Coca growers protest disrupts Peru power

20 September

Coca farmers in Peru have briefly seized control of a power plant, taking workers hostage and affecting power supplies to a regional capital.

Police moved in after several hours, arresting 120 people and freeing 30 workers who then restored power to the city of Pucallpa, reports said.

The angry farmers were protesting against plans for coca eradication in the central region of Ucayali.

The protest at the Termoselva thermo-electrical plant began after more than 10 days of demonstrations by hundreds of farmers, known as “cocaleros”.

Groups of cocaleros have been protesting in recent months against an increase in anti-coca operations in the region, which they say is affecting their livelihood.

The leaves of the coca plant – the central ingredient in cocaine – have been chewed recreationally in the Andes for thousands of years, and are a key part of indigenous lifestyles throughout the region.

However, the high levels of coca production in Peru have led the country’s concerned government to increase crop eradication plans, prompting confrontations with the farmers.

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