LIMA – One farmer was killed when he and other coca growers tried to stop efforts to eradicate the leaf – which is the raw material of cocaine – in eastern Peru’s Ucayali region, police said Wednesday.
The confrontation took place Tuesday between some 300 coca growers and 200 police accompanying an eradication team in the Rio Negro district.
Police told Efe that one grower was killed, while sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said two other farmers were wounded.
Two police and two eradicators were killed three months ago in the nearby Upper Huallaga Valley in attacks authorities blamed on guerrillas working for drug traffickers.
Coca growers continue to block the main highway into the eastern jungle, police said.
The eradication teams arrived Sunday in Rio Negro, an area of extensive coca cultivation, and soon discovered and destroyed three soaking pits used for the process of transforming the leaf into cocaine.
Coca growers responded by inciting the local population to attack the eradicators, authorities said, claiming that some of the growers were armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in June that Peru has surpassed Colombia as the world’s leading source of coca, producing 119,000 metric tons of the leaf in 2009.
Peruvian officials rejected the U.N. finding, which they attributed to faulty measuring methods.
Peru and neighboring Bolivia permit cultivation of coca in limited quantities for legal uses in folk remedies and Andean religious rites.
Coca, in its unadulterated form, is a caffeine-like stimulant that Andean Indians chew to counteract hunger pangs and the effects of high altitude. EFE