When I heard that Chavez had gifted Obama the Marxists’ loser-game screed, The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano (go ahead, look for it if you want it), all I could think of was Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s book, Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot which was first published in Spanish, Manual Del Perfecto Idiota Latinamericano, where Vargas Llosa, along with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza and Carlos Alberto Montaner debunked much of the nonsense that passes for political analysis in Latin America.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who thought about it. Mary O’Grady was saying,
Too bad Mr. Obama didn’t have a copy of the late 1990s bestseller “The Perfect Latin American Idiot” as a gift for Mr. Chávez.
As it turns out, Alvaro wrote the chapter dealing with Galeano’s book, and now Alvaro updates his message:
The author claims that relations between Latin America and rich countries have been so pernicious that “everything … has always been transmuted into European–and later United States–capital.” Actually, for years that relationship has transmuted into the exact opposite: Latin American capital. In the last seven years alone, Latin America has benefited from $300 billion in net capital flows. In other words, a lot more capital came in than went out.
The book rails against the international division of labor, in which “some countries specialize in winning and others in losing.” That division of labor in the Western Hemisphere has not changed–Latin American countries still export commodities–and yet in the last six years, poverty in the region has been reduced to about one-third of the population, from just under half. This means that 40 million were lifted out of that hideous condition. Not to mention the 400 million pulled out of poverty in other “losing” nations worldwide in the last couple of decades.
The author pontificates that “raw materials and food are destined for rich countries that benefit more from consuming them more than Latin America does from producing them.” Sorry, amigo, but the story of this decade is that Latin America has made a killing sending exports abroad–the region has had a current account surplus for many years. Rich countries are so annoyed with all the things poor countries are exporting to them that they are asking their governments to “protect” them in the name of fair trade. The “buy American” clause in the fiscal stimulus package approved by Congress a few weeks ago is a case in point. The U.S. had a trade deficit of more than $800 billion last year. The poor, if I may echo Galeano’s hemophilic language, are sucking the veins of the rich.
The book claims that for years “the endless chain of dependency has been endlessly extended.” The story now is that the rich depend on the poor. That is why the Chinese have $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds! The book’s jeremiad goes on to say that “the well-being of our dominant classes … is the curse of our multitudes condemned to exist as beasts of burden.” One of the few countries that exemplifies that curse is the author’s beloved Cuba, where a worker cannot be paid directly by a foreign company employing him or her; the money goes to the government, which in turn pays the worker one-tenth of the salary–in nonconvertible local currency.
Galeano’s mathematics are hugely entertaining. He states that the average income of U.S. citizens is “seven times that of a Latin American and grows 10 times faster.” The gap has actually shrank, dear comrade. Many “poor” countries in modern times have seen their income gap with the Unites States narrow dramatically. Thailand and Indonesia have seen theirs cut almost by half in three decades.
The book’s Malthusian predictions invite no less compassion than its economic forecasts. Overpopulation, Galeano maintains, will mean that “in the year 2000 there will be 650 million Latin Americans,” the implication being that the region will starve. In 2000, the region’s population was 30 percent smaller than the author predicted.
Go read every word.
Someone send Pres. Obama the Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, please.
Free Marketeros rip to shreds the Galeano book.