Bolivia: La Paz marches for and against government

The pro-government Pact of Unity and Bolivian Workers' Central (COB), the Andean country's largest trade union federation, held a "March for Democracy" in La Paz on Aug. 25 to oppose what they called "destabilization" attempts and demonstrate their support for President Luis Arce. Thousands marched from the outlying working-class city of El Alto to Plaza Mayor de San Francisco in La Paz, where a mass rally was held. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi told the crowd: "All over the world, capitalism wants to destabilize progressive governments that protect the wealth of nations. Meanwhile, the oligarchies play into the Empire's game." (TeleSur, TelesurEFE)

But three days earlier, cocaleros of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (ADEPCOCA) marched in La Paz, accusing the government of attempting to undermine the organization's legal monopoly on sale of coca leaf by establishing a "parallel market" in the city, run by loyalists of the ruling party. ADEPCOCA announced formation of a "Self-defense Committee" to forcibly shut down the "parallel market" in the city's Villa El Carmen district if the government does not act. (La Razón, EFE)

An Aug. 2 ADEPCOCA march to demand action in the matter erupted into clashes with the police. Cocaleros launched dynamite caps, while police responded with tear-gas. Cocalero leader Carlos Choque exhorted over a loudspeaker: "We are asking that this alleged market for the sale of coca, which has nothing to do with the legal market of ADEPCOCA, be closed immediately. We will not be afraid even if they try to shoot us; we are not going anywhere."

Last October, thousands of cocaleros stormed the main coca market in La Paz, sparking clashes with security forces. A struggle for control the official ADEPCOCA market led to the establishment of the new market in Villa El Carmen, as a part of the government's "parallelism" strategy. (AFP, AFP)