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<nettime> Eduardo Galeano (3 September 1940 â 13 April 20
nettime's dutiful chronologist on Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:33:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Eduardo Galeano (3 September 1940 â 13 April 20

The Open Veins of Latin America (1971)

For those who see history as a competition, Latin America's
backwardness and poverty are merely the result of its failure. We
lost; others won. But the winners happen to have won thanks to our
losing: the history of Latin America's underdevelopment is, as someone
had said, is an integral part of world capitalism's development.
Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth
has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of
othersâthe empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and
neocolonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into
poison. p. 2

The strength of the imperialist system as a whole rests on the
necessary inequality of its parts... (3)

The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret; every year,
without making a sound, three Hirsohima bombs explode over communities
that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This
systematic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly
increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press
but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics. (5)

In a sense the right wing is correct in identifying itself with
tranquility and order; it is an order of daily humiliation for the
majority, but an order nonetheless; it is a tranquility in which
injustice continues to be unjust and hunger to be hungry. If the
future turns out to be a Pandora's box, the conservative has reason
to shout, "I have been betrayed." And the ideologists of impotence,
the slaves who look at themselves with the master's eyes, are not
slow to join in the outcry. The bronze eagle of the Maine, thrown
down on the day the Cuban Revolution triumphed, now lies abandoned,
its wings broken, in a doorway in the old town in Havana. Since that
day in Cuba, other countries have set off on different roads on the
experiment of change: perpetuation of the existing order of things is
perpetuation of the crime. (7â8)

Exiled in their own land, condemned to an eternal exodus, Latin
America's native peoples were pushed into the poorest areasâarid
mountains, the middle of desertsâas the dominant civilization
extended its frontiers. The Indians have suffered, and continue to
suffer, the curse of their own wealth; that is the drama of all Latin
America. (47)

The more a product is desired by the world market, the greater the
misery it brings to the Latin American peoples whose sacrifice creates
it. (61)

Sugar has destroyed the Northeast. The humid coastal fringe, well
watered by rains, had a soil of great fertility, rich in humus and
mineral salts and covered by forests from Bahia to CearÃ. This region
of tropical forests was turned into a region of savannas. Naturally
fitted to produce food, it became a place of hunger. Where everything
had bloomed exuberantly, the destructive and all-dominating latifundio
left sterile rock, washed-out soil, eroded lands. At first there
had been orange and mango plantations, but these were left to their
fate, or reduced to small orchards surrounding the sugarmill-owner's
house, reserved exclusively for the family of the white planter. Fire
was used to clear land for canefields, devastating the fauna along
with the flora: deer, wild boar, tapir, rabbit, pacas, and armadillo
disappeared. All was sacrificed on the altar of sugarcane monoculture.

The food of the minority is the hunger of the majority. (64)

The essential cause of scarcity [in Cuba] is the new abundance of
consumers: the country now belongs to everyone, consumption is by
all, not just a few. Thus it is scarcity of an opposite kind to
that in other Latin American countries. The Revolution is indeed
living through the hard times of transition and sacrifice. The Cubans
themselves have learned that socialism is built with clenched teeth
and that revolution is no evening stroll. But after all, if the future
came on a platter, it would not be of this world.

The Revolution is forced to sleep with its eyes open, and in economic
terms this also costs dearly. Constantly harassed by invation and
sabotage, it does not fall becauseâstrange dictatorship!âit is
defended by a people in arms. (77)

The sugar of tropical Latin America gave powerful impetus to the
accumulation of capital for English, French, Dutch, and U.S.
industrial development, while at the same time mutilating the economy
of Northeast Brazil and the Caribbean islands and consummating the
historic ruin of Africa. (78)

According to Sergio BagÃ, the most potent force for the accumulation
of mercantile capital was slavery in the Americas; and this capital
in turn became "the foundation stone on which the giant industrial
capital of modern times was built." The New World revival of
Greco-Roman slavery had miraculous qualities: it multiplied the ships,
factories, railroads, and banks of countries that were not originally
involved in Africa orâwith the exception of the United Statesâin
the fate of the slaves crossing the Atlantic. From the dawn of the
sixteenth to the dusk of the nineteenth centuries, many millions of
Africansâno one knows how manyâcrossed the ocean; what is known
is that they greatly exceeded the number of white emigrants from
Europe, although many fewer survived. >From the Potomac to the RÃo
de la Plata, slaves built the houses of their masters, felled the
forests, cut and milled the sugarcane, planted the cotton, cultivated
the cacao, harvested the coffee and tobacco, and were entombed in the
mines. How many Hiroshimas did these successive exterminations add up
to? (79â80)

