The right to dream


© Colin Robson

Who knows how the world will be in 2025! But one thing is certain: if we are still around, all of us will be people of the last century.

However, although we cannot divine the world that will be, we can well imagine the one we would like there to be. The right to dream does not figure in the 30 human rights which the United Nations proclaimed at the end of 1948. But if it were not for this, or for the waters it gives us to drink, the other rights would die of thirst.

Allow me, readers, the madness of inventing the future. The world that is upside down dreams that it lands on its feet:

In the streets, cars will be run-over by dogs.

The air will be free of all the poisons of machines, and there will be no other contamination than that which issues from human fear and human passions.

The television set will stop being the most important member of the family and will be treated like the ironing board or the washing machine.

The boys who don’t want to do military service will not be arrested – those who do will.

People will work to live, not live to work.

No illness will be called mortal, because life itself is mortal.

Economists will not confuse the standard of living with the level of consumption, nor the quality of life with the quantity of things.

Historians will not believe that countries enjoy being invaded.

Politicians will not believe that the poor enjoy eating shit.

Cooks will not believe that lobsters delight in being boiled alive.

Street kids won’t be treated like rubbish, because there won’t be street kids.

Rich kids will not be treated like money, because there won’t be rich kids.

Education will not be the privilege of those who can pay for it.

Police repression will not be the curse of those who cannot buy it.

There will be no ‘legitimate’ offspring and ‘natural’ offspring, because we are all natural.

A black woman will be President of Brazil and another black woman will be President of the United States of America. An Indian woman will govern Guatemala; another will govern Peru.

In Argentina, the crazy women of the Plaza de Mayo will be exemplars of mental health , because they refused to forget in times of amnesia.

The Holy Mother Church will correct a few of the Lord’s mistakes. The sixth commandment, which prohibits the pleasures of sex, will demand: ‘Celebrate the body’. The ninth, which mistrusts desire, will declare it sacred.

The Church will also dictate an eleventh commandment, which God forgot: ‘You will love Nature, to which you belong’.

The ardent man will not be a champion, and the ardent woman will not be a whore, for no-one in the world will be turned off.

Uruguayan poet-historian Eduardo Galeano has written several classics including The Open Veins of Latin America and Memory of Fire. This article first appeared in our July 1995 issue.

The realm of magic


Colombian Pacho Marturana, a man with vast experience in these battles, says that football is a magical realm where anything can happen. And this World Cup has confirmed his words: it was an unusual World Cup.

The 10 stadiums where the Cup was played were unusual, beautiful, immense, and cost a fortune. Who knows how South Africa will be able to keep these cement behemoths operating, a multimillion-dollar waste that is easy to explain but hard to justify in one of the most unjust countries in the world.

Certain cardiologists warned us, in the press, that excessive happiness could be dangerous to our health. Many Uruguayans, who seem condemned to die of boredom, celebrated this risk

The Adidas ‘Jabulani’ ball was unusual, slippery and half mad, fled hands and disobeyed feet. It was introduced despite the fact that the players didn’t like it at all. But from their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they dont propose. That’s their way.

It was also unusual that finally the all-powerful bureaucracy of FIFA at least recognized, after so many years, that it would have to find a way to help the referees in decisive plays. It isn’t much, but it’s something. And it was time. Even these voluntarily deaf functionaries must have been able to hear the racket set off by the errors of certain referees, which reached the level of horror in the final game. Why must we see on television what the referees didn’t or perhaps were unable to see? Common sense calls out: almost all other sports, basketball, tennis, baseball, and even fencing and car racing, normally use technology to resolve doubts. Not football. Referees are authorized to consult an antique invention called a ‘watch’ to measure the duration of games and extra time, but no more. And the justification provided for this policy would be comical if it weren’t so obviously suspect: error is a part of the game, they say, leaving us dumbfounded as they discover that to err is human.

It was unusual that just a few rounds into the first African World Cup in history, no African country, the host included, was left in the running. Only Ghana survived until its defeat by Uruguay in the most moving game of the whole competition.

