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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 12:22 GMT
Peru's coca growers demand help
By Hannah Hennessy
In Lima

Coca grower, Peru
Coca growers have come from the remotest parts of Peru
Peruvian coca growers are meeting in the capital Lima to discuss ways to confront the government over their controversial crop.

Farmers are angry that politicians have failed to come up with a financially viable alternative to the crop, which is the raw material for cocaine.

The coca growers have travelled long distances from remote areas of the Andes and Amazon to voice their anger.

Peru is the second biggest producer of cocaine in the world.

Legal use

Much of it is smuggled to the United States - though a small amount is used legally, brewed in tea or chewed to combat altitude sickness.

Leaders of the group - which represents half of Peru's 50,000 coca growers - say they want to cut production of illegal coca crops and receive higher subsidies for less profitable alternative crops like coffee and fruit.

They are also demanding the release of their jailed leader, Nelson Palomino, accused of kidnapping journalists and helping promote terrorism.

The group says farmers are not planning a repeat of last year's protests that brought down the government in neighbouring Bolivia.

But coca growers in Peru have a reputation for militant behaviour and the country's interior minister has warned that troublemakers could use the meeting as an excuse to provoke violence.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Peru
16 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Peruvian anger over coca plans
22 Oct 03  |  Americas
Peru coca production increasing
16 May 03  |  Americas
Court halts drug crop spraying
27 Jun 03  |  Americas


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