Saturday, January 21, 2006

What will Morales do?

Now comes the moment of truth for Evo Morales and his supporters. The former cocalero will be inaugurated as Boliva's president tomorrow. The $100 million dollar question is will he forgo that cash and end the US eradication campaign against the coca plant? Already he's hedging his bets.
Morales has toned down his rhetoric since being elected in December, suggesting that the government might maintain current limits on cultivation, at least until a study assessing the potential demand of the legal coca market is completed. He consistently reminds people that he is committed to fighting cocaine, but not at the expense of the farmers who want to make a living growing coca for legal use.
So we come to the harsher side of the reality of the drug war. If he ends the program he's 100 mil short in the treasury of a country that, to put it mildly, is not exactly flush with cash. If he allows it to continue, he loses his political base. I don't envy his dilemma.

It's not so unlike the dynamics here between the dependence of the economy on prohibition and the difficulty in redirecting the flow of revenue. Our politicians are too lazy to figure it out. Now with Morales, I hope we'll see if the model can be successfully shifted to an economy based on legal distribution instead.

For the moment, it's reported the eradication teams are idle and the cocaleros are optimistic that life will change for the better. One hopes Morales will be able to develop the market for legal products and keep his word to his people. Unlike our own politicians, I can believe he will really make a genuine effort. He grew up with the people he's trying to help. The Latin Americas are different that way, at least right now. Their leaders really are one of the people, they don't just play one on TV.


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