Sunday, April 19, 2009

Galeano Who?

If you doubt that NPR is an obedient lapdog of US foreign (and military and economic) policy, consider how Scott Horsley reports on Hugo Chavez's gift to President Obama of Eduardo Galeano's book Open Veins of Latin America.

Here's Horsley on Saturday's ATC:
"...this morning in what a senior administration official called a publicity stunt Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presented Mr. Obama with a book about five hundred years of exploitation of Latin America (chuckles). Now even the critics don't lay all five hundred years of at Mr. Obama's doorstep (chuckle)...."
And then this morning on Weakened Edition Sunday Horsley is back at it:
"As cameras clicked away Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped into the frame and presented Mr. Obama with a book, Open Veins of Latin America, it's a leftist history of the region with a subtitle: five centuries of the pillage of a continent. The barbed gift was a reminder of the resentment that some Latin American leaders still feel toward the United States."
One can't help but be struck by Horsely's contempt. It is striking that Galeano's name is not even mentioned - ever. From Horsley's description and tone, one might think Galeano was some two-bit, dull leftist historian - instead of a major literary figure of the continent. In the introduction to Open Veins of Latin America, Isabelle Allende described Galeano as "one of the most interesting authors ever to come out of Latin America, a region known for its great literary names. His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling...." He has received major literary prizes and global critical acclaim.

Everything about Horsely's remarks mirrors the viewpoint of US power. A literary, powerful (and thoroughly researched) work of history is reduced to "a leftist history" and "a barbed gift." There is no mention of the truth underlying Galeano's work: that the US has worked tirelessly for over a century to inflict killings, rape, torture, poverty, and economic exploitation on Latin America. This long, sordid and thoroughly documented history is laughingly reduced to "resentment that some Latin American leaders still feel."

Fortunately, many people in the US are far more curious than the timid newsreaders at NPR.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out the author of the book, it puts the larger story in context and unfortunately reveals the intellectual laziness of NPR's hosts and newswriters. I have to believe enough listeners of NPR programming have at least encountered Galeano's books. I would find it hard to believe the president never heard of him and harder to believe that the smug senior editors and hosts at ATC and ME have not seen Galeano on tables or shelves of Politics & Prose or Kramerbooks.

Kevan Smith said...

From the BBC:

A book which the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez presented to US President Barack Obama at the Americas summit has become a bestseller in just two days.

The book, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, was ranked 54,295 on the sales charts of bookseller

Now, it has risen to number two.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing yet another indictment of the corporate whore PBS has become, and the corporate whores who so santimoniously denegrate everything they don't understand, and/or don't want to understand. Gee, no wonder Facism hates the internet. They can't control the 'message'.


Thanks for the background.

NPR the new "Ugly American."

Anyone else notice that NPR never mentions that Chavez was elected democratically. It's part of the memory hole where the media ignores Bush applauding the failed coup to remove him and latter secretly funneling millions to his opponents.

Informative as always.

Brasil66 said...

Horses***t ought to do his homework before pontificating on a book he has never read. I cannot help but believe that there is a great degree of malice involved in the way people like him report the news over at NPR. I have ceased believing, long ago, that it is merely a case of intellectual laziness: when there is a pattern like that at NPR, I am confident my money is safe in betting that they do what they do with intention and deliberation.

I read Galeano's book some twenty years ago as an undergraduate.

It is a passionately written and meticulously researched history of Latin America that moved me very much when I read it--and it is full of great historical investigation (delving into historical archives), even going back as far as the British involvement in exploiting Latin America with their railroads, before the Unitedstatsians got in on the act. (The chapter on the War of the Triple Alliance, in which Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay ganged up on Paraguay, and how the British were behind that bloody war through their embassies in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, is particularly gripping reading. How does he know that the British were behind it? Well, for one, the newspaper of the British community in Buenos Aires back then was the first to declare the war--even before any of those governments had done so!)

An Uruguayan journalist, Galeano was jailed as a subversive when Bordaberry took over that country,in one of many, shall we say «US inspired» coups in the 1960s and 1970s--this one having taken place in 1973.

The Wikipedia has this passage about that dark page in the history of Uruguay, an account entirely based on the Church Committee hearings of 1975:

«The US Office of Public Safety (OPS) began operating in Uruguay in 1965. The US Office of Public Safety trained Uruguayan police and intelligence in policing and interrogation techniques. The Uruguayan Chief of Police intelligence, Alejandro Otero, told a Brazilian newspaper in 1970 that the OPS, especially the head of the OPS in Uruguay, Dan Mitrione , had instructed the Uruguayan police how to torture suspects, especially with electrical implements.President Jorge Pacheco declared a state of emergency in 1968, followed by a further suspension of civil liberties in 1972 by his successor, President Juan María Bordaberry, who brought in the Army to combat the guerrillas MLN, led by Raúl Sendic. After defeating the Tupamaros, the military seized power in 1973. Torture was effectively used to decompose the MLN (Movement of National Liberation). Uruguay soon had the highest per capita percentage of political prisoners in the world. The MLN (Movement of National Liberation) heads were isolated in improvised prisons and plunged into repeated acts of torture. Emigration numbers rose impressively, Uruguayans looked for political asylum throughout the world.» [Italics mine]

You mean the US has been torturing since before Abu Ghraib? Well, who would've thunk?

Yes, friends: this is a must read book. It has been re-edited/re-published in Spanish almost 200 times since its date of publication back in 1970.

It is still read in high schools and universities throughout Latin America, and even Europe, but is virtually unknown--even by Latin American studies departments at US universities--no surprise there.

Finally, I hope this does as much for Galeano´s book as it did for Chomsky´s.

Anonymous said...

"that the US has worked tirelessly for over a century to inflict killings, rape"

I see even less proof on your part that there was a concerted effort, as part of US foreign policy in the region, to inflict rape, than I do from the author's article. If you are going to criticize for failing to provide a broader perspective, then perhaps you should try and cite some foreign policy references to back up your statements. It is certainly plausible that rape was a consequence of the actions of guerrillas supported by the US, but that is an entirely different ball of wax. Find me a government on this planet that doesn't have a little bit of this blood on their hands.