Locals try to halt counterdrug base in Bolivia

Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — People in a Bolivian area considered a major production hub for Europe- and Brazil-bound cocaine have clashed with police over construction of a counter-narcotics base.

Police fired tear gas Wednesday to disperse protesters who tried to prevent the ceremonial laying of a cornerstone for the base in Yapacani.

Town councilman Max Barrientos said by phone that residents oppose the base because Bolivia's counterdrug police are abusive, searching homes and roughing up people suspected of trafficking.

Regional police chief Johnny Requena blames groups linked to traffickers for the resistance.

YapacanI borders the Chapare coca-growing region. The government says police have arrested 26 drug traffickers there since 2012 and destroyed 39 cocaine labs, many run by Colombians.

The counterdrug base is being built with $1.3 million in European Union funding.

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