The rich countries that preach free trade apply stern protectionist
policies against the poor countries: they turn everything they
touchâincluding the underdeveloped countries' own productionâinto
gold for themselves and rubbish for others. (101)

Violence soon erupted again. For all the panegyrics, coffee had no
magic with which to end Colombia's long history of revolt and bloody
repression. This timeâfor ten years, from 1948 to 1957âsmall
and large plantations, desert and farmland, valley and forest and
Andean plateau were engulfed in peasant war; it put whole communities
to flight; generated revolutionary guerrillas and criminal bands,
and turned the country into a cemetery; it is estimated to have
left a toll of 180,000 dead. The bloodbath coincided with a period
of economic euphoria for the ruling class. But is the prosperity
of a class really identifiable with the well-being of a country?

The violence did not stop after that: it has been a way of life in
Guatemala ever since the period of humiliation and fury began in 1954.
Corpsesâalthough not quite so manyâcontinue to turn up in rivers
and on roadsides, their featureless faces too disfigured by torture to
be identified. The slaughter that is greater more hiddenâthe daily
genocide of povertyâalso continues. (115)

"If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at
the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen
also refuse to understand how within one country one class can enrich
itself at the expense of another."âKarl Marx, On the question of
free trade

The "opprobrious tyrant" Solano LÃpez was a heroic embodiment of
the national will to survive; at his side the Paraguayan people, who
had known no war for half a century, immolated themselves. Men and
women, young and old, fought like lions. Wounded prisoners tore off
their bandages so that they would not be forced to figut against their
brothers. In 1879, LÃpez, at the head of an army of ghosts, old folk,
and children who had put on false beads to make an impression from a
distance, headed into the forest. The invading troops set upon the
debris of AsunciÃon with knives between their teeth. When bullets and
spears finally finished off the Paraguayan president in the thickets
of Cerro CorÃ, he managed to say: "I die with my country!"âand
it was true. Paraguay died with him. LÃpez had previously ordered
the shooting of his brother and a bishop who accompanied him on this
caravan of death. The invaders came to redeem the Paraguayan people,
and exterminated them. When the war began, Paraguay had almost a large
a population as Argentina. Only 250,000, less than one-sixth, survived
in 1870. It was the triumph of civilization. (192â193)

There is no change in the system of intercommunicating arteries
through which capital and merchandise circulate between poor countries
and rich countries. Latin America continues exporting its unemployment
and poverty; the raw materials that the world market needs and whose
sale the regional economy depends. Unequal exchange functions as
before: hunger wages in Latin America help finance high salaries in
the United States and Europe. (207)

In all Latin America, the system produces much less than the necessary
monetary demand, and inflation results from this structural impotence.
Yet the IMF, instead of attacking the causes of the production
apparatus's insufficient supply, launches its cavalry against the
consequences, crushing even further the feeble consumer power of the
internal market: in these lands of hungry multitudes, the IMF lays the
blame for inflation at the door of excessive demand. Its stabilization
and development formulas have not only failed to stabilize or develop;
they have tightened the external stranglehold on these countries,
deepened the poverty of the dispossessed massesâbringing social
tensions to the boiling pointâand hastened economic and financial
denationalization in the name of the sacred principles of free trade,
free competition, and freedom of movement for capital. (221)

As the Bank explains it, most of the laons are for building roads and
other communications links, and for developing sources of electrical
energy, an essential condition for the growth of private enterprise.
In effect, these infrastructure projects facilitate the movement of
raw materials to ports and world markets and the progress of already
denationalized industry in the poor countries. (234)

But the most startling contradiction between theory and reality in
the world market emerged in the open "soluble coffee war" in 1967.
It then became clear that only the rich countries have the right to
exploit for their own benefit the "natural comparative advantages"
which theoretically determine the international division of labor.

