Violence Over Coca Eradication in Peru Leaves 7 Injured

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Violent clashes between coca growers and police in central Peru have left at least seven people injured as tensions mount over President Ollanta Humala’s policy of expanding coca eradication.

Trouble began when Police tried to enter a coca growing area in the province of Oxapampa in the region of Pasco, reportedly to carry out an operation related to drug flights. Believing the agents had come to eradicate coca crops, the growers blocked the road to prevent their entry, reported Peru21.

According to an anonymous source cited by Correo, the growers lifted the blockade after meeting with police, but later a group apparently spurred on by drug traffickers turned on the police, and attacked them with sticks and rocks.

Four police and three citizens were reported wounded in the skirmishes.

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Tensions between coca growing communities and the authorities have long been a feature of Peruvian drug control efforts.

The situation has deteriorated under Humala due to the president’s dramatic policy U-turn over coca eradication. As a candidate he pledged not to carry out forced eradications but as president he has taken a hardline approach that has involved a massive scaling up of eradication operations.

This is not the first time tensions have exploded into violence. In August last year two people died after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a crowd of growers trying to block their path.

With eradication set to increase by 50 percent in 2013, and the government launching a rhetorical onslaught against growers, incidents such as these are likely to become more common.

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