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on July 21, 2009
Like many, I bought this book because Hugo Chavez recommended it to President Obama. It was my birthday, so I also bought several other books by Galeano. I am still reading my way thru them. As I read this book, I also read Walking Words [Folk Tales] and Days and Nights of Love and War [a Memoir].

It is difficult to assess this book and ignore current politics. I would suggest people read '1491' [A Pre-Columbian History of the Americas] This would provide some perspective as to the reality Galeano describes. If your only knowledge of American History is what you learned in High School and a survey course your Freshman year of college, this book may seem to be sheer propaganda.

If you are a Republican, or a chauvinistic nationalist, you will hate this book. Eduardo Galeano writes from the perspective of an exile who was forced out of Uruguay by a US supported Right-Wing Military Dictatorship in the 1960s, and then forced to leave Argentina when the Generals took power in the early 1970s.

The history of the Americas after 1492 is a history of Colonialism, Slavery, and the destruction of the people's culture. Even an ardent apologist for the status quo would find it difficult to deny that. You may believe the population is better off than they would have been without these gifts of European domination, but that is merely opinion. There is no way to know at this point.

One reviewer said that he believed this history was too biased toward Socialism, and that 'no one would leave a Capitalist county to go to Russia or Cuba'. That review was written only 2 months ago, long after Russia ceased to be a 'Socialist' country. As for Cuba, we are talking apples and oranges. Who knows how appealing that country might be, if even visiting were not illegal.

This History is well written, and presented more as an economic history then a social or political one. It does not follow the usual time-line format of important dates, Presidents, and Wars. Rather, it discusses how natural resources were developed, and then shipped to Europe to build nascent Capitalism there, and later in the US.

Instead of discussing the colonies of Spain and then France and then England, in a stately progression; Galeano discusses the theft of gold and silver in the 1500s, and the destruction of the indigenous cultures and religions. Then, he moves on to the enslavement of the Indians to mine the tin and other metals; and the stripping of guano and nitrates for European farmlands. Once the raw materials have been exhausted, he describes the importation of blacks to turn the South, in both the American Continents, into huge Plantations growing sugar, cotton, rubber, coffee, and whatever else would pay extreme profits.

Eduardo Galeano is not very complimentary about the Europeans. That is his own heritage, but he does not defend it. The title of the book is very descriptive of his basic premise: The open veins are the rivers of wealth leaving the Eastern shores of the Americas, for Europe. He is no 'free trader', and believes the economy in Latin America was deliberately stunted by a program of exporting raw materials only, while importing manufactured goods. If you look at the economy in the US today, this book may give you an idea of our own future, if we continue to shut down our manufacturing base and rely on cheap goods from Asia.

Eduardo Galeano has written a history, but even in translation, his writing sings. He is a poet, first, and foremost. No matter what the subject of any one of his books, it is presented in verbal pictures that encourages the reader to sing along. Much as Diego Rivera painted a graphic history of Mexico in his murals, Galeano portrays the Americas as they were, and as they are; with a ghostly image of what might have been, demanding your attention as you read.
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Kudos to Hugo Chavez for putting this book in the eye of the emerging consciousness of the US public--Obama will not read this book because he already knows the story, he is the front end of the Borg--the system, and so similar in policies to Bush as to possibly wake up the naive.

The book begins with one of the finest Forewords I have ever read, by Isabel Allende, and I offer just one quote from her spectacular introduction of the book:

"His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling."

The translation by Cedric Belfrage merits special note. This book sings in English, and the translator has done justice to the original.

A major recurring theme throughout the book is that of capital squandered by the few while the many actually producing the capital dies of hunger or disease.

I list ten other recommended books at the end of this review. Early on the author makes these points:

1. The indigenous bourgeoisie are the ones who have sold out their countries to the multinational corporations. Toward the end of the book re repeats this with a chapter on the guards that opened the gates.

2. "The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret--every year, [the equivalent of] three Hiroshima bombs."

3. Quoting Lyndon Johnson: $5 invested in population control is equal to $100 in economic growth. This in the context of the author making the case that Latin America is under-populated in relation to Europe.

4. Imperialism and what I call predatory capitalism depends on, imposed, inequality and growing disparity on the countries rich in raw materials.

His early account of the European invasion by steel and horse and disease was unique in its time; see 1491 below for a broader more recent treatment. The indigenous population by this account dropped from 70 million to 3.5 million.

Among my notes:

1. The historical record is lie--laws were indeed passed protecting the indigenous natives, but never enforced, something history does not document as well.

2. "Ideological justifications were never in short supply."

