Monday, December 19, 2005

Morales wins in Bolivia

According to exit polls, Evo Morales has won an outright majority in the Bolivian election, and looks set to become Bolivia's first indigenous President. Morales is a leftist, who has promised to legalise coca-farming (reportedly a staple crop for indigenious Bolivians), make foreign companies pay a higher price for their exploitation of Bolivia's natural gas, and generally roll back the tide of neo-liberal "reform" imposed on Bolivia by the IMF and World Bank. He's likely to be deeply unpopular with Washington, which views him as being in the same camp as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Castro - and has already said "no to a relationship of submission" with the US and promised to be America's "nightmare". But he's Bolivia's democratic choice, and Washington will just have to accept him.

Full results will be released on Tuesday.


According to Wikipedia, Bolivia's motto is "To die before living as slaves" :-)

Posted by Sam Vilain : 12/19/2005 07:10:00 PM

Drug growers are the level just below drug dealers in the morality chain. So I am pretty reluctant to look approvinly upon the leader of an organization of drug growers. His policies also seem to be the classic politics of opposition - oppose USA oppose capitalism opose improting etc the only thing he seems to support is drugs.
Having said that if he legalizes cocane it will be a damn good thing he is anti-trade.

Posted by Genius : 12/19/2005 08:28:00 PM

To quote:

"...Drug growers are the level just below drug dealers in the morality chain..."

Wow. You've really got a clue. Is "Genius" meant to be ironic?

Know many deug dealers do you? Know many Bolivian peasant cocoa growers do you?

Its simplistic, smug black and white moralising like that causes more problems than it solves.

Sorry if you think this is a bit OTT, but honestly, get a clue.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/19/2005 08:48:00 PM

Geeez Genius, did you ever bother to read anything other than bushite right-wing propoganda about this guy before making such broad generalisations?

Try this article here for starters:

I giggled my arse off reading the singers quote at the bottom "The place to eradicate coca is in the noses of those gringo sons of bitches!"

I am ecstatic to see this guy win and shift the South American power balance further away from arsholes like the neocons and the IMF.

Viva la revolution!!!

Posted by zANavAShi : 12/20/2005 12:51:00 AM

each person has their plaace in a chain that results in what most peopel consider to be a bad outcome which is lets say coke babies and so forth.

You could argue that cocaine has a good effect on society I guess but that would take a lot of arguing and surely even the pesant farmers dont believe that.

The dealer is a bit like a a person who gets into a fight and hits someone, they make money by seling drugs but all they have to do is go from a smugler to a customer.

the grower has to take a section of land plan the seds and cultivate them and so forth - there is a masive amount of planning and labour going directly into making drug adicts and so forth. So the dealer is a bit more like a man who goes out and buys a gun and some ammo and stakes out the target and shoots him.
Further more if htey dont use their land for that purpose no one else will and they probably are not under physcal threat to have to do so and so have less jsutification except the obvious reducing peoples life expectancy in exchange for money.

> "The place to eradicate coca is in the noses of those gringo sons of bitches!"

This is rather like a person who made a bomb saying - its not my fault if I sold it to terrorists! Or the place to stop the explosion is right infront of the victim!

Similarly the drug dealer clainms that the place to stop drugs is either at the grower/smuggler or the user and the user claims the place to stop it is elsewhere but as long as its there they wil buy it not their fault.., and the smugler - oh yeah its the dealers fault...

They are all just esential links in the chain the drug user is at fault or the drug dealer or the smuggler or the grower.

If he wants to oppose the USA I think that is a nonsence policy (you should be for somthing not just "against X") but its one I dont realy care that much about. If it works for his country (who knows - it might) then good on him.

Posted by Genius : 12/20/2005 06:32:00 AM

Personally I think this is a good result. Indigenous Bolivians have been marginalised for a long time, and there is no doubt that the US and other countries have at times taken unwarranted advantage. Also, he has sympathy for the mostly poor, indigenous cocoa growers who should not be paying the price for western drug hysteria. The brutal drug barons should pay that price.

But it's too simple to put this into some sort of anti-American, anti-capitalist straight jacket. If we look at Lula da Silva in Brasil, another populist lefty, his policies have been fairly moderate on coming to power and has sent troops to work alongside US troops to Haiti. All much to the chagrin of western leftists.

Posted by neil morrison : 12/20/2005 08:34:00 AM

Genius, while I don't often agree with your comments, they are usually thoughtful and reasonable. This blather, however, is from the same page as "Reefer Madness". But this is not the post for debating the merits or not of recreational drug use (God, the pages that would fill!)
I certainly don't know about land ownership in the mountains of Bolivia and it doesn't sound like you do either. However, I doubt the average peasant farmer wakes each morning relishing a new opportunity to kill gringo babies. Rather, I think he and she hope to feed their own by the best means available. Probably not an easy task, least of all in rural areas, or in a nation racked by political violence, hyper-inflation (24,000% in 1985), military rule and drug lord warfare.
Coca leaves are medicinal and harmless when chewed as they have been by the indigenous people of South America for well over a thousand years. Who are you or America to say they can't grow it.

