Look it up in any encyclopedia: what was the first free country in the Americas. The answer is always the same: the United States. But the United States declared its independence when it was a nation with 650,000 slaves that remained slaves for another century and their constitution originally held that a black slave counted as only three-fifths of a citizen.
To justify itself, state terrorism creates terrorists: it sows hatred and harvests alibis. Everything indicates that this bloodbath in Gaza, which its creators claim was designed to eliminate terrorists, will result in a proliferation of them.
Once in office will Obama prove that his bellicose threats against Iran and Pakistan were just words spoken to lure in a certain category of voter during the election? asks Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, the author asks, will Obama make good on his promise to close the sinister prison at Guantanamo? And end the sinister blockade of Cuba? Will Obama sign and abide by the Kyoto agreement, or will he continue to grant impunity to the biggest polluter on the planet? Will he govern for people, or for automobiles? Will he shift the devastating course of a way of life in which the few steal the destiny of the many? Will Obama, the first black president of the United States, realise the dream of Martin Luther King, or the nightmare of Condoleeza Rice? This White House, which is now his house, was built with the labour of black slaves. Let\'s hope he never forgets that.
The world is painting still lifes, forests are dying, the poles are melting, the air is becoming unbreatheable, and the water undrinkable and at the same time Ecuador is debating a new constitution that opens up the possibility for the first time ever of recognising the rights of nature, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire and Mirrors: An Almost Universal History. It sounds odd, doesn\'t it, that nature could have rights? Yet in 1886 the US Supreme Court extended human rights to private corporations. They were recognised as having the same rights as people, the right to life, free expression, privacy, and all the rest. But there is nothing odd or abnormal about the bill that would include the rights of nature in the new Constitution of Ecuador. This country has suffered repeated devastation over its history. To give just one example, for more than a quarter of a century, until 1992, the Texaco oil company vomited 18,000 gallons of poison into the rivers, land, and the people. Once this gesture of beneficence in the Ecuadorean Amazon was completed, the company, which was born in Texas, was married to Standard Oil. By then Rockefeller\'s Standard Oil had changed its name to Chevron and was being run by Condoleezza Rice.
Until a short while ago, the major media were regaling us daily with cheery statistics about the success of international war against poverty, writes Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguyan writer and journalist, and author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire, and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History. In this article, Galeano writes that the World Bank\'s International Comparison Programme has corrected a few of the errors present in earlier reports. Among other things, they inform us that the poorest of the world\'s poor, the so-called \'\'indigent\'\', number 500 million more than had been previously calculated. We also learn that the poor countries are quite a bit poorer than the earlier statistics indicated and that their condition deteriorated while the World Bank was selling them the free-market happy pills. And as if that wasn\'t enough, it turns out that the universal inequality between the rich and the poor was also incorrectly measured, and that planet-wide the abyss between the two is still deeper than that of Brazil, an unjust country if there is one.
A book of mine entitled \'\'Mirrors\'\' is about to be published. It is a sort of -pardon the audacity- universal history. As Oscar Wilde said, \'\'I can resist everything except temptation,\'\' and I confess I have succumbed to the temptation of recounting certain episodes of the human adventure in this world, events that are not well known, writes Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire. In this article, Galeano writes that John Locke, renowned philosopher of liberty, was a shareholder in the Royal Africa Company, which bought and sold slaves. At the dawn of the 18th century, the first of the Bourbons of Spain, Philip V, inaugurated his new throne by signing a contract with his cousin the king of France that allowed the Guinea Company to sell blacks in America. Each king would receive a 25 percent cut of the profits. The names of some of the ships that carried this cargo: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesus, Hope, Equality, and Friendship. Two of the founding fathers of the US disappeared in the fog of official history. No one remembers Robert Carter or Gouverneur Morris. This amnesia is recompense for their acts: Carter was the first of the champions of independence to free his slaves. Morris, one of the authors of the Constitution, opposed the clause stipulating that a slave was equal to just three-fifths of a person. \'\'The Birth of a Nation\'\', the first Hollywood mega-production, premiered in 1915 in the White House. The president, Woodrow Wilson, gave it a standing ovation. His writings were repeatedly quoted in the film, a racist hymn in praise of the Ku Klux Klan.