It was unusual that the majority of the African teams retained their agility and yet lost their inventiveness and daring. Many ran but few danced. Some believe that the coaches of these teams, almost all European, had a hand in this general chilling of their play. If this is the case, they did no favour to a game that promised so much joy and exuberance. Africa sacrificed its virtues in the name of efficiency, but there was a distinct lack of efficiency.

From their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they don't propose. That’s their way

It was unusual that certain African players were able to excel, but in European teams. When Ghana played Germany, the Boateng brothers were playing against one another, one in the Ghanaian jersey, the other in the German. Of the members of the Ghanaian team, not one played in the local Ghanaian championship. Yet everyone on the German team played in the German local championship. Like Latin America, Africa exports manual- and foot-labour.

The best save of the championship was unusual. It wasn’t made by a goalie but a striker. Using both hands, right at the goal line, Uruguayan Luis Suarez stopped a ball that would have taken his team out of the tournament. Thanks to this act of patriotic madness, he was expelled but his team was not.

The voyage of Uruguay was unusual, from its lows to its highs. Our country, which qualified for the World Cup in last place, and barely, after a difficult classification, played with dignity, never quitting, and ended up being one of the best teams. Certain cardiologists warned us, in the press, that excessive happiness could be dangerous to our health. Many Uruguayans, who seem condemned to die of boredom, celebrated this risk, and the streets of the country ignited in a giant party. In the end, the right to celebrate one’s own accomplishments is always preferable to the pleasure that some take in the misfortune of others.

The majority of the African teams retained their agility and yet lost their inventiveness and daring. Many ran but few danced

We finished in fourth place, which isn’t so bad for the only country that kept the championship from turning into simply a Eurocup. And it is no accident that Diego Forlan was elected best player of the championship.

It was unusual for the champion and runner-up of the last World Cup to go home without opening their luggage.

In 2006, Italy and France met at the final game. This time they met at the exit of the airport. In Italy there was an outcry of criticism of playing football in a way intended mostly to keep a rival from playing. In France, the disaster provoked a political crisis and incited racist fury because almost all of the players who sang the Marseillaise in South Africa were black.

In France, the disaster provoked a political crisis and incited racist fury because almost all of the players who sang the Marseillaise in South Africa were black

Other favourites, like England, didn’t last long either. Brazil and Argentina were cruelly humiliated. Half a century earlier, the Argentinean team was showered with coins returning home from a disastrous World Cup, but this time it was welcomed by an adoring crowd that believes in more important things than success or failure.

It was unusual that the most acclaimed and awaited superstars didn’t rise to the occasion. Lionel Messi wanted to be there, did what he could, and was seen for a bit. And they say that Cristiano Ronaldo was there, but no one saw him: perhaps he was too busy looking at himself.

It was unusual that a new star rose unexpected from the depths of the sea and reached the heights of the football firmament: an octopus who lives in an aquarium in Germany where he makes his predictions. His name is Paul but he may as well be called Octodamus. Before each of the games of the World Cup, he was given a choice between mussels wearing flags of the competing teams. He always ate the mussels of the winning team and never made a mistake.

This eight-legged oracle had a decisive effect on the betting and was heeded around the world with religious reverence, loved and hated, and even slandered by a resentful few, like myself, who came to suspect, without proof, that the octopus was corrupt.

It was unusual that at the end of the competition, justice was done, which is infrequent in both football and life.

They say that Cristiano Ronaldo was there, but no one saw him: perhaps he was too busy looking at himself

For the first time ever, Spain won the World Cup.

It had waited almost a century.

The octopus has announced it and Spain did away with my suspicions: it won cleanly, it was the best team of the tournament, because of its hard work and its solidarity on the field, one for all and all for one, and because of the stunning ability of the little magician named Andres Iniesta.

He proved that sometimes, in the magical realm of football, there is justice.

