The Washington Post reports that the likely next president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, has promised to end the U.S.-financed program to eradicate the coca crop in that country. That's not what makes me mad. It's the program that does that. I can hardly imagine anything more arrogant and presumptuous than for a government to destroy crops in another country because that government doesn't want "its" people to have access to them. Nor can I imagine a program better suited to create hatred for Americans. And we wonder why figures like Chavez get into power. Are the people in Washington crazy? No, of course not. Somehow this fits their agenda of "benevolent hegemony." But it makes farmers in the Andes hate us and creates sympathy for Marxist guerrillas and terrorists. This is how our government protects us. What a joke.
The Post says the U.S. government has spent $5 billion since 2000 on crop eradication. Where are the spending hawks (an endangered species) when it comes to such budget items? I love this paragraph from the article:
But if Humala wins the decisive second-round election, to be held in May or early June, the United States' main ally in its eradication efforts -- Colombia -- will stand as a virtual island in the Andes, surrounded by countries with governments critical of Washington's policies. If continued breakdowns in cooperation occur in Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia or Ecuador, some U.S. officials say they fear that progress made to fight coca cultivation in Colombia could be undermined as production migrates across its borders.Some production has already moved: "Despite record eradication hauls in Colombia, coca production has been on the rise in Bolivia for each of the past four years. In Peru, U.S. government analysts detected a 23 percent increase in the traditional cultivation zones between 2004 and 2005; when including data from new zones of cultivation, Peru's annual increase was 38 percent."
We can only hope cooperation will break down in Colombia too, but I guess that's too much to hope for. Obviously, this matter calls into question the entire war on drug makers, sellers, and consumers. People in Latin America can't understand why they are scapegoated for the American demand for drugs. It's a fair question. And contrary to the brainiacs in Washington, eradicating coca crops has not made cocaine more expensive. The market is amazingly resilient, and as a result, the price of cocaine is historically low. The U.S. government is undeterred. It makes the spraying of poisons possible, showing little regard for the resulting environmental damage and social disruption. How typical. It should be pointed out that coca has uses other than producing cocaine. The Post says that Humala promises "to strengthen the legal marketplace for coca by promoting such products as coca teas and herbal medicines."
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.