3. Spanish dressed up the natives in Andalucian costumes, some of the clothing we think of today as traditional was actually imposed on the natives.

4. Spanish and others moved drugs (coca) from strictly ceremonial use to the general population and then into massive export.

The history of Latin America is a history of sequential pillaging. First gold, then sugar, then rubber followed by chocolate, cotton, and coffee, then the banana--the tree of hell under United Fruit. And then Chilean nitrates, Bolivian tin, and finally the "black curse" of petroleum.

Sugar in particularly devoured both the soil and humanity, first in Brazil then in the Caribbean.

The ready use of slavery, both of indigenous natives and of imported Africans, created the economic bottleneck that survives to this day, where those actually extracting the raw materials are virtual slaves and do not derive the fruits of their labor.

The author contrasts the manner in which the US used the Homestead Act to grant land to individuals who were incentivized to develop the West, and the latifundo oligarchy that imposes perpetual poverty on generations of indigenous individual families.

Myself being a survivor of the Central American wars, and the duty officer the night land reformer Mark Pearlman was executed in El Salvador by an extreme right death squad, I read with interest about the recurring attempts to achieve agrarian reform, only to have push-back from the 14-500 families that "own" the land.

I am fascinated by the corporate war between Shell (Paraguay) and Standard Oil (Bolivia) in which the armies of those countries, and the poor of those countries, were the pawns in the "great game" of wealth confiscation.

The book is a catalog of all the dictators supported by the USA and enriched by US and European multinational corporations.

The second half of the book yields the following notes:

1. Industrial infanticide has been imposed on Latin America by protectionism and free trade (as opposed to fair trade)

2. Loans and railroads (with attendant land rights and obligations) deformed Latin America.

3. The International Monetary Fund (IMB) is the knife that slits the belly of each country to let in the maggots of immoral capitalism.

4. The Ministries of Labor in each Latin American country are the new slave traders.

5. "International charity does not exist." The role of US aid is to help the US domestically. As of the book being written, only 38% of aid was actually targeted aid, all the rest existed to bring greater benefits back to the "giving" country.

6. What Latin America has been lacking all this time is a sense of economic community within its own continent.

7. The book was banned in Chile and Uruguay.

I end this summative review with two quotes--cliff notes for the President, if he has anyone active on Amazon:

Page 261. The task lies in the hands of the dispossessed, the humiliated, the accursed. The Latin Ameerican cause is above all a social cause: the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country. We are entering times of rebellion and change.

Page 285. "The system would like to be confused with the country." and "In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism buts its vicious senility."

Notes and index complete the work. A solid four hour read without interruptions. A great book for anyone desiring to know why the USA is being pushed back while China and Iran are displacing the West in the southern hemisphere.

Other books I recommend (you have to look for my summary reviews now, Amazon buries serious reviews with a few negative votes).
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy
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on January 26, 2010
Good art, fine art, hits a nerve. This book will rip out your nervous system....

Those who profit from imperialism will hate it. Those who pay the price will identify with it and like it.

Now look at the rating chart---no middle ground. That should tell you how good this book is.
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on June 22, 2009
For many who have not read the book, there appears to be blind indignation over Galeano's assertions. Clearly,such a powerful writer does not have time to indulge himself politically - his is a vivid historical account of destruction in Latin America. Many of the "invisible" souls that have perished by way of colonial power are the point of his indictment concerning American and European hegemony. Contextually speaking, much fits with the pattern of containment and control practiced in America and Europe. A sample of American history concerning indeginous peoples of the last four hundered years make a strong case for the criticism. If the historic pattern is evidenced over and over thoughout American and European history, one could conclude that it has been a consistent means to an end - dominance over others. Galeano's economic history of Latin American is evidenced in countless documents, articles, and primary sources. If you want to counter the book, read the evidence and then make your conclusions. Sadly, most do not want to take this writer head on. One of his personal concerns are the "invisibles" who passed through this continent's history without any mention of the horror they were put through. I will never look upon European and American achievement without thinking about the blood, sweat, and tears of people who paid the ultimate price for western arrogance and cultural superiority. This book may cut too close to home. However, if you think your standard of living did not come with a price tag, ask the people of Latin America.
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on March 9, 2011
My college professor in Latin American history brought a sample from this book to class one day to illustrate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores to Latin America. I was instantly taken by it and decided to purchase the book when I got home. Galeano has a way of making beautiful introductions to books. Throughout, his use of metaphors is very clever. Overall, I enjoyed this book to the point I could not put it down.
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on December 25, 2009
Eduardo Galeano completed Open Veins of Latin America in 1970. Millions of copies of it in dozens of languages have been sold around the world since then; it has been revised several times with addenda and new introductions for anniversary editions. But the distinctive yellow cover remains the same as does the strong narrative voice which leads the reader to a seamless journey through the complexities of Latin American history and a glimpse of the future--not only of the region, but of the world. Latin America is much like the canary in the coal mine which shows us how toxic greed and addiction to cheap consumer goods can choke off our own economic breath and leave us with unprecedented levels of unemployment, urban poverty and devalued currency. Galeano's book shows us how unlimited global growth has, in the words of Ed Abbey, "the etiology of the cancer cell," whose ultimate aim is the destruction of the host.