Sometimes, in the magical realm of football, there is justice

When the World Cup started, I mounted on the door of my house a card saying, Closed for football. When I removed it one month later, I had watched 64 games, beer in hand, without moving from my preferred chair.

This feat left me a wreck, my muscles aching, my throat shot, and yet I am already nostalgic.

I am already beginning to miss the unbearable litany of the vuvuzelas, the emotion of the goals warned of by the cardiologist, the beauty of the best plays replayed in slow motion. And the celebration and the mourning, because at times football is a joy that hurts, and the music played to celebrate a victory that would make the dead dance sounds very close to the clamorous silence of the empty stadium, where night has fallen, and one of those defeated is still sitting, unable to move, alone in the vast sea of steps.

Copyright IPS

Eduardo Galeano is a Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History.

Pardon the disturbance

Eduardo Galeano

I want to share a few questions, a few flies buzzing in my head.

Is justice just? In this upside-down world, is she still on her feet?

The cobbler of Iraq, the man who threw his shoes at George Bush, was sentenced to three years in prison. Shouldn’t he be given an award instead?

Who is the terrorist? Isn’t the guilty party the serial killer who invented the Iraq war out of lies, who assassinated a people, who legalized and ordered the use of torture?

And what of the people of Atenco, Mexico, or the indigenous Mapuches of Chile or Kekchies of Guatemala or the landless peasants of Brazil – all accused of terrorism for defending their right to the land – are they all guilty? If the land is sacred – though the law does not recognize it as such – are not those who defend it sacred too?

According to Foreign Policy magazine, Somalia is the most dangerous place on earth. But who are the pirates? The starving people who attack ships or the Wall Street speculators who rob the world for years and years and now receive millions in compensation for their efforts?

Why does the world reward those who pillage it? Why is justice blind in one eye?

Wal-Mart, the most powerful company in the world, bars its workers from unionizing. So does McDonald’s. Why do these companies flout international law, consistently and with impunity? Is it because in the world today labour is worth less than garbage and workers’ rights are worth even less?

Who are the just and who the unjust? If international justice really exists, why are the powerful never judged and sent away? Why are the authors of the most horrendous carnage never arrested? Is it because they hold the keys to the prisons?

Why are the five countries with veto power on the UN Security Council untouchable? Are they protected by some divine right? Do they use peace as a fig leaf to cloak the business of war? Is it right that world peace is entrusted to the five largest arms-producing nations? Not to insult drug traffickers, but isn’t this also a case of ‘organized’ crime?

And why do those who call for the death penalty never demand punishment for the warmongers? They rage against those who kill with knives but not those who murder with missiles.

If these crusaders of justice are so eager to kill, why don’t they demand the death penalty for social injustice? Is a world just when it spends three million dollars a minute on the military while 15 children die of hunger or incurable disease in the same time?

And why isn’t the death penalty invoked against death itself? The world is organized at the service of death. Doesn’t the military industry, which devours the lion’s share of our resources and so much of our energy, simply manufacture death? The lords of the world only condemn violence when others practise it. We humans are the only animal specialized in mutual extermination and we have developed a technology of destruction that is gradually annihilating the planet and all of its inhabitants.

This technology is fed by fear. The sowers of panic condemn us to solitude and ban solidarity: it’s each for his own, a state of ‘all against all’, in which your neighbour is suspect and constant vigilance is the rule. This guy will rob you, that one will rape you, the baby carriage hides a Muslim bomb and the innocent-looking woman to your right will give you swine flu if she looks at you.

In an upside-down world, fear pervades the most elemental acts of justice and common sense. When President Evo Morales began the reformation of Bolivia, so that this majority-indigenous country could stop being ashamed to look at itself in the mirror, panic erupted. This challenge was catastrophic from the point of view of the traditional racist order, which presented itself as the only order possible. Evo, it was claimed, unleashed chaos and violence and it was his fault that national unity was about to shatter.

