Morales wins decisively in Bolivia

You can bet they’re not happy in the U.S. Drug War HQ today.

Evo Morales, a candidate for president who has pledged to reverse a campaign financed by the United States to wipe out coca growing, scored a decisive victory in general elections in Bolivia on Sunday.

Mr. Morales, 46, an Aymara Indian and former coca farmer who also promises to roll back American-prescribed economic changes, had garnered up to 51 percent of the vote, according to televised quick-count polls, which tally a sample of votes at polling places and are considered highly accurate.

At 9 p.m., his leading challenger, Jorge Quiroga, 45, an American-educated former president who was trailing by as much as 20 percentage points, admitted defeat in a nationally televised speech.

Morales has been a strong advocate of developing and marketing legal uses for the coca plant — the plant that has been used safely for centuries — for chewing, tea, soft drinks, toothpastes, medicines, etc. (Remember where Coca-Cola got its name and its original kick?)

He said he would welcome cordial relations with the United States, but not “a relationship of submission.”

He also pledged that under his government his country would have “zero cocaine, zero narco-trafficking but not zero coca,” referring to the leaf that is used to make cocaine.

Well, I doubt he’ll be able to live up to the “zero cocaine” boast, but if he succeeds in making coca a viable crop for commercial purposes (he’s even talking about exports), then he should be able to go far in reducing the power of narco-trafficking and the production of cocaine in his country (through both reducing demand within the country, and reducing the comparative incentives for farmers to work with criminal traffickers).
Note: Two years ago, I mentioned that denying Morales a visa was a boneheaded move by the U.S. I’ll stay with that assessment of our foreign policy.

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