Posted by Writeboy : 12/20/2005 09:39:00 AM

Neil: Oh, I agree. The reason this is a good result is because it represents a reassertion of Bolivia's indigenious people, and hopefully a rebalancing of the downright exploitative relationship with the west. It is good to see the poor and downtrodden fighting back at the ballot box. That is what it is for, after all.

I'm just hoping he doesn't share Chavez's nasty authoritarian streak.

Writeboy: I know a guy who had to have bowel surgery in Bolivia. It was done on a kitchen table, with coca for anasthetic.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/20/2005 11:14:00 AM

Why all this "plantism" (discrimnation against and criminalisation of certain plants) by wingnuts against coca, papaver and marijuana? Too many government contracts and corporate welfare to be had from the war against drugs? If those latter day wowsers had their way completely, we can say goodbye to our wine industry too. About tiem for some real freedom to smoke, drink and inject whatever substance you prefer in your own body - and liberalise the market to deny current drug gangs their gouging profits, police units their corrupt war on drugs proceeds and wowsers their hypocritical meddling in personal affairs.

Posted by Uroskin : 12/20/2005 11:27:00 AM

"I'm just hoping he doesn't share Chavez's nasty authoritarian streak".
If you want to hold together a South American government against corporate interests, + the ever-present threat of assasination by the US, I doubt you survive long without a certain authoritarianism. In a nicer political climate a nicer personality might stand a chance of survival.
Despite all the rhetoric, Chavez and Lula seem above all to be pragmatists, which in a world full of idealogically-driven warfare is something of a relief.

Posted by Huskynut : 12/20/2005 01:32:00 PM

Huskynut: while I agree that Chavez is operating in a hostile political environment and is faced with a faction that refuses to accept the outcome of free and fair elections, I do not think that throwing people in jail for organising protests is an appropriate response.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/20/2005 01:40:00 PM


Bolivian coca farmers grow coca because they are dirt poor and have few other options. The alternatives are: grow coca vs watch your kids die of malnutrition related illnesses. Accordingly, your morality formulation is way off the mark. Unless of course you wish to consdier yourself, all other westerners and the corrupt political elite of Bolivia as also culpable for cacaine related deaths (culpable because they and our governments have all played a role in the process of keeping Bolivian peasant farmers poor and with limited employment choices).

Given that you have previously expressed your beleif that the state should murder anyone with any invlovement with in the drug production process, I suggest that you have a long debate with yourself over this...

Posted by Terence : 12/20/2005 02:34:00 PM

I/S - how can you claim Chavez is responsible for the jailing of Ortega?
Surely that was the work of the legal process - Venezuela isn't perfect, but it's not a tinpot dictatorship either.

Posted by Huskynut : 12/20/2005 05:12:00 PM

Thanks writeboy,

In light of your (relitively) pleasent post I will try to be to the point.

> But this is not the post for debating the merits or not of recreational drug use

OK but you can see that most of us might say it isn't.

> However, I doubt the average peasant farmer wakes each morning relishing a new opportunity to kill gringo babies.

You seem to be confusing either
A) intent with responsibility.
B) Understandability with innocence.

If it is A)
For example when a death occurs that is someones responsibility, for example lets say a mugger kils a person for their money, the people involved probably did not wake up thinking "I want to kill someone" they probably jsut thought "I am going to get some money whatever it takes"
The problem is in order to do things that would obviously result in deaths - rather similar to selling drugs. the fact killing you was a secondary aim is of pretty limited importance since it is basically ALWAYS a secondary aim.

B) the fact that I can UNDERSTAND that someone might want to kil you to take your money (maybe so they can put their kid through school) doesnt mean I think it is a moral thing to do.

> Coca leaves are medicinal

This is all taken into account in the overall debate whehter it is a bad thing or not. It is a bit like "machine guns are not dangerous by themselves and can used for (let's say) proping up tables" and yet I might restrict the sale of them because it seems the rational place to stop people shooting other people with loaded guns. Basically I have a goal
"reducing the chances of people getting shot"
and a variety of posible methods of achieving that goal the best of which in this case seems to be
"preventing the sale of machine guns"
Similarly might want to "reduce drug usage"
and since one cant ban the concentrated form of the drug only (just add water to make legal) I ban it in all it's forms.

Anyway - I suspect it is probably an inferior medicine for basically any condition. But it is a good cash crop for selling to drug dealers whether they sell it as leaves or as powder. As a result you have a large industry and a lot of users who have a vested interest in pretending it is "perfect".