And when the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, announced that he was refusing to pay illegitimate debts, the news triggered panic in the financial world. Ecuador was threatened with ghastly punishments for setting such a bad example. If military dictatorships and thieving politicians have always been coddled by the international banking industry, haven’t we accepted it yet that the people pay for the club they are beaten with and for the greed that robs them blind?

But weren’t justice and common sense born together, joined at the hip?

Isn’t it common sense what feminists say – that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be free? Why isn’t there a right to abortion? Is it because it would then no longer be the privilege of women who can pay for it and doctors who can charge for it?

It is the same with another scandalous denial of justice and common sense: the legalization of drugs. Isn’t this, like abortion, an issue of public health? Does the country with the largest number of drug addicts have the moral authority to condemn those who supply their habit? And why do the media, so devoted to the war against drugs, never say that most of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan? Who rules Afghanistan? Isn’t the country under military occupation by the messianic country with the self-appointed mission of saving the rest of the world?

Why aren’t drugs legalized once and for all? Because they provide the best excuse for military invasions, as well as mouth-watering profits for the big banks that dedicate their nights to laundering money?

In Lewis Carroll’s book, the Queen explains to Alice how justice works in Wonderland, in the case of the King’s messenger: ‘He’s in prison now being punished and the trial doesn’t even begin till next Wednesday; and of course the crime comes last of all.’

In El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero confirmed that justice, like the snake, only bites those who don’t have shoes. He was murdered for denouncing the fact that in his country the unshod are born condemned, for the crime of being born.

Isn’t the outcome of the recent elections in El Salvador a sort of homage to Archbishop Romero and the thousands who, like him, died fighting for a just justice in the reign of injustice?

Sometimes the histories of History end badly; but History herself does not end. When she says goodbye, she means see you later. 

Eduardo Galeano is a Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History. © IPS

Israel's eternal impunity


To justify itself, state terrorism creates terrorists: it sows hatred and harvests alibis. Everything indicates that the bloodbath in Gaza, which its creators claim was designed to eliminate terrorists, will result in a proliferation of them. Since 1948 Palestinians have lived in perpetual humiliation. They can't breathe without permission. They have lost their country, their land, their water, their freedom, their everything.

They don't even have the right to elect their own leaders: when they vote for someone they aren't supposed to vote for, they are punished. Gaza is being punished. It has been transformed into a rat's nest without an exit since Hamas fairly won the 2006 elections. Something similar occurred in 1932 when the Communist Party won in El Salvador. Drenched in blood, Salvadoreans paid for their misbehaviour and since that time have lived under military dictatorships. Democracy is a luxury that not all peoples deserve.


The homemade rockets that the militants of Hamas blindly launch into land that used to be theirs and was usurped by the Israeli occupation, are the offspring of impotence. And desperation, bordering on suicidal madness, is the mother of the futile boasting that denies the existence of the state of Israel – while an extremely efficient war of extermination has been denying Palestine’s right to exist for years.

Little of Palestine remains. Bit by bit Israel is erasing it from the map.

The settlers invade, accompanied by soldiers who correct the borders as they go. Bullets sanctify the pillage, in legitimate defence.

There is no war of aggression that doesn't claim to be a defensive war. Hitler invaded Poland to prevent Poland from invading Germany. Bush invaded Iraq to keep Iraq from invading the world. In each of its defensive wars, Israel swallows up another piece of Palestine and the snacking continues. This process is justified with land deeds granted by the Bible, by the 2000 years of persecution that the Jewish people suffered and the panic generated by the sight of Palestinians lying in ambush.


Israel is the country that has never complied with UN resolutions or recommendations, never abides by judgements of international courts and mocks international law. It is also the only country that has legalized the torture of prisoners.

What gives them the right to deny the rights of others? Who is granting them the impunity with which they are carrying out the slaughter of Gaza? The Spanish government couldn't bomb the Basque region to wipe out ETA, or Britain invade Ireland to liquidate the IRA, with impunity. Perhaps the tragedy of the Holocaust introduced a policy of eternal impunity? Or is it the all-powerful US that gave the green light and has in Israel the most unfailing of vassals.


