Two killed in ambush at Bolivian coca plantation
LA PAZ, Bolivia — At least two uniformed security officers were shot dead in an ambush during the destruction of coca plants, Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero said Monday.
Two other military officers and a doctor were still missing after the weekend clashes, authorities said.
A group of unarmed military and police officers travelled to the areas around the town of Apolo, in northern Bolivia, and was reportedly ambushed by coca growers. According to Romero, the peasants were supported by Peruvian drug traffickers.
Twenty-seven people were injured in the incident Saturday, about 200 kilometres north of La Paz. Ten people were arrested.
Coca leaf production in Bolivia fell by 7 per cent in 2012 to 25,300 hectares, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Nearly half of the acreage - 12,000 hectares - is used to grow legal crops to satisfy local traditional demand for coca leaf to chew.
Special security units are deployed to destroy illegal plantations. While Bolivian authorities grant peasants access to alternative crops, they sometimes encounter hostility.