Thursday, August 09, 2007

Crazy to sell coca

Those coca leaf vendors I saw yesterday ended up causing quite a havoc. On the front page of today’s El Deber newspaper is a photo of a wildfire set by the protestors. They tried to take over the offices of Digeco, The Coca Leaf Control Office, but were repelled by police tear gas. When they didn’t get the response they wanted from government leaders, they blocked the road leading to the airport at the peak time for traffic headed to the airport. Again, they were tear gassed. Two of them set fire to the dry, scrubby area leading to the airport. When the firefighters arrived, the protestors threw rocks at them and hit them.

The coca leaf vendors are upset about rules that will put them under the control of the Digeco office if they sell more than 500 pounds of coca leaves a month. The protestors say that 12,000 families in Santa Cruz live off the sale of coca leaf and that the majority of that distributed by the producers goes to illegal purposes. They claim that women, children and the elderly weren’t respected in the repression of their protests. It seems to me like the aggressive men amongst them used the women, children and elderly as shields.

This evening I very nearly escaped a freak accident. I was in my room, preparing my suitcase for a trip to Cochabamba tomorrow. At one point, I decided to take a rest. I sat on my bed and was listening to a broadcast from This American Life.

Suddenly, the light in my room intensified and I heard a loud crash. The glass covering over the light bulb on my ceiling had suddenly dislodged and fallen to the floor, breaking into many shards. It landed right by my suitcase. Had I still been packing, the hot projectile could well have landed right on my head.

There was no movement or anything to provoke the sudden fall. Maybe they didn’t screw it on properly. Or my apartment mate thought it overheated. As I picked up the shards, it felt like a low quality product to me. I suggested maybe it was just poor quality.

“That’s possible,” Renata said. “They are always looking for the cheapest things without realizing that by doing so, they can be creating a serious danger.”

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