> Bolivian coca farmers grow coca because they are dirt poor and have few other options.

no one ever has a choice when it comes to doing bad things.

> Unless of course you wish to consdier yourself, all other westerners and the corrupt political elite of Bolivia as also culpable for cacaine related deaths (culpable because they and our governments have all played a role in the process of keeping Bolivian peasant farmers poor and with limited employment choices).

Such an argument has a much wider range of outcomes, this is because few of my actions have as a dominant predictable effect "drug growing in south america". and as long as it has an obscure effect there it is perfectly rational for me to focus on other things. If I was a drug grower it would have a pretty unambiguous effect on drug useage much less ambiguous than being a drug dealer even.

Where someone (lets say helen clarke or whoever) has made such decision that does indeed have as the primary predictable result drug growth in sth america you might have a point. But your statement seems a bit vague.

> the state should murder anyone with any invlovement with in the drug production process,

Not sure what you mean. I think you probably just didnt read my post or posibly just dont understand utilitarianism.

Posted by Genius : 12/20/2005 07:23:00 PM

anyway just for interest
"Coca growers earn up to four times
the income of campesinos producing legal crops, and the Chapare is the most prosperous rural region in Bolivia."

interesting eh?

"Most drug dealers (inner city) make less than 300 week, and have a second or third job to support themselves. Drug dealers work long hours under dangerous conditions. " (for comparison minimum wage in the US is only about 220 or so)

Posted by Genius : 12/20/2005 08:36:00 PM


I am willing to accept in a context that makes the word basically meaningless drug growers are lovely and genocidal maniacs and murderers are good samaritans (the world is not black and white of course).

But in isolation I would probably say murderers and genocidal maniacs and drug growers are immoral even though I am sure there is more to them than that one (or 3) behaviour.

I am concerned that many peopel make this grey argument with the sole intention of confusing a debate they expect to lose. Or more charitably - because they just have no moral position on this issue and want to defend that (i find it hard to imagine they have no moral positions on anything as the argument implies).

Posted by Genius : 12/21/2005 06:47:00 AM


Thanks for providing evidence that supports my arguement. As you note, by growing coca, peasant farmers can earn 4 times as much as if they grew legal crops. Given that - for peasant farmers - growing legal crops means a life time of grinding poverty (for them and their families) it strikes me as a little dull that a perfectly well off New Zealander can comment on the morality of their choice to grow drugs or not.

As for the direct (coca grower) versus indirect (westener who continues to vote for governments that support unfair trade) contribution to the drugs trade; true the coca grower has a more direct role in drug production process, but - as I have already noted - they also have fewer choices and - for them - the personal consequences of any decision to not support the drug trade are much steeper than the consequences that we face. Accordingly, via a back of the envelope moral calculus, it seems to me that their moral culpability in drug related deaths is no more than ours.

My comment regarding state sanctioned murder refers to your own pro death penalty comments on my blog. And I understand utilitarianism just fine thanks. Although I doubt you do, as you support the death penalty, which given the lack of evidence to show that it reduces crime, has no utilitarian justification.

Posted by Terence : 12/21/2005 09:47:00 AM

Genius, your pompousness knows no boundaries does it. Go shove your middle class martini class up your ass.

Posted by Christiaan : 12/21/2005 11:21:00 AM

I dont think those stats really prove anyones point on the issue you are referng to except in as far as I was noting that the farmer seems to get a bigger boost than the street dealer. (this was the initial comparison I made)

I am concerned that you sould rather too much like an anarcho-capitalist in terms of seeming to value behaviour almost entirely by the amount of money it makes. In a sense I wanted to see if you were indeed making that argument.

Surely one would instead want to do it right and just do it through redistributive tax / social welfare policy as opposed to employing people in a destructive industry.

Anyway back to the issues

I don't think lowering ones expectations of a sub group of society is a good thing to do - certainly not to the depths that you seem to be able to accept.

I understand you might dispute that drugs should be discouraged and might support a no child left behind policy towards drugs. But if it was proven that drugs were bad (most people I think would accept they are) then would you accept we should try to do somthign about it and consider those who cause bad things to occur to others for their own financial benifit at least a little immoral?

But in a sense even this is irelevant. This is because we are talking about elections in bolivia - since basically everyone is poor in bolivia the next question is how poor are these people (particularly Morales) in relation to the average bolivian. Surely poor and NOT supporting the drug trade is morally superior to poor AND supporting the drug trade? (even if you consider both to be moral).

As such I can say ordinary citizen (eg nurse) > bolivian street drug dealer > bolivian drug farmer (which - more or less - was what my initial argument was)

even if bolivians are by definition more moral than americans or NZders.

