excerpts from the book

Open Veins of Latin America

Five Centuries of Pillage of a Continent

by Eduardo Galeano

Monthly Review Press, 1997 (originally published in 1973), paperback

Isabel Allende

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 statistics.

Lyndon Johnson

Let us act on the fact that less than $5 invested in population control is worth $100 invested in economic growth.

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 investment.

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 cheap products.

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.

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