A Latin American Leftist’s Second Thoughts

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Exceptional Depravity, a new crime book, and Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Movie Industry. He has written for City Journal California, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and many other publications.


6a00d8341c575d53ef0148c7f2992c970c“This brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America,” reads the Amazon description of Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America, the book Venezuelan leftist Hugo Chavez presented to U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009. “It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.”

Published in 1971, The Open Veins of Latin America was a bestseller and has become a keystone of the left-wing canon on American college campuses. Trouble is, the book’s 73-year-old Uruguayan author now considers the book’s rhetoric “extremely leaden” and concedes that back in the day he didn’t know much about economics or the way the world works.

“I know it took real courage — even gallantry — for Galeano to publicly correct himself,” wrote exiled Cuban journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner in National Review. “It’s not easy to admit when you are wrong. And it is even more difficult when you are a hero to so many, as Galeano has been.”

In 1996 Montaner teamed with Peruvian author Alvaro Vargas Llosa and Colombian journalist Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza on Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot. One chapter, “The Idiot’s Bible,” Montaner says,

“was devoted to explaining what Galeano himself now confirms: that the author knew very little about economics, and what little he thought he knew was totally wrong.”

The authors’ summary of Galeano’s book, “We’re poor; it’s their fault” even showed up in a New York Times piece by Larry Rohter headlined “Author Changes His Mind on ’70s Manifesto: Eduardo Galeano Disavows His Book ‘The Open Veins.’” The article noted that The Caviar Left author Rodrigo Constantino had blamed Galeano’s analysis for many of Latin America’s ills and said the Uruguayan “should feel really guilty for the damage he caused.”

But the caviar left thought otherwise.

Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, who authored a foreword for Open Veins, told Rohter that Galeano “may have changed, and I didn’t notice it, but I don’t think so.” Michael Yates, of the leftist Monthly Review Press, told the Times that “the book is an entity independent of the writer and anything he might think now.” So in the style of Hillary Clinton, “what difference does it make” if the author changed his mind about his central thesis? Several professors told the Times that they would take account of Galeano’s views but others discount his change of mind.

“Rather than disavowing the book entirely,” University of Pennsylvania graduate student Adam Goodman wrote, “it would seem Galeano offered a critique of it and its young author, with the benefit of hindsight and forty-plus years of experience, both lived and learned.” However, discussion of the book’s limitations, “whether based on content, style, or in the framing, is admirable and potentially productive for the Latin American left.”

Andy Baker, political scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of The Market and the Masses in Latin America, weighed in with a Washington Post blog. Baker noted that “Latin America is the region that spawned dependency theory, which was the neo-Marxist body of scholarly thought that informed Galeano’s critique of international trade.” But despite Galeano, data shows that many Latin Americans are favorable toward international trade, multinational corporations, and the United States. “The most pro-American countries,” says Baker, “are those most victimized by U.S. military forays,” the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, for example.

When it comes to their economic ills, Baker explains, Latin Americans do not blame Spain, the IMF, Warren Buffett “or even the U.S. military, as Galeano did in his previous life.” Instead “voters in Latin America exact retribution against governments that oversee sluggish economies, and the ham-fisted attempts by Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, to continue blaming Venezuela’s downward spiral on the United States are increasingly falling on deaf ears.” So for the University of Colorado political scientist, “Galeano’s decision to recant his old work in the face of a new reality and new evidence on globalization was intellectually brave and admirable. As it turns out, Latin American citizens were way ahead of him.”

So were authors such as Carlos Alberto Montaner and Alvaro Vargas Llosa, author of Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression. So was Hernando De Soto, author of The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism. American professors willing to reconsider Galeano’s Open Veins should open their courses to works like this.

President Obama has not responded to Eduardo Galeano’s critique of the book Hugo Chavez gave him in 2009. Like Galeano, Obama shows little knowledge of economic classics such as F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.  Obama already believed that the United States was essentially a colonial looter but unlike Galeano the president shows the inability to change his mind based on facts and history.

To publicly correct oneself, as Carlos Alberto Montaner noted, takes “real courage – even gallantry.” The President of the United States just doesn’t have it.

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  • Doctor Music

    It seems…Reason compels us to be contemptuous of all religions and
    Humanity compels us to be especially contemptuous of the cult of islam.….it’s
    true…it seems slowly slowly everyone is getting it ….everyday thousands of
    leftists leave the leftist movement because the cult of islam leaves them no
    option… It is impossible these days to be a leftist and not see the cult of
    islam’s elephants charging at them in the room….everyday thousands upon
    thousands of leftists are being forced by the cult of islam to leave Leftism….the
    cult of islam will solve all the leftists’ dilemma. The cult of islam will be
    the reason Leftism will be finished….that will also be the beginning of the
    end of the cult of islam….it is coming …the end of the cult of islam is in
    sight ….as soon as all the leftists get out of the way the cult of islam will
    see it’s smashed end clearly and brightly…..we will see the end of the cult
    of islam on television and via social media …what to do…..we will have to act
    as if we actually cared as the evil cult that can’t be named putrifies ……”our
    crocodile tears are an art-form too…. our crocodile tears are an artform too”..….I have a feeling…thru our
    crocodile tears we will be humming…. ”our crocodile tears are an artform too”…hmmm…

    If it wasn’t for western leftism the stupid cult of islam would have been
    one-two-threed long back by any person with even half a brain…. Karma long long overdue….. “objects
    in history may be closer than they appear” – Eeyore for Vlad

    • liz

      Considering that it took Christians quite a few centuries to get past burning witches and heretics at the stake, and Muslims are even more barbaric than that RIGHT NOW, I don’t think the end of the cult of Islam is anywhere in sight. They need a few more centuries of brain development.

