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Indians, coca farmers clash over land in Bolivia

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Indians, coca farmers clash over land in Bolivia

    LA PAZ, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Indigenous groups and coca leaf farmers clashed over control of land in a national park in northern Bolivia, killing one person, local media reported on Sunday.

    Indian groups that have land rights in the remote Isiboro National Park in Beni have long complained that hundreds of coca leaf growers have been clearing forests inside their territory to grow coca, the raw material for cocaine.

    "As a result of the clashes between Yuracare Indians ... (and) the illegal settlers that are illegally growing coca in their territory, a person was killed, presumably an Indian, and three more were injured," deputy interior minister Marcos Farfan was reported as saying by state news agency ABI.

    Farfan said that the person killed, as well as some of the injured, have bullet wounds and that the government has sent police to the area to prevent further violence.

    The coca leaf is legal in Bolivia, where Indians in the Andean highlands chew it to ward of the effects of altitude and as a mild stimulant.

    Cocaine is illegal in the country, but Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine in the world, after Colombia and Peru. Both the United States and the United Nations have reported that in 2008 coca leaf cultivation increased slightly in Bolivia.

    The U.S. State Department said this month that the Bolivian government of Evo Morales, a former coca grower, has failed to do enough to curb the drug trade in the past 12 months.

    Morales, the country's first president of indigenous descent, says his government is striving to fight the cocaine trade, but gives farmers the right to grow small plot of coca in certain regions. His policies toward coca farmers have been called permissive by the United States. (Reporting by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Fiona Ortiz)



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