Bolivian coca growers clash with police over plantation bill

Coca growers violently clash with riot policemen in La Paz as the government redefines which coca plantations are legal in a move demonstrators say favours only certain regions.
Anti-riot police restraining Bolivian coca growers from the Los Yungas region during clashes in La Paz on Feb 21, 2017.
Anti-riot police restraining Bolivian coca growers from the Los Yungas region during clashes in La Paz on Feb 21, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA (REUTERS) - Bolivian coca growers clashed with riot police in La Paz on Tuesday (Feb 21), angry over a draft government bill that would legalize 20,000 hectares of land for the growing of coca leaves.

Protesters say that would introduce unwelcome competition for the Los Yungas coca growers.

The bill extends legality of around 7,000 hectares of land in the El Chapare region, where their President, Evo Morales, was also the leader of an illegal coca growers union before taking office.

Clashes heated up on Monday (Feb 20) and went into the night with dozens reportedly arrested and one person seriously injured.

The government says increasing the land is necessary to satisfy the local market, but these protesters say they want Mr Morales to hear them out.