The Israeli army, the most sophisticated and modern in the world, knows whom to kill. It doesn't kill by error. It kills for horror. The civilian victims are referred to as 'collateral damage', according to the dictionary of other imperial wars. In Gaza, three of every ten instances of collateral damage are children. Then there are thousands of wounded and disabled, victims of the technology of human butchery that the military industry is successfully applying in this operation of ethnic cleansing.

And as usual – it is always this way – in Gaza for every hundred Palestinians killed one Israeli is killed.

‘These Palestinians are dangerous people’ is the message rained down by the other parallel bombardment, by the mass media of manipulation, which would have us believe that one Israeli life is worth that of one hundred Palestinians. These media would also have us believe that Israel’s 200 atomic bombs are humanitarian and that it was a nuclear power named Iran that annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Does the so-called 'international community' exist?

And if so is it anything more than merchants, bankers and warriors? Is it anything more than an artistic name the US uses on the world stage?

In the face of the tragedy of Gaza world hypocrisy shines once again. As usual, indifference, empty speeches, vapid declarations, high-sounding rhetoric, ambiguous positions pay tribute to sacred impunity.

In the face of the tragedy of Gaza the Arab countries wash their hands – as usual. And as usual the European countries wring their hands.

Old Europe, with such a gift for beauty and perversity, weeps one tear after another, while secretly celebrating this masterful game. Because hunting Jews was always a European custom, though for half a century now the Palestinians have been paying the price for this historic crime. The Palestinians, who are also Semites but who were never, and are not, anti-semitic, are paying in their own blood and money some else's debt.


(This article is dedicated to my Jewish friends assassinated by Latin American dictatorships that Israel supported)

Eduardo Galeano is a Uruguayan writer and journalist and author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History.

Let us hope

Hope was a key word in the campaign of newly elected US President Barack Obama. Americans and citizens around the world were stirred by Obama’s oratorical prowess and his vision of change. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano argues that hope is now more important than ever if Obama is to meet the expectations of his supporters.

Students sign a message board dedicated to President-elect Barack Obama in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, November 6, 2008.

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Hope was a key word in the campaign of newly elected US President Barack Obama. Americans and citizens around the world were stirred by Obama’s oratorical prowess and his vision of change. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano argues that hope is now more important than ever if Obama is to meet the expectations of his supporters.

Once in office will Barack 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?

Let's hope so. And let's hope he isn't for a moment tempted to repeat the exploits of George W Bush. After all, the incoming US President had the dignity to vote against the war in Iraq while the Republican and Democratic parties cheered the announcement of this bloodbath.

During his campaign, ‘leadership’ was the most frequently used word in Obama's speeches. As President will he continue to believe that his country was chosen to save the world, a toxic idea that he shares with almost all of his colleagues? Will he continue to assert that the US is the leader of the world and believe in its messianic mission to command?

Let's hope that the current crisis, which is shaking the imperial foundations, will at least serve to provide the new government with a healthy dose of realism and humility.

Will Obama accept that racism is permissible when practised against countries that his country invades? Is it not racism to meticulously tally the deaths of the invaders of Iraq while ignoring with Olympian arrogance the far larger number of Iraqi dead? Isn't it racist that the world has first, second, and third class citizens and first, second, and third class dead?

Barack Obama's victory was universally celebrated as a victory in the battle against racism. Let us hope that from his first acts as president he accepts and lives up to this beautiful responsibility. Will the Obama administration confirm yet again that Democrat and Republican are two names for the same party?

Let us hope that the will for change that these elections have consecrated is more than just a promise and a hope. May the new administration have the courage to break with the tradition of the single party disguised as two that at the hour of truth behave almost identically while they pretend to be fighting one another.

Will Obama make good on his promise to close the sinister prison at Guantanamo? Let us hope so – and that he will end the sinister blockade of Cuba.