Uruguay is becoming a world centre of cellulose production, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes that it is a case of export monoculture in the purest colonial tradition: immense artificial plantations that call themselves forests and generate cellulose in an industrial process that floods the rivers with poisons and makes the air unbreathable. As usual, the blessings of nature become the curses of history. Our eucalyptus grows ten times faster than that of Finland, which means that the industrial plantations will be ten times as devastating. At the rate things are going, a large part of the country\'s land will be squeezed until the last drop of water is extracted. It is a tragic paradox: this was the only country in the world that submitted the ownership of water to a plebiscite. An overwhelming majority of Uruguayans decided in 2004 that water was public property. Is there no way to avoid this hijacking of the popular will?
One country bombed two countries. Such impunity might astound were it not business as usual. In the few timid protests made, it was stated that mistakes were made. How much longer will horrors be called mistakes?, asks Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire. In this article, Galeano writes that this slaughter of civilians began with the kidnapping of a soldier. How much longer will the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier be allowed to justify the kidnapping of Palestinian sovereignty? How much longer will the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers be allowed to justify the kidnapping of the entire nation of Lebanon? For centuries the slaughter of Jews was the favourite sport of Europeans. Auschwitz was the natural culmination of an ancient river of terror which had flowed across all of Europe. How much longer will Palestinians and other Arabs be made to pay for crimes they didn`t commit? Those who dare denounce this murder are called anti-semites. How much longer will the critics of state terrorism be considered anti-semites? How much longer will we accept this grotesque form of extortion? Are the Jews who are horrified by what is being done in their name anti-semites? Are Arabs, as Semitic as the Jews, anti-semites? Are there not Arab voices that defend a Palestinian homeland but condemn fundamentalist insanity? Isn`t it clear that in the war between Israel and Hezbolla it is the civilians, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Israeli, that are dying? And isn´t it clear that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the invasion of Gaza and Lebanon are the incubators of hatred, producing fanatic after fanatic after fanatic? We are the only species of animal that specialises in mutual extermination. We devote 2.5 billion dollars per day to military spending. Misery and war are children of the same father. How much longer will we accept that this world so in love with death is the only world possible?
Someone, I don\'t know who, summed up the 2006 World Cup as follows: -The players behaved in an exemplary fashion. They didn\'t drink, they didn\'t smoke, they didn\'t play, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire. Those who from time to time made a goal did not play beautiful football, and those who did, didn\'t score. Africa was edged out early on, and before long Latin America was exiled as well. The World Cup became a Eurocup. The results rewarded what is now called practical sense: high defensive walls and way up front a lone scorer, imploring God for a favour. As is usually the case in football and life, he who plays best loses while he who plays not to lose wins. The finale of penalty shots only added to the injustice. Until 1968, difficult games were decided with the flip of a coin. In a way, this is still true. The penalty shots seemed too much a matter of sheer chance. Argentina was better than Germany, and France was better than Italy, but a few seconds mattered more than two hours of play, and Argentina had to go home and France lost the Cup. ..... There was little imagination on display. The artists left the playing to weight lifters and Olympic runners, who in passing would kick a ball or a rival.
The Berlin Wall made the news every day. From dawn to dusk we read about it, heard about it, and saw it: The Wall of Shame, the Wall of Infamy, the Iron Curtain, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire. In this column, Galeano writes that eventually, this wall, which deserved to fall, fell. But other walls have sprung up, and continue to spring up, and though they are far larger than the Berlin Wall, little or nothing is said about them. Little is said about the wall the United States is erecting along its border with Mexico, or the double razor wire fences around Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. And next to nothing was said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will soon be fifteen times longer than the Berlin Wall. And the Moroccan Wall, which for twenty years has perpetuated Morocco\'s occupation of Western Sahara, goes unmentioned altogether. This wall, continuously mined and surveilled by thousands of soldiers, is sixty times longer than the Berlin Wall. Why is it that some walls are so vocal and others are so mute? Would it be because of the walls of uncommunication that the major media erect each day?
