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A conversation with Eduardo Galeano


(Translation of an interview by BBC World as published in El Mostrador of Santiago, Chile, for July 24. Read original in Spanish here)

“This is a violent and deceitful world but we cannot lose hope and enthusiasm for changing it,” Eduardo Galeano declares.

The Uruguayan writer, his continent’s literary historian in works like “The Open Veins of Latin America” and the trilogy “Memories of Fire”, spoke with BBC World on the latest events in Latin America and the world economic crisis.

From his usual table in the centrally located Café Brasilero, leaving the cold of the southern hemisphere winter outside, he insists,”The greatness of humanity is in the small things that are done every day, day in, day out, that nameless people do without knowing they are doing them.”

So he alternates his answers with selections from his latest book, “Los Hijos de los Días”, in which he brings together 366 true stories, one for each day of the year, that contain more truth than does talk about the risk premium.

BBC Mundo

The European crisis is being managed by political leaders who reason on the basis of sacrifices by the people.

It is the same as the reasoning by officers when they send recruits to die, with less smell of gunpowder but no less violence.

This is a systematic plan, on a global scale, to throw two centuries of workers’ gains into the garbage can, so that humanity will regress for the sake of national recovery.

This is a world organized and specialized in the extermination of your neighbor.

And then they come along and condemn the violence of the poor, of the starving; the other violence is applauded, wins decorations.

But if “austerity” is being offered as the only solution?

For whom? If the bankers who created this disaster were, and still are, the principal bank robbers and are rewarded with millions of Euros that they are paid as compensation…

It is a very deceitful and violent world. All this about austerity is an old discourse in Latin America. We were at a stage play once that debuted here and that we already know.

We know it all: the formulas, the magic recipes, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank…

Do you consider the impoverishment of the population to be more violent?

If the war against terrorism were genuine and not a pretext for other purposes, we would have to paper the world with posters that read, “Wanted: the kidnappers of the country, the exterminators of salaries, the murderers of jobs, the traffickers in fear,” who are the most dangerous ones because they condemn you to paralysis.

This is a world that trains you to mistrust your neighbors, to make them a threat and never a promise. They are someone who is going to do you harm and so you have to defend yourself.

That’s how they justify the defense industry, a poetic name for the crime industry.

That is a very clear example of violence.

To move on to Latin American politics, Mexico is still on the streets protesting against the official election results…

The difference in vote counts was not that great and maybe it would be difficult to show that there was fraud.

Nevertheless, there is a deeper, finer fraud, and that is the most damaging to democracy: the fraud committed by politicians who begin by promising the opposite of what they do later once in power. So they are acting against the new generations’ faith in democracy.

Concerning the removal from office of Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, can we speak of a coup d’état if it is based on the laws of the country?

Of course what happened in Paraguay is a coup d’état, plain and simple.

They have brought down the “cura progre” [“leftie priest”] not for what he may have done but for what he could do.

He had not done much but since he was proposing agrarian reform in a country that has the highest level of the concentration of power over land in all of Latin America, and consequently the most unjust inequality, he had had attitudes of national dignity against some all-powerful international companies like Monsanto and had prohibited the introduction of some transgenic seeds…

It was a preventive coup d’état, just in case, not because of what you are but because of what you may do.

Does it surprise you that these situations are still happening?

The current world is very surprising.

Most of the European countries, which seemed to be vaccinated against coups d’état, are now governed by technocrats picked by Goldman Sachs and other large financial companies that have not been voted in by anybody.

Even the language reflects it: the countries, which are supposed to be sovereign and independent, have to do their homework well, as though they were children with tendencies to misbehave, and the teachers are the technocrats who come along and pull their ears.

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