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Issue # 1408      29 April 2009

The book Chavez gave Obama

A few national security partisans realise now there’s more to worry about than guns, bombs and rogue states. That would be ideas, and last week, a book. It’s a “really dangerous one that can put the White House at risk,” warned a not-very-serious David Brooks, the Mexican daily La Jornada’s Washington correspondent. He was referring to the book Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama during the recent Summit of the Americas.

Open Veins of Latin America, written by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano in 1971, is a famous, superbly written account of 500 years of Latin American distress under colonialism and imperialism. The notable Chilean author Isabel Allende writes that on going into exile following the 1973 Pinochet coup in her country, she took along clothes, family pictures, “a small bag of dirt from my garden, and two books: an old edition of the “Odes” by Pablo Neruda and the book with the yellow cover, Open Veins of Latin America.”

“That book has a power that scares many,” Brooks notes. One is Otto Reich, former State Department official under Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush. Quoted on Newsmax.com, Reich opined that the presidential staff “should not have put President Obama in that embarrassing situation because this is very much an anti-US book. Anti-Europe as well.” Galeano is “a far-left Latin American, a very unknown author,” he claimed.

For Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer, the book is “a diatribe whose underlying theme is that Latin America’s poverty is caused by US imperialism.” And Obama showed misplaced appreciation for the gift “considering that Chávez’ gesture was the equivalent of presenting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to an Israeli president.”

Meanwhile, an Air France flight was proceeding from Paris to Mexico City. Writer Hernando Calvo Ospina was on board, citizen of Colombia and resident of France. Calvo Ospina was heading for Nicaragua on behalf of Le Monde Diplomatique. His books include Bacardi: The Hidden War, The Cuban Exile Movement: Dissidents or Mercenaries and most recently, Colombia: Laboratorio de Embrujos [Laboratory of Curses], which analyst James Petras sees as “the most important study of Colombian politics in recent decades.”

Over the North Atlantic, passengers heard the captain’s voice announcing their Mexico City arrival would be delayed five hours, because US air space was off limits. One of their fellow passengers, he explained, “was not welcome because of national security reasons.” Calvo Ospina learned later from the co-pilot he was the offending party.

The airliner took on extra fuel in Martinique. Flight crew members said restrictions on over-flying the United States were new for Air France.

The traveller later caught a flight to Managua, after questioning by immigration officials in Mexico City. Asked about experience with weapons, Calvo Ospina, writing on Rebelion.org, indicated his “only weapon was writing, especially in denouncing the US government which I regarded as terrorist.” His interrogator commented, “That weapon is often worse than rifles and bombs.”

As if in confirmation, Amazon sales rankings of Open Veins of Latin America vaulted overnight from number 54,295 to second place.

People’s Weekly World



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