Will Obama continue to believe that it is a good idea to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep Mexicans from crossing into the US while vast sums of money move across without ever showing a passport?

During the campaign Obama never candidly discussed the subject of immigration. Let us hope that from today on, no longer having to worry about losing votes, he will be able and willing to abandon this idea of the wall – which would be far longer and more shameful than the Berlin Wall – and indeed all walls that violate people's freedom of movement.

Once President will Obama, who enthusiastically supported the recent gift of 700 billion dollars to the banking industry, continue the usual practice of privatizing profits while socialising losses? I fear that he will, though I hope that he won't.

Will Obama sign and abide by the Kyoto agreement or will he continue allow the biggest polluter on the planet to pollute with impunity? 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? I fear he won't, though I hope he will.

Will Barack 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.

Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is the author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History.

The Eighth Commandment – Lies

Eduardo Galeano

Until a short while ago, the mainstream media were regaling us daily with cheery statistics about the international war against poverty. Poverty, it was reported, was beating a retreat, though the poor, ill-informed, didn’t hear the good news. Now, however, the best-paid bureaucrats of the planet are confessing that they were the ones who had it wrong.

The World Bank has made known that its International Comparison Programme (which seeks to measure the relative social and economic well-being of the world's countries) has been brought up to date. The Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development are all part of the initiative.

In the new findings, the experts correct 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.

Poverty, it was reported, was beating a retreat, though the poor, ill-informed, didn’t hear the good news

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 weren'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 ever there was one.

Another Lie

At the same time, an ex-Vice President of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, in a book written with Linda Bilmes, has investigated the costs of the Iraq War.

President George Bush had announced that the war might cost at most about $50 billion, which at first glance didn’t seem too high a price for the conquest of such an oil-rich country.

In round numbers – perhaps squared is the more accurate term – the slaughter in Iraq has now lasted more than five years and in this period the US has spent $1,000 billion killing innocent civilians. From above the clouds the bombs kill without knowing whom as, beneath the shroud of smoke, the dead die without knowing what for. The figure cited by Bush only paid for about a trimester of crimes and speeches. The figure lied, in the service of this war that was born of a lie and has been generating more lies ever since.

And Another Lie

After the entire world knew that in Iraq there were no weapons of mass destruction other than those used by its invaders, the war continued, although the pretexts for it had been forgotten. Then, on 14 December 2005, journalists asked how many Iraqi civilians had been killed in the first two years of the war.

And President Bush spoke of the issue for the first time. He answered: ‘About 30,000, more or less.’ And then he made a joke, confirming his ever-tasteful sense of comic timing, and the journalists had a good laugh.

The following year he repeated the figure. He didn’t clarify that this 30,000 referred only to civilian Iraqi deaths that had been reported in newspapers. The real number was far higher, as he well knew, because the majority of deaths are not reported. He also knew that the victims included many children and old people.

This was the only information provided by the US Government on the results of its practice of openly firing on Iraqi civilians. The invader country keeps a close tally only of its own dead. The others are the enemy, or collateral damage, and do not deserve to be counted. Anyway, counting them would be dangerous: the mountain of dead bodies might give the wrong impression.

And then some truth

Bush was still taking his first steps as President when, on 27 July 2001, he asked his fellow citizens: ‘Can you imagine a country that was unable to grow enough food to feed the people? It would be a nation that would be subject to international pressure. It would be a nation at risk. And so when we’re talking about American agriculture, we're really talking about a national security issue.’

This time the President wasn’t lying. He was defending the fabulous subsidies that protected his country’s fields. ‘American agriculture’ meant, and still means, nothing more than the ‘Agriculture of the United States’.

But it is Mexico, another American country, which best illustrates his insight from that 27 July. Since it signed the free-trade agreement with the US, Mexico has not grown enough food to meet the needs of its population and has been exposed to international pressures, making it a vulnerable nation whose national security is in grave danger.