> but - as I have already noted - they also have fewer choices

As I noted above everyone has this excuse.
But it doesnt seem to hold much water. Some farmers dont grow those drugs so it is possible - in fact there are whole countries and hundreds of millions of people much poorer than them who dont grow drugs.

> you support the death penalty, which given the lack of evidence to show that it reduces crime...

My point that I am sure I was making is that your analysis is a gross simplification. I would support an execution under some circumstances, for example if it was proven that it reduced murder (by at least 1:1) - would you?

I am concerned that your position might be independent of the facts (mine is not) and therefore I would challenge you for it. As soon as you allow that to happen you open the door for yourself to be wrong again and again and again and to suffer the obvious concequences.

Note I am not arguing the facts here
I think that is clearly up for dispute because I dont think it is concievable you could have all the stats here to say the death penalty never discourages crime or to make a blanket statement that it always does let alone the very complex way the existance of such laws interact with society.


middle class? Could have fooled me. And I almost never drink alcohol and certainly not martinis.

Anyway, my position is pretty independant of my personal situation.

Posted by Genius : 12/21/2005 07:19:00 PM

genius - what is your logical basis for moralising about bolivian coca use. it was used by the inca 500 years ago to supress hunger and is still used by the miners in potasi who have a life expectancy of no more than 20 years once they start.
On what basis is a farmer doing what generations of their forebears have done any different from a hops farmer or a tobacco farmer.
you are normally somewhat less of a hyprocrite but completely wrong on this one imho. Have you ever used alcohol or any "legal" drug? It is only local NZ morality that gives you any basis. Coca use in Bolivia & Peru is part of their society. ( As is tourists giving sticks of dynamite & bags of coca to miners to pay for mine tours) It is Western dealers that have corrupted coca.
I wish Morales all the luck in the world, he will need it.

Posted by sagenz : 12/22/2005 03:32:00 AM

Sage, I think we are using fundimentally different approaches. And I accept that there may be no possibility to reconcile them - but maybe a litle understanding is possible.

First what I consider to me moral/morality etc

The main point is that for me morality is making the best choice available for the interests of all, (particularly where this entails self sacrifice).

If your effect is negitive on everyone else it isnt moral. So for example as much as nazism helped germany out of the depresion I consider it imoral because of the effect it had on everyone else (even prior to the war).
We can say "who are we to judge the nazi by our standards" and in a sense that would be right but it is a sense in which morality has little meaning.

ie morality only has meaning if you can judge others with it. I personally think my approach is fairly universal so it is "utilitarianism" (if we asume certain facts - most importantly that cocaine/coca is bad for the world as a whole) that juges them and finds them wanting not me "per se".

And secondly if your effect involves some manditory sacrifice it is more so, for example going to calcutta to help orphans is more so than just taking down to social services a random orphan who turns up on your door step. (this implies morality was part of the decision making process)

I note however for the anti authoritarians out there - There is also a diference between somthing being immoral and somthing requiring a law against it.

I for example might support a law regarding legalization of (for example) marajuana based on harm reduction but the sellers of marajuana would still be immoral regardless of whether I passed a law to stop them (as long as we all accept that the drug is harmful - which I admit may be in dispute, more so in this case).

>On what basis is a farmer doing what generations of their forebears have done

There is no reason to say that something people have done for a long time is by definition moral - or even if it used to be moral that it will remain so.
people in various countries used to eat each other for thousands of years - is that moral? If it was moral, is it moral now?
Think of any imoral act (I am not trying to sound religious here - mean anything you might consider immoral), it probably has existed for thousands of years and at some stage was considered acceptable.

> any different from a hops farmer or a tobacco farmer.

This is similar to my coment on harm reduction - policy needs to take into account the cost of the policy itself. For example you cannot ban cigarettes "today" that would be to hard, but you could stop them from going to night clubs and charge them a tax that always goes up and never down and one day no one will smoke.
For Alcohol you can push to have age limits and anti drinking adds and so forth, these are also nicer methods of persuasion (more moral if you like) than the hard methods like droping chemicals on the crops (which sounds dangerous anyway).

> Have you ever used alcohol or any "legal" drug?

I would not presume to say that anything I have ever done must be moral (yes I have had some alcohol). But most of the time I drink alcohol it is fruit juice I left out too long (not that I think it is very relevant).

> It is Western dealers that have corrupted coca.

It doesn't really matter who corrupted it (but I will note I dislike this "everyone in the chain is to blame except me" sort of logic that you hear whenever someone does somthign wrong) - what matters is how can we fix it. If there is a murderer lose in the city it is stupid to spend all your effort trying to track dwn his mother so you can punish her for not being a good mother - instead you do what it takes to stop the kiler directly even if a road block or whatever causes some inconvenience to other people.


hyprocrite - "a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he does not hold"

I am not sure how this aplies to me in this context.

Posted by Genius : 12/22/2005 06:46:00 AM

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