Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Police in Peru stormed an ancient Inca temple to release a group of foreign tourists "taken hostage" by coca growers?

It wasn't as bad as the headline made it sound.

The group was surrounded by around 70 unarmed coca farmers and students as they were touring the Koricancha temple, a popular attraction in Cuzco, one-time capital of the Inca empire. Many tourists heading for Peru's largest tourist attraction - the Machu Picchu citadel - often stop at Cuzco, correspondents say.

The tourists were injured by the tear gas the police used, not by the non-violent protest that was staged to get the government's attention. I would bet cash money that any one of those 19 tourists that really wanted to leave, would have been allowed to do so by the unarmed protesters.

The Peruvian government denies it has failed to honour its annual promise to purchase a quota of the coca crop for legitimate use that is held to be a vital part of indigenous Andean culture. The cocaleros have a message in response that the government does not want to be heard, so it used excessive force to disperse those who would listen. Your US tax dollars are being used to fund this culture war under the umbrella of the war on some drugs.

The coca plant is not a drug until it's processed into cocaine. Don't you think our government should find better ways to spend our money?


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