Today Mexico buys from the United States $10 billion worth of food that it could have produced itself; Washington’s protectionist subsidies make competition from other countries impossible; Mexican tortillas are Mexican only inasmuch as they are eaten by Mexicans – the corn they are made from is imported from and subsidized by the US, and is transgenic to boot.

The free-trade treaty promised prosperity from trade, but Mexico’s primary export has been the ruined peasant farmers that emigrate north.

Some countries know how to defend themselves – only a few. And those few are rich. Other countries are trained to work towards their own ruin – almost all of the others, that is.

*Eduardo Galeano* is the author of The Open Veins of Latin America, Memories of Fire, and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History. © IPS

Errant paradox

Eduardo Galeano

Reading the paper each day is a sort of history class. The papers teach through both what they say and what they don't.
History is an errant paradox. It is the contradictions that keep its legs moving. Maybe this is why its silences say more than its words, and frequently its words reveal when they are lying.
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, from the point of view of those who were left out of the picture.
To put it another way, it has to do with events that are not well known.
I'll set out a few here, just a few.

* * *

When they were evicted from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve moved to Africa, not Paris. Some time later, when their children had embarked on their ways in the world, writing was invented. In Iraq, not Texas.
Algebra was invented in Iraq too, by Mohammed al Jwarizmi, 1,200 years ago, and the word 'algorithm' was derived from his name.
The three novelties that made the European Renaissance possible – the compass, gunpowder and the printing press – were invented by the Chinese, who also invented almost everything that Europe reinvented.
The Hindus knew before anybody else that the world was round, and the Mayans created the most precise calendar ever devised.

* * *

The tallest monument in Argentina was erected in honour of General Roca, who exterminated the Indians of Patagonia in the 19th century.
The largest avenue in Uruguay bears the name of General Rivera, who exterminated the last Charrua Indians in the 19th century.

* * *

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-per-cent cut of the profits. The names of some of the ships that carried this cargo: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesus, Hope, Equality, Friendship.
Two of the founding fathers of the United States 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.

* * *

A few dates: From the year 1234 and through the next seven centuries, the Catholic Church barred women from singing in church. Their voices were considered impure, because of the incident in the Garden of Eden.
Until 1986 it was legal in English schools to punish children with belts, sticks and clubs.

* * *

In the name of freedom, equality and fraternity the French Revolution proclaimed in 1793 the Declaration of the Rights of Men and the Citizen. Shortly after, the militant woman revolutionary Olympe de Gouges proposed the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen. She was executed by guillotine.

* * *

The Christian Emperor Theodora never said she was a revolutionary or anything of the sort. But 1,500 years ago, thanks to her, the Byzantine Empire became the first place in the world where women had the right to abortion and divorce.

* * *

Lootie was the first Pekinese dog to reach Europe. He travelled to London in 1860. The English baptized him thus because he was part of the loot taken from China after the two prolonged opium wars.
In the name of freedom, freedom of trade, Paraguay was annihilated in 1870. At the end of a five-year war, this country, the only country of the Americas that didn't owe anyone a cent, inaugurated its foreign debt. Its very first loan reached it in smoking ruins. It was destined to pay gigantic reparations to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Thus the assassinated country paid its assassins for their service.

* * *

In 1936 the International Olympic Committee did not tolerate insolence. In the Games of that year, organized by Hitler, the Peruvian football team defeated the team from Austria, the Führer's birthplace, 4-2. The Olympic Committee annulled the game.

* * *

In 1953 a labour protest erupted in communist East Germany. The workers flooded the streets and Soviet tanks were deployed to shut their mouths. Bertolt Brecht had this suggestion: 'Wouldn't it be easier if the Government simply dissolves the people and elects another?'

* * *

Thousands of years before the US invasion brought civilization to Iraq, this barbaric land bequeathed the world the first love poem of world history. Inscribed in the Sumerian language in clay, the poem tells of the encounter of a goddess and a shepherd. For that night Inanna, the goddess, loved as if she had been mortal. Dumuzi, the shepherd, was for that night immortal.