But the "Argentine," "Brazilian," and "Mexican" factoriesâto mention
only the most importantâalso occupy an economic space that has
nothing to do with their geographical location. Along with many other
threads, they make up an international web of corporations whose head
offices transfer profits from one country to another, invoicing sales
above or below the real prices according to the direction in which
they want the profits to flow. The mainsprings of external trade thus
remain in the hands of U.S. or European concerns, which orient the
countries' trade policies according to the criteria of governments and
directorates outside Latin America. (242)

The symbols of prosperity are symbols of dependence. Modern technology
is received as railroads were received in the past century, at the
service of foreign interests which model and remodel the colonial
status of these countries. (245)

Some innocents still believe that all countries end at their
frontiers. [...] They forget that a legion of pirates, merchants,
bankers, Marines, technocrats, Green Berets, ambassadors, and captains
of industry have, in a long black page of history, taken over the life
and destiny of most of the peoples of the south, and that at this
moment Latin America's industry lies at the bottom of the Imperium's
digestive apparatus. (252)

For U.S. imperialism to be able to "integrate and rule" Latin America
today, it was necessary for the British empire to help divide and
rule us yesterday. [...] Latin America was born as a single territory
in the imaginations and hopes of SimÃn BolÃvar, Josà Artigas,
and Josà de San MartÃn, but was broken in advance by the basic
deformations of the colonial system. (259)

It is a big load of rottenness that has to be sent to the bottom of
the sea on the march to Latin America's reconstruction. The task
lies in the hands of the dispossessed, the humiliated, the accursed.
The Latin American 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. There are
those who believe that destiny rests on the knees of the gods; but
the truth is that it confronts the conscience of man with a burning
challenge. (261)

I wrote Open Veins to spread some ideas of other people, and some
experiences of my own, which might dispel a little of the fog from
questions always pursuing us: Is Latin America a region condemned to
humiliation and poverty? Condemned by whom? Is God, is Nature, to
blame? The oppressive climate, racial inferiority? Religion, customs?
Or may not its plight be a product of history, made by human beings
and so, unmakeable by human beings? (266)

Open Veins has its roots in reality but also in other booksâbetter
books than this oneâwhich have helped us to recognize what we are so
as to know what we can be, and see where we come from so as to reckon
more clearly where we're going. That reality and those books show that
underdevelopment in Latin America is a consequence of development
elsewhere, that we Latin Americans are poor because the ground we
tread is rich, and that places privileged by nature have been cursed
by history. In this world of ours, a world of powerful centers and
subjugated outposts, there is no wealth that must not be held in some
suspicion. (267)

Business free as never before, people in jail as never before; in
Latin America free enterprise is incompatible with civil liberties.

"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." âBertholt Brecht

In difficult times democracy becomes a crime against national
securityâthat is, against the security of internal privilege an
dforeign investment. Our devices for mincing human flesh are part of
an international machinery. The whole society is militarized, the
state of exception is made permanent, and the repressive apparatus is
endowed with hegemony by the turn of a screw in the centers of the
imperial system. When crisis begins to throw its shadow, the pillage
of poor countries must be intensified to guarantee full employment,
public liberties, and high rates of development in the rich countries.
The sinister dialectic of victim-hangman relations: a structure of
successive humiliations that starts in international markets and
financial centers and ends in every citizen's home. (274â275)

Whatever Latin America sellsâraw materials or manufacturesâits
chief export product is really cheap labor.

Hasn't our experience throughout history been one of mutilation and
disintegration disguised as development? (279)

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'Ãtat 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 try. (279)

The statistics may wear a smile, but the people get taken. In systems
organized upside down, when the economy grows, social injustice grows
with it. (282)

The system would like to be confused with the country. The system is the
country, says the official propaganda that bombards the citizenry day
and night. The enemy of the system is a traitor to the fatherland.
CCapacity for indignation against injustice and a desire for change are
proofs of desertion. In many Latin American countries, citizens who
aren't exiled beyond the frontiers live as exiles on their own soil.

In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of
capitalism but its vicious senility. Underdevelopment isn't a state of
development, but its consequence. Latin America's underdevelopment
arises from external development, and continues to feed it. A system
made impotent by function of its international servitude, and moribund
since birth, has feet of clay. It pretends to be destiny and would like
to be thought eternal. All memory is subversive, because it is
different, and likewise any program for the future. The zombie is made
to eat without salt: salt is dangerous, it could awaken him. The system
has its paradigm in the immutable society of ants. For that reason
accords ill with the history of humankind, because that is always
changing. And because in the history of humankind every act of
destruction meets its response, sooner or later, in an act of creation.


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