The left is reacting with predictable grace and decency to Eduardo Galeano’s willingness to question his own work.
For more than 40 years, Eduardo Galeano’s “The Open Veins of Latin America” has been the canonical anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist and anti-American text in that region. Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s populist president, even put a copy of the book, which he had called “a monument in our Latin American history,” in President Obama’s hands the first time they met. But now Mr. Galeano, a 73-year-old Uruguayan writer, has disavowed the book, saying that he was not qualified to tackle the subject and that it was badly written.
“The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” was written at the dawn of the 1970s, a decade when much of Latin America was governed by repressive right-wing military dictatorships supported by the United States. In this 300-page cri de coeur, Mr. Galeano argued that the riches that first attracted European colonizers, like gold and sugar, gave rise to a system of exploitation that led inexorably to “the contemporary structure of plunder” that he held responsible for Latin America’s chronic poverty and underdevelopment.
So how is the left taking it?
Michael Yates, the editorial director of Monthly Review Press, Mr. Galeano’s American publisher, dismissed the entire discussion. “Please! The book is an entity independent of the writer and anything he might think now.”
Forget the fact that the book is an expression of the author’s views about the world. Let’s pretend that its views can exist entirely apart from those of its author.
Mr. Yates said Mr. Galeano might simply be following in the tracks of the novelist John Dos Passos, a radical as a young man “who became a conservative when he got older.” On Spanish- and Portuguese-language websites, others have suggested that Mr. Galeano, who in recent years has had both a heart attack and cancer, might simply be off his game intellectually.
That’s certainly classy. Galeano admits that he wasn’t qualified to write the book, so the response is to claim that he’s too old to be qualified to admit that.
Or as Le Razon put it, “It is unfortunate that senescence leads people to deny their own actions, and stop them thinking about the consequences of our thoughts and anticolonial practices.”
In his remarks in Brazil, Mr. Galeano acknowledged that the left sometimes “commits grave errors” when it is in power.
Heresy! The anti-colonial Bolivarian revolution never makes mistakes.