open veins of latin america

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

Eduardo Galeano (translated by Cedric Belfrade)

Monthly Review Press (1973, 1999)

Download free PDF: Open Veins of Latin America

Open Veins of Latin America is about the brutal rape of Latin America and its people that commenced from the first point of contact with Columbus in 1453. The 1999 edition includes an addendum Galeano wrote in 1977. It discusses the rise of the pseudo-populist Peron in Argentina, the CIA coupe in Chile in 1973 and the barbarous Pinochet regime.

For me, the main benefit of reading this book was appreciating my overall ignorance of Latin American history. For example, I had no idea that Latin America was an economic colony of England even before they gained political independence from Spain. According to Galeano, this came about due to Spain’s failure to develop a manufacturing base. He blames this in part on the Hapsburgs’ (the Austrian Hapsburgs ruled Spain from 1516-1700) destruction of the Spanish economy by flooding it with cheap textiles, leathers and metal goods and in part on Spain’s misguided decision to expel all their Jews, Arabs and Flemish protestants. The latter would cause Spain to lose most of their artisans, capital and manufacturing entrepreneurs, many of whom ended up in England.

Mass Genocide in Latin America

I was already aware of the genocide the Spanish committed against indigenous Latin Americans, but I had no idea how massive it was. Most were killed through forced labor in the gold and silver mines (through starvation and mercury poisoning), though large numbers died from exposure to new European diseases. Many native women killed their children and committed suicide to keep them out of the mines.

When Columbus first landed at Hispaniola, there were an estimated 70 million indigenous people in Latin America. One-hundred-fifty years later, this number had dropped to 3.5 million. The slaughter continues to the present day (through severe malnutrition and associated medical conditions) at an annual rate comparable to three Hiroshimas. The main cause, according to Galeano, is foreign-controlled expropriation of agricultural land for mining and cash crop exports. In 1973 when this book was published, Latin America produced less food per capita than they did prior to World War II.

Brazil Relied on African Slaves

In Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese, gold wasn’t discovered until the 18th century – it wasn’t on display, as in the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilizations Spain destroyed. Because there was no pre-existing civilization (ie ready source of slaves) in Brazil, the Portuguese had to buy black slaves from the English to exploit the gold mines.

The Switch to Minerals and Cash Crops

Country by country, Galeano traces how English, Spanish and Portuguese bankers and traders began by depleting all the gold and silver. They then subsidized local aristocracies to transfer their slave labor (and later starvation wage labor) to the production of sugar, rubber, cotton, coffee, cacao, steel, tin, sodium nitrate fertilizer, meat, fruit, iron, tin and copper for export.

Why Countries with the Richest Resources End Up the Poorest

The most interesting section of the book explores why European settlement led to a very different outcome in Latin America than in North America. In Galeano’s view, the reasons are threefold 1) Latin America started off with a much richer resource base (ie gold and silver) for Europe to exploit 2) unlike North America, Latin America provided a dense civilized population, ripe for exploitation as slaves and 3) except for cotton, North America produced no exotic products Europe couldn’t produce for themselves.

Galeano makes the case that economic “development” in Latin America was very similar to the southern US prior to the Civil War. He points out various ways in which the North essentially colonized the South, reinforcing the view Paul Craig Roberts expresses in a recent essay that the Civil War wasn’t about freeing slaves – but about “tariffs and northern economic imperialism.”

Eyes Wide Open: A Journey Through Today’s South America

Pascal Dupont (2009)

Spanish with English subtitles

Film Review

Eyes Wide Open was intended as a sequel to the late (deceased April 13, 2015) Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. It was Galeano’s book that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez presented to newly elected president Barack Obama in 2009. According to Galeano, the entire history of Latin American is based on the stripping of the continent’s resources by Europe and the US. It started with gold and silver, followed by tin, copper, rubber, sugar, salt peter, cocoa, coffee, guano and bananas. This grotesque asset stripping was accomplished mainly through the brutal suppression and exploitation of its (majority) indigenous population.

Eyes Wide Open mainly concerns Latin America’s rejection of US neoliberalism and neo-colonialism, with the recent election of “leftist” leaders in eight countries (Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). The filmmakers visit four of them (Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador), to ascertain whether their new presidents have kept their promise to bring about true economic democracy. Interviews with grassroots leaders are interspersed with with a variety of media footage and commentary by Galeano.

The documentary also discusses the Bolivarian Alliance of the America’s the eight countries formed and its defeat, in 2005, of the Free Trade of the Americas treaty George W Bush tried to foist on them.

Lula Sells Out to Cargill

The filmmakers are highly critical of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) for reneging on his promise to redistribute elite land holdings to landless peasants. Instead he sold out to the giant agrobusiness Cargill, authorizing generous government subsidies to help them establish vast GMO soy plantations in Brazil’s Amazon basin.

