Security & Strategic Review - November 2021

BOLIVIA: Battle for coca union control puts MAS on the back foot

Two weeks of mounting tensions between rival factions of the Bolivian coca growers’ union Asociación Departamental de Productores de Coca de los Yungas de La Paz (Adepcoca) came to a head in dramatic fashion on 4 October. Thousands of members stormed the union headquarters in the capital, La Paz, forcing police to abandon their defence of the building and ejecting Adepcoca’s disputed leader, Arnold Alanes, who opponents claim was being held in place by allies in the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) government. The dispute over Adepcoca transcends union politics and has served as a deeply symbolic rebuke of MAS from one of its core support bases. With the party long being accused of seeking to co-opt civil society organisations, the ousting of Alanes could potentially deter President Luis Arce’s administration from being seen to interfere in other key voting blocs in the future.

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