On January 22, 2002, Evo was expelled from Paradise. Or rather: Deputy Morales was thrown out of Parliament. On January 22, 2006, in the same grand chamber, Evo Morales was sworn in as the president of Bolivia. Or rather: Bolivia is beginning to realise that it is a country with an indigenous majority, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes that long before the expulsion of Evo, his people, the indigenous, had been expelled from the official nation. They were not sons of Bolivia; they were merely its labour force. Until just over fifty years ago, the indians could neither vote nor even walk on the sidewalk in cities. It was with good reason that Evo said in his first presidential address that the indians were not invited to the foundation of Bolivia, in 1825. In recent times, Bolivia has experienced a period of popular insurrection. This process of continuous uprisings, which has left a trail of dead, culminated with the Gas War, but went much farther back. It went farther back and stretches far ahead to the election of Evo, against the tempest and tides.
An old proverb teaches that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\' In this article, Galeano writes that a certain Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, who was not born in America but knows it inside out, says that this proverb is true and a good idea, but what happens when they poison the river? he asks. Or if someone buys the river, which used to belong to everyone, and bans fishing? Or what happens when what is happening now happens? Teaching is not enough.
What is natural about these poor-icidal natural disasters? Is their nature so perverse? Or are we mistaking the executioner for the victim? Is it nature that is poisoning the air, polluting the water, razing the forests, and driving the climate into the madhouse? asks Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. The disaster of cyclone Stan in Chiapas would have been only half as severe, experts assert, if the region had still been protected by its forests. In Cancun, where Wilma left nothing standing and beaches stripped of sand, the immense megahotels of the tourist business had annihilated the dunes and mangroves that had protected the coast. And those other hurricanes that sweep desperate people from the South to the North -- are these natural disasters as well? Misfortunes are disguised as acts of fate and presented as natural. But is it natural for a country to condemn its poorest children to gamble their lives chasing hope at the cost of humiliation and rootlessness?
Did Christopher Columbus discover America in 1492? Or was it the Vikings before him? And before the Vikings, what about the people who lived there? Didn\'t they exist? writes Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer and journalist, is the author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes: We have been told, and still are, that it was the pilgrims of the Mayflower that populated America? Was it empty before? Because Columbus didn\'t understand what they were saying, he concluded the Indians didn\'t know how to speak. Because they wore no clothes, were gentle, and gave away everything they had, he concluded they lacked the capacity for reason. And because he was certain of having discovered the Orient by the back door, he believed they were Indians from India. After, during the second voyage, the admiral promulgated an act establishing that Cuba was part of Asia. The document of 14 June 1494 stated as evidence that the crew of their three ships recognised it such. Whoever said otherwise was given thirty lashes, fined 10,000 maravedies, and had his tongue cut out.
Did Christopher Columbus discover America in 1492? Or was it the Vikings before him? And before the Vikings, what about the people who lived there? Didn't they exist? writes Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist and writer, author of ''The Open Veins of Latin America'' and ''Memories of Fire''.
Wars give noble reasons for why they occur: international security, national dignity, democracy, freedom, order, the mandate of Civilisation, or the will of God. Not one has the honesty to confess: I kill to steal, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes that the denial of the evidence, a practice unjustly attributed to drunks, is in fact the most notorious characteristic of the president of the planet, who thank God doesn\'t drink a drop. He continues to sustain, day after day, that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with oil. A certain Lawrence of Arabia wrote from Iraq in 1920: \'\'The people of England have been led to Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be difficult to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information.\'\' I know that history never repeats itself, but sometimes I wonder. And the obsession with Chavez? Does oil have nothing to do with this frenetic campaign to kill in the name of democracy the dictator who won nine clean elections? And the continuous alarms raised about the nuclear threat from Iran, are they unrelated to the fact that the country has among the largest natural gas reserves in the world?
