Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open veins of Latin America

I first encountered Open Veins of Latin America when I had the good fortune of having Professor Jorge Neff for a course in international development at the University of Guelph in the early '80s. Neff referenced the book constantly, and by the end of the course my views on economic development had been irrevocably altered.

Eduardo Galeano and Professor Neff convinced me that under-development in the "third world" was indeed the inevitable result of the model of capitalist development that evolved during the industrialization of the "first world." Reading the book again thirty years later, and more than forty years after it was first published, I realize that while much has changed, the underlying dynamic between centers of power and the rest of the world remains the same.

One thing that has changed is that at the present moment there seems to be a critical mass of Latin American countries rejecting the domination of American interests over their economies. At the time Open Veins was written, virtually the entirety of Latin America was governed by dictators who served at the pleasure of their Washington overlords. Today many of those societies have successfully used the ballot box to elect leaders who are less cozy with the US and more likely to put the needs and aspirations of their own populations ahead of the interests of foreign multinationals.

In that respect it is tempting to conclude that things have changed, that a long struggle has been won. That would be an unwarranted conclusion. Events in Honduras in 2009 and Paraguay in 2012 remind us that the hegemon remains keenly interested in Latin America. The many US-sponsored "democracy promotion" NGOs active in the region attest to that.

Another change that Galeano could not have anticipated is the de-industrialization of the US itself. Vast swaths of America's industrial heartland have suffered a process of un-development. As a result, in many cases the standard of living among the working class is now comparable to what we not long ago considered "third world" levels.

Almost forty-five years after its publication, Open Veins of Latin America remains a relevant and highly readable indictment of an economic system that impoverishes the many to appease the insatiable greed of the few.

1 comment:

  1. Among the South American nations, Argentina seems to have a certain front-centre relationship with world news these days. On the one hand, you've got the usual hedgie shit-bags squeezing them for free money, and on the other, you've got the forces of virtue trying to get to the bottom of the Jewish Cultural Centre bombing, which, we are led to believe, involves the President of Argentina in a coverup.

    Are these stories related?