excerpts from the book
Open Veins of Latin America
Five Centuries of Pillage of a
by Eduardo Galeano
Monthly Review Press, 1997 (originally
published in 1973), paperback
On September 11, 1973, a military coup
ended a century of democratic tradition in Chile and started the
long reign of General Augusto Pinochet. Similar coups followed
in other countries, and soon half the continent's population was
living in terror. This was a strategy designed in Washington and
imposed upon the Latin American people by the economic and political
forces of the right. In every instance the military acted as mercenaries
to the privileged groups in power. Repression was organized on
a large scale; torture, concentration camps, censorship, imprisonment
without trial, and summary executions became common practices.
Thousands of people "disappeared," masses of exiles
and refugees left their countries running for their lives.
The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in
winning and others in losing.
The more freedom is extended to business, the more prisons have
to be built for those who suffer from that business.
George W. Ball, Life magazine, 1968
At least for the next several decades,
the discontent of poorer nations does not threaten world destruction.
Shameful as it undoubtedly may be, the world has lived at least
two-thirds poor and one-third rich for generations. Unjust as
it may be, the power of poor countries is limited.
The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret; every
year, without making a sound, three Hiroshima bombs explode over
communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched
teeth. This systematic violence is not apparent but is real and
constantly f increasing: its holocausts are not made known in
the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization
Let us act on the fact that less than
$5 invested in population control is worth $100 invested in economic
The United States is more concerned than any other country with
spreading and imposing family planning in the farthest outposts.
Not only the government, but the Rockefeller and the Ford foundations
as well, have nightmares about millions of children advancing
like locusts over the horizon from the third world.
Over a century ago a Guatemalan foreign minister said
It would be strange if the remedy should
come from the United States, the same place which brings us the
disease [poverty and immiseration].
Blas de Otero
They don't let people see what I write
because I write what I see.
Veneration for the past has always seemed to me reactionary. The
right chooses to talk about the past because it prefers dead people:
a quiet world, a quiet time. The powerful who legitimize their
privileges by heredity cultivate nostalgia. History is studied
as if we were visiting a museum; but this collection of mummies
is a swindle. They lie to us about the past as they lie to us
about the present: they mask the face of reality. They force the
oppressed victims to absorb an alien, dessicated, sterile memory
fabricated by the oppressor, so that they will resign themselves
to a life that isn't theirs as if it were the only one possible.
Orlando Letelier in August of 1976 published an article describing
the terror of the Pinochet dictatorship
The Chilean economy is more concentrated
and monopolized now than on the eve of the Allende government.
Business free as never before, people in jail as never before;
in Latin America free enterprise is incompatible with civil liberties.
Declaration of Lourdes (1978) by the bishops of France
We, who belong to nations purporting to
be the world's most advanced, form a part of those who benefit
from exploitation of the developing countries. We do not see the
sufferings that this inflicts on the flesh and spirit of entire
peoples. We help to reinforce the division of the present world
in which the domination of poor by rich, of weak by strong, is
conspicuous. Do we know that our squandering of resources and
raw materials would not be possible without the control of international
exchange by the Western countries? Do we not see who profits from
the arms traffic, of which our country has provided sad examples?
Do we perhaps understand that the militarization of poor countries'
regimes is one of the consequences of economic and cultural domination
by the industrialized countries, where life is ruled by the lust
for profits and the power of money?
Bertolt Brecht in his diary, 1940
In democratic countries the violent character
inherent in the economy doesn't show itself; in authoritarian
countries the same holds true for the economic character of violence.
In difficult times democracy become a crime against national security
- that is, against the security of internal privilege and foreign
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It has
more foot-washers than shoe-shiners: little boys who, for a penny,
will wash the feet of customers lacking shoes to shine. Haitians,
on the average, live a bit more than thirty years. Nine out of
every ten can't read or write. For internal consumption the barren
mountain sides are cultivated. For export, the fertile valleys:
the best lands are given to coffee, sugar, cacao, and other products
needed by the U.S. market. No one plays baseball in Haiti, but
Haiti is the world's chief producer of baseballs. There is no
shortage of workshops where children assemble cassettes and electronic
parts for a dollar a day. These are naturally for export; and
naturally the profits are also exported, after the administrators
of the terror have duly got theirs. The slightest breath of protest
in Haiti means prison or death. Incredible as it sounds, Haitian
workers' wages lost 25 percent of their wretched real value between
1971 and 1975. Significantly, in that period a new flow of U.S.
capital into the country began.
Both dictatorships [Videla in Brazil and Duvalier in Haiti] act
... to supply cheap labor to an international market that demands
Citibank doesn't appear as a candidate on any list, in the few
Latin American countries that still have elections; and none of
the generals who run the dictatorships is named International
Monetary Fund. But whose is the hand that executes, whose the
mind that gives the orders? He who lends, commands.
Slave ships no longer ply the ocean. Today the slavers operate
from the ministries of labor. African wages, European prices.
'What are the Latin American coups d'etat but successive episodes
in a war of pillage? The dictators hardly grasp their scepters
before they invite foreign concerns to exploit the local, cheap,
and abundant work force, the unlimited credit, the tax exemptions,
and the natural resources that await them on a silver tray.
The fodder consumed by Mexican cattle contains more protein than
the diet of campesinos who tend them. The meat of these cattle
is destined for a few privileged mouths within the country and
above all for the international market.
The recent collapse of world sugar prices did not, as it once
did, set off a famine among Cuba's campesinos. In Cuba malnutrition
no longer exists.