I bought my first copy of this book in 1973 from Monthly Review Press. Since then I have bought a dozen copies and given them to friends, students and colleagues. I don't know if they've all read it or appreciated it. Like surgery, reading his book can be a painful experience, an operation to excise a lethal tumor (that of the comforting lies of the mass media) so that truth can flow again. President Obama received a copy of this book as a gift from Venezuelan Present Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas held this year in Port of Spain, Trinidad. When pressured by a "reporter" from Fox network about the appropriateness of receiving a gift from the Venezuelan leader, Osama replied, "Just because I accepted the book, doesn't mean I'm going to read it."

I first met Eduardo Galeano while walking along the Rambla in Montevideo in the late 1990s. He was amazed at the success of the book which far exceeded his own modest expectations. He was also saddened by the fact that so many Latin Americans could not afford to buy it and that so many others were illiterate so could not read it. One story which moved him was that of a student from Buenos Aires who went from bookstore to bookstore reading bits of it in snatched moments because he hadn't the money to purchase a copy. Recalling that story makes Obama's comment even more embarrassing.

Galeano has more firsthand knowledge of Latin America than any author writing today. His book is written for the non-specialist but is painstakingly documented. It is accessible but not simplistic. It is history, literature, politics, economics and social science. Finally, for anyone who proposes to be an effective citizen of the Americas or a knowledgeable citizen of the world, it is essential reading. Let's hope that if Obama doesn't change his mind about reading it, he will pass his copy on to Hillary Clinton.
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on April 22, 2009
Either if you agree or not with it's content I can tell you that it is a well written and non-boring book. Certainly it can biased in some subjects (which writer or person has not even a little bias towards something?) but you have to wear his glasses and his shoes to understand this writer's mind from the inside out. And then you have to contrast that information with data from another authors, including american writers supporting AND debunking this views so you can have your OWN EDUCATED opinion.
I would also recommend reading:
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
- The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World by John Perkins
- The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Ex-national Security Advisor)
- Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order by Noam Chomsky and Robert W. McChesney
- AND SPECIALLY THIS ONE: Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs by Noam Chomsky

In the mean time you can also watch this documentary [...]
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on June 10, 2011
I'm sick of reading reviews that argue that Galeano is wrong, and that the problems are instead all the fault of greedy and corrupt Latin American dictators.

In my view -- stepping up a level -- rather than seeing the problems as the fault of one or the other, I see a perfect marriage of aligned interests between the two. The "North" -- and those who implement its policies (e.g. CIA, IMF et al) have *always* depended on greedy corrupt dictators in the "South". They support each other. (See, e.g. John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hitman", etc.)

Aside from that, a book titled "The Manual of the Perfect Latin American Idiot" recommended by so many of Galeano's critics, starts off with an ad hominem fallacy. I.e. "My opponent and those who agree with him are idiots, therefore you can safely dismiss whatever they have to say." It is guilty of the same bias it accuses Galeano of.

If the goal is to actually *reduce* poverty, social injustice and inequality in the region, stop blaming each other and focus on finding some way out of the larger system that encompasses them both -- and all of us who unwittingly co-create it.
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on January 15, 2011
This is a MANDATED reading for all USA Citizens if they have an open mind and wich to expand on their horizon regarding the truth about what is really happening and has happened in Latin America and why it is different from the US.

Eduardo Galeano is equivalent to Noam Chomsky
Actually can be reagarded as the Noam Chomsky of Latin America

The Book is somewhat old because its last printing is in 1964. Galeano has since printed more actual essays and a new or an Update is overdue.
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on June 5, 2009
This is the 'World History' not written in history books. It is a sad and sorry story of human greed and plundering. Even more sad to realize that this 'history' continues to repeat itself. Another good book I read many years ago and recommend is 'Multinational Corporations, Environment and the Third World'. (A World Resources Institute Book, edited by Charles S. Pearson)
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