Evo Nationalizes Bolivia’s Oil and Gas Industry

Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales, who came to power in 2006 as a direct result of Bolivia’s water wars,* has a far better track record. The documentary details his decision to nationalize Bolivia’s oil and gas industry and use the income to fund government pensions for the elderly, free education and safer working conditions for Bolivian tin miners. Evo also re-nationalized the tin mines, which had been privatized, and rehired all the miners who had been laid off.

Multinational oil companies (mainly Exxon, Shell and Total) owned 60% of Bolivia’s fossil fuel industry, and the US ambassador (ie CIA) colluded with the Bolivian opposition to block Evo’s land reforms in the rich eastern provinces. In 2008, provincial police gunned down a peaceful peasant protest demanding the land they had been promised. Evo responded by expelling the US ambassador.

Bureaucracy and Corruption in Venezuela

The segment on Venezuela begins with the massive popular protest that defeated the attempted US coup against Chavez in 2002. It also includes a lengthy segment on Chavez’s housing reforms, profiling one of the female housing activists he put in charge of overseeing the replacement of a barrio full of tin shacks with a modern apartment complex.

Venezuela’s land reform efforts weren’t nearly as successful as Bolivia’s, which filmmakers blame on bureaucracy and corruption within the Chavez government.

Constituent Assembly Writes New Constitution in Ecuador

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa is presented in a much more favorable light. Eyes Wide Open focuses mainly on his decision to call a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. The latter would recognize, for the first time, the multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural basis of Ecuadorean society. This new constitution would also be the first in the world to recognize the rights of nature.


*Bolivia’s water wars were a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1999-2000, over the privatization (resulting in massive price hikes) of the city’s municipal water supply. In 2003-2005, similar protests broke out over the privatization of Bolivia’s natural gas supply. The protests eventually led President Sánchez de Lozada to step down and flee to Miami.

The Fatal Soybean

Press TV (2013)

Film Review

Recently 30,000 Argentinean doctors signed a petition requesting their government ban the use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The Fatal Soybean is a documentary about the large cluster of miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and autoimmune disease in villages adjacent to Argentina’s immense “soy desert.” The filmmakers interview local doctors, environmentalists and grassroots activists. They focus in on one particular activist group, the Ituzainga Mothers Club. These women mobilized after numerous family members died or developed chronic illness following repeated exposure to the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on soybean crops.

As depicted in the documentary, Silence of the Pandas, a massive swathe of Argentina’s natural forest and grassland has been cleared to plant Monsanto’s Roundup-ready soy. The latter is a genetically engineered plant specifically designed to withstand spraying with the Monsanto herbicide Roundup. Owing to the emergence of Roundup resistant super weeds, most farmers are spraying more and more frequently with heavier and heavier concentrations of herbicide.

One of the doctors interviewed talks about the recent Dutch ban on Roundup and GM soy imports. Prior to 2014, the Netherlands imported GM soy animal feed from Argentina to feed their 250,000 pigs. After Dutch farmers found 20-30% of their piglets were born dead or with birth defects, research revealed that GMO soy absorbs traces of Roundup from repeated spraying.

 

stuartbramhall:

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Clarification of the corporate media disinformation about the Greek “bank” holiday with FAQs issued by the Greek government:

  • Electronic transactions are not affected – online banking and credit and debit card transactions will continue as usual.
  • All accounts are allowed a daily withdrawal of 60 euros per card.
  • Foreign tourists can make normal cash withdrawals from ATMs, so long as they have been issued abroad.
  • Salaries paid electronically through bank accounts will continue as usual.
  • Deposits are safeguarded and will not experience a “haircut”
  • Banks will reopen July 7 after the popular referendum whether to except the European Bank’s austerity conditions for a new bailout.

 

Originally posted on The Greek Analyst:

Earlier today, the Greek government issued a nonpaper that provides answers to what they call as ‘FAQs’ relating to the short-term Bank Holiday imposed, starting today, in the country. You can find the original (in Greek) here, and my  translated version below.

View original 1,171 more words

Silence of the Pandas

Wilfred Huisman (2011)

Film Review

Greenwashing (def) – a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.

Silence of the Pandas is about the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – the world’s largest conservation organization – and their open collaboration with Monsanto, palm oil manufacturers and other multinational corporations that are systematically destroying wildlife habit.

WWF solicits millions in donations every year based on the image it projects of protecting endangered animals, such as the panda and the tiger. In reality, the WWF, under the leadership of the British royal family and other members of the British aristocracy, forms lucrative “partnerships” with corporations seeking to greenwash their image.

