Treatment of supporters of coca farmers, and whether persons who participate in non-violent protests, marches and demonstrations in favour of Bolivian peasants and coca farmers are being mistreated by authorities (2000-2001) (Update to BOL32883.E of 1 October 1999) [BOL36951.E]

No information referring specifically to persons who sympathize with or support coca farmers in Bolivia could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, information on the situation of coca farmers, their leaders, and their ongoing conflict with authorities in Bolivia is extensive.

In a 5 June 2001 telephone interview, a Peruvian lawyer and journalist who has followed closely the situation of coca farmers in Bolivia summarized the issue as follows:

The situation of coca farmers in Bolivia is quite complex, and increasingly so since the current government of Hugo Banzer began a continuous campaign to eradicate coca crops in the tropical area (trópico) of Cochabamba, particularly in the Chapare valley. Throughout 2000 the six federations of coca growers reacted to this campaign in various ways, including a rather unsuccessful attempt to join forces with the larger social protests of the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) and other farmers of Bolivia. In general, the peasant sector of Bolivia has been weakening in recent years. Bolivian coca farmers continue to be led by Evo Morales, and confrontations in opposition to eradication efforts continue. A number of violent incidents have taken place in the past year, resulting in the death of policemen and others, as well as the arbitrary arrest and torture of some activists.

The Andean Commission of Jurists reports that, as in previous years, during 2000 coca farmers marched to protest crop eradication efforts, causing multiple confrontations between farmers and security forces (CAJ 28 Mar. 2001). Social conflict reached a peak in late-2000, when roadblocks erected by coca farmers laid siege to the main cities, around the same time as other social protests took place throughout the country, and the government responded by declaring a state of siege (ibid.). By October, the state response had resulted in 10 deaths and more than 160 wounded, with pitched battles that lasted more than two weeks (ibid.). The roadblocks involved more than 10,000 coca growers belonging to the six federations of the Chapare and lasted for nearly a month, preventing the flow of fuel, food and supplies throughout Bolivia, and causing "enormous economic losses" (enormes perdidas económicas) (Informativo Andino Apr. 2001). The Bolivian Ombudsman and the Catholic Church intervened to defuse and mediate a solution (ibid. Jan. 2001). By mid-October 2000 coca farmers and the government had signed a 19-point agreement in Chimor, which effectively ended the roadblocks that had cut off the main highway of the country since 18 September 2000 (CAJ 28 Mar. 2001). However, the agreement failed to resolve the medium and long term causes of the ongoing conflict (ibid. 29 Mar. 2001).

In the first quarter of 2001 the conflict continued, although tensions had been noticeably reduced (la tensión ha disminuído ostensiblemente) (Informativo Andino Jan. 2001). However, by April 2001 the leader of the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB) called for a 90-day blockade of roads to demand, along with two other things, an end to coca crop eradication (ibid. Apr. 2001). The CSUTCB leader, Felipe Quispe, is a former head of the Tupac Katary Guerrilla Army, and was one of the leaders of the September-October 2000 roadblocks and protests by coca farmers (Latinamerica Press 9 Oct. 2000, 1).

On 26 April 2001 coca producers set up for most of the day "lightning roadblocks" (bloqueos relámpago) in at least 20 sections of the highway connecting Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, demanding the resignation of President Banzer or his fulfilment of 10 demands presented by the Corodinadora de Movilizaciones Unica Nacional (COMUNAL) led by Evo Morales (Cronología Andina May 2001). Coca growers marched in groups of 20 and 100 persons to keep the roads blocked, while army and police officers removed trees and rocks set up as roadblocks by demonstrators; confrontations between the two camps resulted in tear gas spreading into some schools and six persons detained (ibid.). In response to actions by security forces, demonstration leaders announced that the "lightning roadblock" strategy would be replaced with a permanent blockade of roads (ibid.). By 29 April 2001the highway had been cleared and military patrols continued (ibid.). By 30 April all parties to this and other social conflicts affecting Bolivia had agreed to attend a call for a national dialogue by the Catholic Church, albeit with reservations or conditions; leaders of the COB and COMUNAL agreed to participate in the dialogue, but without suspending pressure measures such as marches programmed for 1 May (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Andean Commission of Jurists (CAJ), Lima. 29 March 2001. Erradicación/Desarrollo Alternativo. "Bolivia." [Accessed 5 June 2001]

_____. 28 March 2001. Derechos Humanos. "Seguimiento de situaciones: Bolivia." [Accessed 5 June 2001]

Cronología Andina [Lima]. "Bolivia: Abril 2001." May 2001. [Accessed 5 June 2001]

Informativo Andino [Lima]. April 2001. "Bolivia: Crisis política y convulsión social." [Accessed 5 June 2001]

_____. January 2001. "Democracia y Derechos Humanos en la región andina: una mirada retrospectiva al año 2000." [Accessed 5 June 2001]

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 9 October 2000. Vol. 32, No. 37. "Bolivia: Protests Paralyze Country."

Washington, DC. 5 June 2001. Telephone interview with visiting lawyer and journalist.