Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez may have been trying to give President Barack Obama a history lesson when he handed him a copy of the book “Open Veins of Latin America” at the recent Summit of the Americas.
But a political commentator and columnist intimately familiar with the book — written by Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano and first published in 1971 — says all of the book’s major assertions have by now been proven wrong.
Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute — an Oakland-Calif.-based think tank — co-authored the “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot” a decade ago.
The book devoted a chapter to “refuting the historical and ideological fallacies contained in Galeano’s tract, which we called the ‘idiot’s bible,’” Llosa writes in The New Republic. “Everything that has happened in the Western Hemisphere since the book appeared in 1971 has belied Galeano’s arguments and predictions.”
In his book, Galeano makes the case that Europe, and later the United States, plundered Latin America’s resources and helped create widespread poverty and wealth disparity.
Llosa addresses several of his points:
* Galeano wrote that the average income of U.S. citizens is “seven times that of a Latin American and grows 10 times faster.” Llosa points out that in recent times many “poor” nations have seen their income gap with the U.S. narrow dramatically.
* Galeano claimed that for years “the endless chain of dependency has been endlessly extended.” Llosa writes: “The story now is that the rich depend on the poor. That is why the Chinese have $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds!”
* In his book Galeano declared that raw materials from Latin America destined for rich countries benefit the rich nations more than the producing countries. Llosa notes: “The story of this decade is that Latin America has made a killing sending exports abroad — the region has had a current account surplus for many years.”
Galeano predicted that in the year 2000 there would be 650 million people in an overpopulated Latin America. In 2000, the region’s population was 30 percent smaller than that, according to Llosa.
He also observes that in the past six years alone, 40 million people in Latin America have been lifted out of poverty, and economic growth per person has been four times higher in developing nations than in rich nations.
Nevertheless, sales of Galeano’s “idiot’s bible” skyrocketed after Chavez gave a copy to Obama — the paperback English language edition published in 1997 shot to near the top among all nonfiction books on Amazon.com.