The loser of the recent election in Peru was President Bush.
Polls show a victory for nationalist Ollanta Humala, a retired army officer who has pledged to reject a free-trade agreement with the United States, to put a halt to coca eradication programs that disproportionately affect peasants and to give more power to Peru's indigenous and poor people.
Humala presented himself to the Peruvian electorate as a nationalist who would put Peruvian interests ahead of the dictates of Washington.
In doing so, he aligned himself with other regional leaders, such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolivian President Evo Morales and, above all, with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
Although he may ultimately be defeated in the runoff election in May, Humala has made a remarkable showing. Just a few months ago, he had less than 5 percent of the electorate on his side. He came ahead of the American favorite, conservative Lourdes Flores, and of former President Alan Garcia, of the left-of-center APRA party.
The elections in Peru replicate the recent pattern of leftist victories throughout the region. Those who have campaigned against U.S. pro-market policies have triumphed.
The Bush administration has failed to recognize the increased desire of Latin American peoples for political independence and socioeconomic justice. And it has failed to admit that free-market policies have hurt the living standards of the region's poor.
The dismissive and sometimes patronizing attitudes that this administration has shown toward Latin America is deeply rooted in traditional American foreign policy, which has regarded the hemisphere as its own backyard for almost 200 years.
Since the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine in the 1820s, the United States has reserved the right to intervene and overthrow any local government it didn't like or see fit.
Fortunately, democratic rule has brought to Latin America a renewed sense of independence and the desire of the people to choose their own direction.
Not only are many Latin American nations refusing to join the Free Trade Area of the Americas that Washington promotes, they have also rejected U.S. attempts to isolate Venezuela's Chavez or to follow the United States in its botched war in Iraq.
Because of the Bush administration's stubbornness and attempts at arm-twisting, it has not only failed to reverse the leftward move of the region, but it has actually fostered it.
Bush is the most unpopular American president in the region ever. A recent Zogby poll puts Bush's approval rating below 20 percent among members of the Latin American elite class (typically the most politically conservative voters in the region). Only 6 percent said his policies have been better than those of former U.S. presidents.
Although the United States remains the main market for Latin American exports, the European Union, China and Japan have greatly increased their participation in the region's economic life.
Maybe after the Bush administration leaves office, the United States will eventually come to realize the need to reassess its hemispheric policies and regard its neighbors as sovereign partners entitled to their own choices.
If it doesn't, the United States will face increased isolation and diminished influence in Latin American.
Juan Blanco Prada is a Latin American writer and activist living in California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.