"We will not negotiate with this commission. We want face-to-face negotiations with (President Alejandro) Toledo. If he is not here by tomorrow morning, we will go to Lima to speak with him directly. We want to talk with the ringmaster of the circus.” This was the response members of a government commission received from approximately three thousand coca-growing farmers from the Apurímac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), who said that they had not begun their difficult march to Lima, the capital, only to turn back midway, nor would they discuss their problems with a commission of second-rate authorities. That Thursday night, August 1, 2002, an official commission had traveled to the city of Ayacucho with the mission of stopping a peasant protest begun two days earlier. The farmers refused to recognize the negotiating capacity of the commission, despite its makeup of high-ranking members of the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (DEVIDA) and congressional legislators from the ruling party. The farmers said they wanted to speak with someone with decision-making authority, such as the prime minister. Their trump cards were the concurrent march and an indefinite general strike declared in the Apurímac River Valley.
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