Cablegate: Third National Cocalero Congress a Bust

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. LIMA 1062

B. LIMA 032
C. 04 LIMA 1381
D. 04 LIMA 947
E. 03 LIMA 983

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Third National Congress of the National
Confederation of Agricultural Producers of the Coca Valleys
(CONPACCP), held 3/14-18 outside Lima, was largely a bust.
Cocaleros from the Monzon and parts of the Apurimac-Ene
Valley (VRAE) did not attend and a group led by Elsa
Malpartida walked out over leadership issues. While cocalero
leaders flirt with extremist groups on the right and left
(the Ethnocaceristas and the communist-led SUTEP teachers'
union), these tentative linkages appear to be tactical in
nature, fueled more by the participants' recognition of their
own weakness operating separately than by any intent to join
forces against the government. CONPACCP National Secretary
Nancy Obregon presented a draft coca law to Congress calling
for the suspension of all eradication until a new registry of
licit growers can be developed, but this is unlikely to go
anywhere. Press coverage was scanty and largely negative
about the cocaleros. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) After earlier attempts at national congresses in 2003
and 2004 (Refs C and D), cocaleros at what was billed as the
CONPACCP Third National Congress beginning 3/14 hoped to
elect a national leader and advance a national agenda. Nancy
Obregon, leader of the Huallaga Valley cocaleros, played a
dominant role; she organized a strike (meaning blockade of
roads around her area) last month (Ref A) based on false
rumors that the GOP was fumigating coca crops. Elsa
Malpartida, leader of cocaleros from the Tingo Maria area,
was the other leader whose group was represented until she
announced that she was quitting the Congress on 3/18 in a
dispute over the election of new national leadership.

3. (SBU) Representatives of some of the key growing areas for
illegal coca -the Rio Apurimac and Monzon valleys - did not
attend. Also absent were representatives from Cuzco, whose
growers comprise most of the legally registered coca farmers;
as the legal growers their interests in maintaining part of
the status quo have diverged from the purely illegal growers.
These groups did attend previous attempts at national
cocalero congresses. According to GOP drug control agency
DEVIDA officials, between 250 and 350 people attended the
congress. Participants at various times included Bolivian
Congressman and MAS party official Dionisio Nunez, Colombian
cocalero Dina Perafan and Peruvian Congressmen Luis Guerrero,
Aurelio Pastor, Carlos Chavez and Victor Valdez.

4. (SBU) Following the congress, Obregon presented President
of Congress Antero Flores-Araoz and Agriculture Committee
Chairman Carlos Chavez a draft coca law as well as proposals
to publicize coca health benefits and "industrialize" coca
with a host of new products such as coca flour, toothpaste
and gum. The proposed law would halt all eradication until
the GOP register of licit production was updated and trading
parastatal ENACO was reorganized to grandfather all current
coca producers as legal growers. Chavez was reported in the
press as agreeing to form a congressional working group from
the Agriculture and Defense Committees to study problems
affecting coca growers. (Comment: Congressman Luis Iberico,
who heads the Defense Committee that handles coca issues, has
made it clear that the cocaleros' proposals will not advance
in his committee. Chavez' committee formed a similar working
group last year, whose report was quickly filed and
forgotten. End Comment.)

5. (U) Other than two stories in prominent daily "La
Republica" of Malpartida's departure, the general failure of
the congress and Obregon's meeting with Flores-Araoz, press
coverage of the cocalero congress was minimal compared to
previous years. The efforts of Obregon and others to
dramatize coca fumigation at the congress were unsuccessful,
with no new press coverage of the unfounded fumigation
rumors. (Note: The Mission has worked extensively with the
Peruvian media to set the record straight on fumigation and
other spurious cocalero positions; the efforts are paying
off. See Ref A. End Note.)

6. (U) The Cocaleros remain fractured into at least three
factions delineated by geography. The most radical - meaning
they want the unfettered ability to grow coca - were the
growers from the Monzon Valley, part of Rio Apurimac, part of
the Tingo Maria area and the San Gabon area of Puno
Department. The second faction, led by Nancy Obregon of the
Tocache area (southern San Martin department), espoused more
of a middle ground with respect to some government limits on
coca production, although they still advocate an immediate
moratorium on eradication and the registration of all current
growers as licit. The third faction encompasses the Cuzco
Department areas of traditional coca cultivation; these
growers have the most to gain from perpetuating established
legal growing systems; growing evidence indicates that
substantial illegal coca production is occurring in the areas
where the licit growers are registered.

7. (U) The incarcerated Nelson Palomino, who before his
arrest in 2003 had the potential to become a national
cocalero leader (Ref E), reportedly sent telephonic messages
to the congress calling for unity among the cocalero groups.
Commentators interpreted his call as tacit support for Nancy
Obregon's leadership over the more radical and fractious
leadership of Elsa Malpartida. Palomino's call was
ineffective in healing the divisions evident during this
congress, illustrating his waning influence amongst cocaleros.

8. (SBU) Just prior to the congress, Bolivian congressman and
MAS party official Dionisio Nunez visited Sicuani in Cuzco
Department to explore creation of a political party along the
lines of MAS. According to Mission contractors who are
monitoring these efforts, the main Cuzco cocolero groups did
not participate in this meeting. Nunez then attended the
latter part of the Lima cocalero congress. MAS leader Evo
Morales is reportedly planning to visit both Sicuani and Lima
in April, when another national cocalero meeting is planned.
At the congress, Obregon announced that she would meet with
Morales in Sicuani. Monzon cocalero leader Ibursio Morales
(who did not attend the congress) had previously indicated
that he also would meet with Evo Morales in April.

9. (SBU) Cocaleros have sought over the months to establish
a broader political base without much success. There was
according to Mission contractors marginal participation by
national teachers' union SUTEP representatives at this
cocalero Congress. The new SUTEP leader, Caridad Montes
seems more inclined than his predecessor to sympathize with
cocaleros but there has been little evidence of direct
support. Cocaleros have been exploring other organizations
to give them support, but with little success. The
Ethnocacerista movement recently broken up by the government
(Ref B) made a point of trying to ally itself with cocaleros
but only received the verbal support of Elsa Malpartida. The
leftist political party Patria Roja has seemed a likely ally
for cocaleros, but an effective partnership has failed to
materialize; according to a coca expert used by the Mission
for various coca research projects, Patria Roja has been too
concerned with organizing its members to stand for municipal
or provincial government posts to concern itself directly
with the cocalero platform. There are reports of Sendero
Luminoso remnants courting cocaleros but there is little hard
evidence to support claims of an alliance between the two.
Congressman Guerrero's Peru Ahora is the only major political
party that has appeared to court the cocaleros, with few
positive effects to show for either.

10. (U) Obregon, Malpartida and other cocalero leaders have
not given up on national organizing. National meetings are
planned for April and September. Small scale strikes
continue: Rio Apurimac cocaleros began blocking roads March
14, Monzon cocaleros announced an indefinite strike beginning
March 21 and growers in Tingo Maria (led by Luis Gonazales)
announced a peaceful march starting March 21. There have
been no recent calls for a nationwide cocalero strike.

11. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite possible unifying themes such as
the fumigation hoax and the prospect of a new coca law, the
latest congress increased divisions between cocaleros. While
cocalero leaders will continue to preach unity, personal
rivalries should continue to dominate the cocalero movement.
The inherent conflicts between the illegal growers in newer
coca zones such as the Monzon and those established with
legal cover in Cuzco also hamper an effective national
cocalero lobby.

© Scoop Media

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