Anonymous said: Have you read 'Open Veins of Latin America' and if so, what are your thoughts on it? It was recommended me to a friend that is also focused on the same as you, Economic Development of Latin America.
Hey!! Thanks for coming to me! Awesome question - your friend must be smart ;)
“Open Veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeano is probably one of my favorite books (alongside Confessions of an Economic Hitman). Hugo Chavez gifted Open Veins to Obama on their first meeting in 2009, which once you read it will understand how symbolic and awesome that is.
My Simple Summary:
It was written when dependency theory was at the forefront of scholars explanation for Latin America’s problems (1973). His main point is that the West (now mainly United States) forces the 3rd world into an inferior position on the global system as solely a producer of primary goods - the terms of trade are against Latin America due to Capitalism. It was banned for many years and Galeano had to flee Uruguay for his safety. He uses emotions and is over-dramatic at times to make his point but it is a compelling and easy read. It is one of the most influential books for people interested in gaining further insight into Latin America, US-LA policy, economic development, and trade.
My Personal More Elaborate Scholarly Review:
Galeano is quite leftist and dated; however, his viewpoint is fundamental as his political undertone is still in existence across all of Latin America. Eduardo Galeano’s book, Open Veins of Latin America is an emotional roller coaster of events starting with the arrival of the European Powers in the 15th century all the way to the 20th century involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB).
During our era of globalization and information technology, most people have a general concept in regard to the current economic status of Latin America. That concept describes that many people who live in Latin America are poor. That idea is well known; however the reasoning behind the devastation of the region is not.
Galeano’s perspective focuses on Latin America’s relationship with the world economy as completely dependent. Latin America is in an inferior position in the global system as a producer of primary goods. Galeano writes, “we [Latin American’s] export sugar to import candy, we export hides to import shoes, we export iron to import plows (p. 72).” Latin America is underdeveloped due to the system of international free trade; the unequal competition that Latin America faces has caused the development of the region’s underdevelopment.
To Galeano, underdevelopment isn’t a stage of development, but its consequence. Through his description of the relationships between developed and the underdeveloped countries he highlights the widening gap between the two worlds.
He makes it clear that the Europeans and North Americans are not the only people who benefit from the extremely cheap labor of Latin America. The elites in the Latin American countries reap the benefits by exporting raw materials and importing some of the finest goods, which pamper their ruling class. The exploitation of natural resources and political dominance over the region as a whole has left Latin America as a very wealthy region whose common people do not benefit from the wealth.
Not only does the Galeano give a broad analysis of the region, he goes into detail regarding several individual veins in which wealth has been drained. From bananas to petroleum, Eduardo Galeano makes it very clear that Latin America’s reason for underdevelopment is not exclusively internal.
He describes how dependency and unequal exchange deepened the region’s chronic poverty and impedes any possibility of immediate development. The IMF and World Bank’s programs have not led Latin America in the right direction; however they actually divert the opportunity for future development. He enlightened readers on how the International Monetary Fund’s, “stabilization and development formulas have not only failed to stabilize and develop; they have tightened the external stranglehold on these counties, deepened the poverty of the dispossessed masses—bringing social tensions to a boiling point…in the name of the sacred principles of free trade, free competition, and freedom of movement for capital (p. 221).”
You must read this book to really understand and feel the passion. Not only does Galeano fuse together political, economical and social aspects, he deliberately intertwines them with fact and emotion. His facts and interpretations of events come across somewhat manipulative, as his wording is more dramatic than statistical. Many claims such as “the sudden oil boom in Ecuador brought color TV instead of schools and hospitals (p. 282),” although heart wrenching, is not backed up with any factual verification. This book cries out for one to know Latin America’s past in order to look for a better future.
Thanks again and Enjoy!!