Chávez creates a new bestseller

Chavez gives a book to Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain
Hugo Chavez gives Barack Obama a copy of Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) by Eduardo Galeano during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama. I was wondering which book it was that Chavez passed on to Obama at the summit of the Americas. He chose well: it was Eduardo Galeano’s classic The Open Veins of Latin America. ‘Sales surge for book about history of Latin America’s exploitation after exchange at summit of Americas’ reports Andrew Clark in the Guardian.

A 36-year-old historical tract attacking the imperialist exploitation of Latin America has become an improbable overnight bestseller after the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávezabruptly presented a copy to Barack Obama.

During a session of the summit of the Americas in Trinidad at the weekend, Chávez strode up to Obama, patted him on the shoulder and, with a friendly handshake, gave him a paperback copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 work, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

As footage of the encounter appeared on news bulletins, the book rocketed up the US paperback sales chart of the online bookseller Amazon, soaring from number 54,295 to sixth place within 24 hours.

A classic work in left-wing circles, Galeano’s book analyses five centuries of unequal relations with Europe and the US. It contends that Latin America has been abused as industrialised nations plundered its natural resources, ranging from gold and silver to cocoa and cotton.

Obama accepted the book in good humour, telling reporters: “I thought it was one of Chávez’s books. I was going to give him one of mine.”

The US president has made it clear that he wants a friendlier relationship than his predecessor with Chávez, who once described George Bush as the “devil” and who frequently railed against the US for providing flawed global leadership.

After meeting Obama, Chávez suggested on Saturday that Venezuela was ready to send an ambassador to Washington, ending a diplomatic impasse which began in September. The summit was also notable for further signs of a thaw in US-Cuban relations.

It is not the first time that Chávez has influenced the readers of the world. Three years ago he publicly praised a Noam Chomsky tome, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, at the United Nations. The book surged to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.

Galeano’s book could provide food for thought in the White House. A highly controversial work, it was banned during periods of military leadership in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. In a famous passage, it argues: “Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others.”

A recent edition contains an introduction by the novelist Isabel Allende, who writes that the book was one of a handful of items she took with her when she fled Chile after a military coup in 1973 along with a bag of dirt from her garden, some family pictures and clothes.

Advisers to Obama suggested, however, that a practical problem may interfere with the president’s enjoyment of the book. When asked whether Obama was likely to read it, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “I think it’s in Spanish, so that might be a tad on the difficult side.”

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

One thought on “Chávez creates a new bestseller”

  1. You know it scares me that Obama may actually need to read that book. I’m mowed down by the beauty of Chávez giving it to him, shaking his hand, smiling at him, and reinstating diplomatic ties, but I am reminded of other times when leaders of those we’d prefer to just eat tried to educate our leaders… clear back to the delegation sent to DC by the Cherokee Nation to help educate the obviously clueless administration there.

    So this makes me queazy.

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