\'\'NEW YORK, MADRID, LONDON: TERRORISM STRIKES ANEW.\'\' This was the headline of many of the world\'s newspapers reporting the recent explosions in London. They didn\'t mention either Afghanistan or Iraq. Weren\'t --aren\'t-- the bombings there terrorist attacks as well, which in the case of Iraq occur daily? asks Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes that the military industry needs to produce fear to justify its existence. It is a vicious circle: the world becomes a slaughterhouse which becomes a madhouse which becomes a slaughterhouse ... Iraq, bombarded, occupied, humiliated, becomes the preeminent school for crime of our day. Its invaders, who call themselves liberators, have set up there the world\'s most prolific nursery of terrorists. \'\'The Devil provides the weapons.\'\' At last a true saying. God couldn\'t be such a bastard. It must be the Devil that provides the weapons, or at least the weapons of mass destruction, the real ones, the ones Iraq didn\'t have and that are ripping the world apart: the bombardment of lies from the factories of public opinion; the chemical weapons of consumer society that are maddening the climate and polluting the air; the poison gas from the factories of fear that make us accept the unacceptable and turn indignity into a feature of destiny; the deadly impunity of the serial killers become heads of state; the double-edged swords of the major powers which multiply in tandem poverty and arguments against poverty while they sow anti-personnel mines and sell prostheses, and rain from the sky bombs and contracts for the reconstruction of the countries they annihilate.
It was in prison that this adventure in freedom was born. In the jail of Seville, \'\'where every discomfort has its place and every sad sound its home\'\', Don Quixote of La Mancha was engendered, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, and author of \"The Open Veins of Latin America\" and \"Memories of Fire\". In this article, Galeano writes that every person contains other possible people, and each world contains its anti-world. This hidden promise, the world that we need, is no less real than the world we know and suffer. This truth is well-known, and fully lived, by the beaten down who still practice the madness of returning to the path, time and time again, because they continue to believe that the path is a challenge that awaits them, and because they continue to believe that righting wrongs is a worthy folly. The impossible helps the possible come to pass. To put it in terms of Don Quixote\'s pharmacy: the magic of this balm of Fierabras is so powerful that at times it saves us from the curse of fatalism and the plague of despair. Isn\'t this, in the end, the great paradox of the human voyage on this earth, that the navigator steers by the stars though he knows he will never reach them?
In a world organised around the daily confirmation of the power of the powerful, nothing is rarer that the coronation of the humiliated and the humiliation of the crowned. But in football, at times, this rarest of events does happen, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and novelist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In today\'s world many people find football the only area of identity in which they recognise themselves and in which they really believe. Whatever the reasons may be, collective dignity has a lot to do with the passage of a ball flying through the air. The results of this therapy are quite surprising: it seems capable of reviving lost feelings of fraternity and belonging: sports, especially football, is one of the few places that can provide shelter to those who have no place in the world, and it contributes significantly to re-establishing bonds of solidarity broken by the culture of alienation/separation that is dominant in today\'s world.
A few days before the election of the president of the planet in North America, in South America elections and a plebiscite were held a little-known, almost secret country called Uruguay. In these elections, for the first time in the country\'s history, the left won; and in the plebiscite, for the first time in world history, the privatisation of water was rejected by popular vote, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\'. In this article, Galeano writes that it will not be easy. Reality will promptly remind us of the inevitable distance between the desired and the possible. The left is coming to power in a shattered country which in the distant past was at the vanguard of universal progress but today is one of the furthest behind, deep in debt and subjected to the international financial dictatorship. Today we have very little manoeuvring room. But what is usually difficult, even impossible, can be imagined and even achieved if we join together with neighbouring countries, just as we have joined together with our neighbours. The winners have a tremendous burden of responsibility, for those who voted and those who they voted for. This rebirth of faith and revival of happiness must be watched over carefully. We should recall every day how right Carlos Quijano was, who said that sins against hope are the only sins beyond forgiveness and redemption.
A strange dictator this Hugo Chavez -- both suicidal and masochistic. He created a constitution that allows the people to throw him out and then risked this very outcome in the first recall referendum in the history of Venezuela, writes Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and novelist and author of \'\'The Open Veins of Latin America\'\' and \'\'Memories of Fire\'\' He was not punished, Galeano writes in this article. Indeed, it was the eighth election Chavez had won in five years. Obedient to his own constitution, Chavez accepted the referendum, which was called for by the opposition, and placed his fate in the hands of the people: \'\'You decide.\'\' Until now, presidents interrupted their terms of office only in the event of death, a putsch, an uprising, or a parliamentary decision. The referendum introduced a novel form of direct democracy. It was an extraordinary event: How many presidents, anywhere in the world, would dream of doing what Chavez did? And how many would continue to be president after doing so?