plants in exchange for the development of alternative crops.
The government is paying farmers about $1,000 per acre for coca plants they destroy voluntarily.
Bolivia has agreed to destroy almost 17,300 acres of coca plants this year or face de-certification by the United States and the loss of aid.