[Marxism] A leftist's bible

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 21 08:14:14 MDT 2009

Hugo Chavez's gift to Obama is a Latin leftist's bible
'Open Veins of Latin America' by Eduardo Galeano traces the continent's 
problems to Western imperialism and exploitation of its resources. 
Overnight, the book is the No. 2 bestseller on Amazon.
By Tracy Wilkinson

April 21, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City — The book that Venezuelan President Hugo 
Chavez gave his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, has long been regarded 
as a bible for the Latin American left, found on the bookshelves and 
university reading lists of a generation of students in the region.

"Open Veins of Latin America" recounts, as its subtitle says, "Five 
Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" -- the harvesting of the 
region's cotton, rubber, coffee, fruit and other resources by U.S. and 
European powers. It argues, from a Marxist viewpoint, that such 
exploitation is the root cause of Latin American poverty.

When the book was published in 1971, Publishers Weekly called its 
author, Eduardo Galeano, "both impassioned and a hard-nosed scholar." 
Galeano was a hero to the left, and was ridiculed by the right and for 
years persecuted by military dictatorships.

Galeano fled his native Uruguay after a military coup in 1973 and ended 
up in Argentina. A few years later, he fled military rule there. "Open 
Veins" and other works were banned in many parts of South America, until 
the continent began to return to civilian elected governments in the 1980s.

A decade ago, "Open Veins" was attacked by a conservative literary 
movement and featured in an irreverent publication, "Manual of the 
Perfect Latin American Idiot." Most of Galeano's work was translated 
into English by a British-born Socialist, Cedric Belfrage, who was 
deported in the 1950s, during the McCarthy era.

Galeano, who is a journalist, historian and essayist, has said his work 
cannot be pigeon-holed in a single category because of his mix of poetic 
imagery with hard political treatise.

A classic in Latin America, the book had become somewhat obscure in the 
mainstream U.S. until Chavez's gift-giving. A paperback version of "Open 
Veins" jumped from position 54,295 on the online retailer Amazon.com to 
the No. 2 slot, practically overnight, news agencies said.

Galeano, 68, remained pointed in his criticisms during a book tour in 
Mexico City this month.

"The contemporary world is not democratic, but profoundly fascist, 
chauvinistic, militaristic," he was quoted telling an audience of 
several thousand university students who waited in line for hours to see 

He went on to say, however, that he was pleased to see that an "almost 
black" candidate, referring to Obama, had been elected president of the 
United States and hoped that that might help end racism.

wilkinson at latimes.com

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