[News] Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Apr 19 11:00:44 EDT 2009

Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama

Sales surge for book about history of Latin 
America's exploitation after exchange at summit of Americas

Chavez gives a book to Obama during the Summit of the Americas

Hugo Chavez gives Barack Obama a copy of Las 
Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins 
of Latin America) by author Eduardo Galeano 
during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas Photograph: Ho/REUTERS

A 36-year-old historical tract attacking the 
imperialist exploitation of Latin America has 
become an improbable overnight bestseller after 
the Venezuelan president 
Chávez abruptly presented a copy to 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/barack-obama>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 
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 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/chile>Chile, 
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."

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