A Peruvian hospital in a notorious drug-trafficking zone said 13 people were admitted on Friday with symptoms of chemical poisoning, despite official denials that the government has begun spraying coca crops in its US-backed war on drugs.
The US government denied involvement in any spraying. "The US government does not engage in, participate in or finance any aerial spraying programs in Peru," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington.
Prominent local coca leader Nancy Obregon said a helicopter was seen flying over the area from February 9 to 14, and men in masks and white gloves were seen throwing a kind of powder that had been mixed with water from a height of 6 top 10 metres.
Around 2,000 coca growers have blocked main roads in protest and want a government commission to visit. Hospital director Maria Urmachea said key medicines would run out if the roadblocks were not lifted.