Through these toxic partnerships, WWF is facilitating, rather than preventing, the destruction of rainforests and wildlife habitat. It also actively promotes the removal of indigenous populations (in India, Indonesia, South America and Papua New Guinea) from their rainforest habitat. As an example, WWF has collaborated with the Indian government to displace one million Adabzi from their tribal homelands to expand a WWF ecotourism venture. The habitat destruction stemming from this venture is rapidly depleting tiger populations rather than increasing them.

In Indonesia, WWF partners with the palm oil giant Wiemar to raze native rainforests and replace them with extensive palm oil plantations. In many cases the Indonesian government has illegally leased land to Wiemar. The land belongs to indigenous farmers whose ancestors planted the tropical forest gardens destroyed to make way for palm oil.

In Argentina WWF, in partnership with Monsanto, has brought the country to the verge of ecological collapse by destroying natural forest and pampas and replacing them with a GM soy desert the size of Germany.

As one of their vice presidents openly demonstrates in the film, WWF is a strong proponent of genetic engineering. In return for a sizable donation, in 2010 the group awarded Monsanto a seal of product sustainability for their GM soy seed.

I first became concerned about the activities off the WWF in the mid-nineties when I learned that they had allowed their parks to be used as training bases for the Hutu militants responsible for the Rwandan genocide. The film makes brief mention of the secret mercenary army WWF assembled from British special forces and South African (apartheid) security personnel. The alleged purpose of these mercenaries was to assassinate poachers who were endangering elephant and rhinoceros populations.

The pro-African website Nairaland tells a very different story.

Under the guise of protecting endangered species, such as the elephant, the rhinoceros and the tiger, WWF “park rangers” carry out assassinations and other attacks against so-called “poachers” who in many instances turn out to be local patriotic political leaders or farmers who refuse to abandon their land and their food production to the WWF’s land confiscation programs.

stuartbramhall:

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10,000 US farmers are suing Syngenta for selling GMO corn to China without Chinese approval. This resulted in China boycotting all corn imports from the US, which has hit struggling American farmers extremely hard. Lawsuits have been filed at the federal level and in 22 states.

Originally posted on Hwaairfan's Blog:

10,000 Sue Syngenta Over Unapproved GMO CornShipped to China – U.S. Farmers Lose $5 Billion in Sales *

This couldn’t happen under TPP…

By Vincent Marshall

Excerpts:

Town hall meetings have been taking place recently regarding corn litigation with the Syngenta company.

The lawsuit is regarding claims that Syngenta sold genetically modified corn with a strain called MIR-162 to China without their approval of the modification.

“The first shipment that tested positive for MIR-162,” Hecker Law Group attorney Jacob Hecker said,

“was destroyed by the Chinese in 2013. Afterwards all other shipments with trace amounts of the strain were sent back to where they came from.”

Due to the strain, China, who at the time was the third largest importer of US corn, boycotted all corn from being imported from the US.

“The lawsuits being filed in approximately 22 states,” Hecker said,

“are to determine if Syngenta was negligent…

View original 482 more words

Paul Stamets – How Mushrooms Can Save Bees & Our Food Supply

Bioneers (2014)

Paul Stamets is a mycologist who studies the complex role played by the vast network of fungal mycelium that underlies all natural forests and grassland. As many organic gardeners are learning, deforestation and plowing, herbicides and pesticides associated with industrial agriculture are killing this mycelium. It’s in this way that important antibacterial (most antibiotics are derived from fungi) and antiviral properties are lost that are vital to both the plant and animal kingdom

Stamets first became interested in the role of fungi in bee health when he saw honeybees sucking the mycelium out of wood chips on his farm. Through subsequent research, he would learn that specific fungi contain compounds that suppress the virus carried by veroa mites – implicated in colony collapse syndrome. The same antiviral fungi are also play a role in protecting animals against zoonotic* viruses, such as bird flu and H1N1.

Stamets believes that wide scale deforestation has destroyed the fungi that bees have traditionally relied on and this is partly responsible for the 40% reduction in bee populations. He also blames deforestation for growing pandemics of zoonotic illnesses like bird flu, H1N1, MERS and possibly ebola.

In the second video, Stamets discusses his research into turkey tail mushrooms as an adjunct treatment in terminal breast cancer.

More about the successful $2.25 million National Institute of Health Study at the link below. Owing to their positive effect on the microbiome (intestinal bacteria), turkey tail mushrooms are also helpful in

  • Infections and inflammations of the upper respiratory tract
  • Infections of the urinary tract
  • Infections and irritations of the digestive tract
  • Pulmonary diseases
  • Chronic congestion
  • General lack of energy and malaise

*A zoonotic disease is one that can be passed between animals and people