      • Ace

        I’d like to see a tally of the witch and heretic burnings by the Christians. Of course, they pale in comparison to the wholesale slaughter from popular hysteria, ethnic hatred, conquest, and utopian political ambition.

        Wasn’t Saul of Tarsus on a mission to hunt down heretical Christian Jews at some point? The various flavors of commie secularism had their own version of witches and heretics that they cheerfully tortured and killed. They were as modern as wet paint and yet killed on an industrial scale — and a boatload of smart, educated, “brain-developed” people thought that was just fine.

        Too, Pythagoras was capable of some impressive mathematics over 3,700 years ago. Our brains have been just fine for millennia. The restraint of absolute power is more important than “brain development.”

        Islam is as barbaric as you say and there’s a lot of absolute power floating around in the Muslim world. Sometimes I think breaking the backs of the mullahs will work but that’s probably likely to fail. The madness is down at the cellular level, it seems. Retired, above, has probably nailed the likely salvation of the West. In the meantime, we simply need to segregate Muslims from the West and stop the madness of importing our enemies to our breakfast tables.

        • liz

          I’ve seen statistics of the large percentage of inbreeding in Muslim countries, which results in low IQs, so I think there is a lack of intelligence there.
          If it’s not that, then what is their excuse for remaining so barbaric?

  • Doctor Music

    TURKISH MAN CAUGHT STUFFING A BEHEADED SWAN INTO A BACKPACK APOLOGISES: ‘I’M
    SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TYPE OF BIRD IT WAS. IT TASTED NICE’. …. spoken like
    a true monkey. These are the beginning signs of Reverse-Darwinism. ….There
    are 2 billion humans going thru this Reverse-Darwinism transformation…in a
    few more years the transformation will be complete and the whole planet will only
    be islamic-monkeys…our human-time is past….the aliens have come and
    colonized us….they came from a planet called Stupidity and we let them make
    us stupid like them….we were so smart !! WOW !!

    • SusieBartlettedo

      My Uncle
      Riley got an almost new red GMC Canyon just by some parttime working online
      with a laptop. visit their website F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • retired

    Doctor Music,I hate to be a pain in the a#s but in my opinion none of this is going to matter in a short while!
    It won’t matter because most opinions concerning the future stress Political & philosophical considerations which will soon be irrelevant.They will be irrelevant because the global economy is sinking into a worldwide depression & previous political considerations will end in the “Dustbin of History”This will be so because it will probably bring about the demise of the reserve banking system,the central banks that run reserve banking,& the Keynesian economic fable that underpins this gigantic world wide embezzlement scheme!
    What is failed to be mentioned,perhaps on purpose,(don’t want to talk about those people!) is the fact that Socialism & the political & moral corruption it entails cannot be financially viable without central banking (the FED.).Traditional banking cannot supply the wealth needed to run welfare states!
    P.S.For that matter without the central banks reserve system modern warfare could not be funded & the militatry/industrial complex would be shrunk down to manageable size.All that extra wealth that went into war could be used by the taxpaying public for more productive uses.
    P.S.S Medieval Islam cannot survive an extreme financial contraction,they will find themselves facing issues bigger then their Jihad.With failed states all across the Islamic world they will need to learn how to eat sand & rocks or eat eat each other!They are doomed in a modern worldwide depression.They are doomed because their populations have multiplied many times over in the previous 100 years & their 7th century societies cannot cope with the economic realities which will soon arise!

    • liz

      Yes, it would be so easy to solve the Muslim problem by cutting off all funding to them. Let the Saudis fund them, instead of paying for mosques and importing terrorist to the U.S.
      Ending the Fed would probably solve everything else, but I doubt it’ll ever happen.

  • Dyer’s Eve

    “We’re poor; it’s their fault” – the lynchpin of Bolshevism the world over. Add to this: shiftless, lazy, weak, incompetent, spineless, needy (designer)needy, inconsiderate and selfish.

  • Pepe Turcon

    The cult of islam will bethe reason Leftism will be finished….that will also be the beginning of the
    end of the cult of islam….it is coming …the end of the cult of islam is in
    sight ….as soon as all the leftists get out of the way the cult of islam will
    see it’s smashed end clearly and brightly…..we will see the end of the cult
    of islam on television and via social media …what to do…..we will have to act
    as if we actually cared as the evil cult that can’t be named putrifies ……

    • liz

      Wishful thinking?

  • De Doc

    It is amazing when the misdirected zeal and often know-it-all attitude of youth finally caves to reason born of careful observation as people mature. If only this sensibility was more common in today’s politics and academia, we could actually start solving problems rather than perpetuating them.

  • Tina Trenner

    Like all progressives he claimed he knew and in reality …he knew nothing…but at least he recognizes it. Progressives are NUTZ !!!!!!!!

  • YesWeCan3

    Just as Lenin and Trotsky used the poor and stupid to overthrow the Czar, so does the democratic party have in their parasitic followers.
    America dies each day.

  • Herb Suhl

    His real name is Eduardo Hughes Galeano. He is from the middle class, totally white country of Uruguay. His father was born a Hughes. His mother was born a Galeano. In Spanish naming custom he should have gone by Eduardo Hughes, but his English/Irish surname would have made him seem less authentic of a victim. So he went by his mom’s name to sell more books and appear to be one of the downtrodden masses.