Monday, December 19, 2005

The Agony of Defeat

I'm calling it. The United States has officially lost the War on Drugs.

Bolivia’s socialist presidential candidate Evo Morales, who has promised to become Washington’s “nightmare,” said his victory was assured in Sunday’s elections after two independent exit polls showed him with an unexpectedly strong lead.

If the projected margin holds, Morales, a coca farmer who has said he will end a U.S.-backed anti-drug campaign aimed at eradicating the crop used to make cocaine, will likely be declared president in January over his conservative opponent.

As if Hugo Chavez didn't give Washington enough headaches, Morales will probably make him look warm and cuddly. An avowed socialist who plans to make cocaine production easier will certainly make the entire regional dynamic the U.S. has been trying to put in place in Latin America fall to pieces. The surge of cocaine will be hard to stop, and without the cooperation of the producer it's unlikely that the U.S. will be able to get anywhere without relying on border protections (already pathetically inadequate). And, after decades of trying to plant neo-liberal free-market notions in Latin America Morales, like Chavez, will roll it all back in his country instantly and make others mistakenly believe they can survive the same way. The tides are indeed turning, and the U.S. may continue to lose ground in Latin America unless it can successfully counter the influence of such figures.