Uruguayan writer *Eduardo Galeano* is author of _The Open Veins of Latin America_ and _Memories of Fire_.

We are football

Eduardo Galeano

More than 50 years have passed since Uruguay won the World Cup in the immense stadium in Maracanã, Brazil. Ever since, betrayed by reality, we have sought solace in memory. If we could learn from this, all would be well. But that isn't the case: we take refuge in nostalgia when we feel that we have been abandoned by hope because hope requires daring and nostalgia requires nothing.

* * *

Bebe Coppola, a hairdresser by trade, was also the head coach of the football team of the town of Nico Pérez. The ideological orientation he provided his team with went as follows: ball on the ground, strikers open, and good luck lads.

Bebe Coppola had nothing to do with Maracanã. But it was as if they were listening to him; the Uruguayans played so simply, so well, in that final in 1950. More than half a century later everything is reversed. When we play football now (God have mercy) our strikers, forwards and our wings don't fly any more; in fact they seem to be sleepwalking around the centre of the pitch. Our playing is closed, stingy and heavy, and our luck is bad. Truth be told, we don't help ourselves much, though we have an abundance of eminent analysts ready to provide brilliant explanations for each disaster we make.

* * *

In that final in Maracanã, Uruguay committed but half the number of fouls that Brazil did. Now, more than 50 years later, there are scores of Uruguayans on and off the field who mistake fouling for courage. In international games there is no shortage of fired-up presenters and howling fans who used to shout: ‘Shoot, shoot!’ and now scream, ‘Kill him, kill him!’ There are even sports commentators who long for what they call ‘the well-turned foul’ – committed when the referee isn't looking – and the ‘break-them-down foul’, inflicted when the game has just started and the referee doesn't feel like throwing anyone out of the game.

We have reached the point where nothing is more Uruguayan than playing around the edge of the red card. And if the referee pulls it out and we're left with just 10 players, that’s proof that our opponent is playing with 12. In other words, once again the referee has stolen our victory from us. The next step is feeling sorry for ourselves, poor little country, drowned in a rain of diminutives.

* * *

Since Maracanã, in reality, we have gone from bad to worse.

Maybe the decline of football has something to do with the crisis in public education. Our Golden Age is drifting further and further behind us. In the 1920s we were twice Olympic champions; in 1930 we won our first World Cup; 1950 was our swansong. These seem like inexplicable miracles in a country with fewer people than a neighbourhood of Mexico City, São Paulo or Buenos Aires. But from the beginning of the century, our free, non-religious public education system sowed a fine crop on sports pitches throughout the country by educating the body without divorcing it from the head or differentiating between rich and poor.

* * *

It’s an identity crisis. Sad is he who doesn't recognize his own shadow. And among the causes of our football misfortune, which is the great national misfortune, we have to mention the sale of our people. We export both manpower and footpower.

Uruguayans, inhabitants of an uninhabited country, are scattered throughout the world. Our football players are too. We have 248 professional footballers in 39 countries. Football is a social sport, a form of collective creation, and it is not easy to forge a national team with players who only meet on airplanes.

* * *

We are football. Our day-to-day expressions prove it:
paying attention: on the ball.
shirk your responsibilities: drop the ball
well done: good shot
resume your activities: pick up the ball
take advantage of an opportunity: run with the ball
throw out your cheating husband: show him the red card
seduce a girl: score
an unlikely prospect: a long shot
expose a wrongdoing: blow the whistle on.

* * *

We Uruguayans, a footballized people, think that our country was over at Maracanã. At bottom, I suspect, the problem is that we still believe in the big lie imposed on us as a universal truth, that obscene law of our time that requires us to win just to prove our right to exist. But our biggest victory in the 1950 World Cup came after we won the final in Maracanã. Our great triumph was the gesture of Obdulio Varela, the splendid captain and inspiring leader of the team. At the end of the game, he fled the hotel and the festivities and went for a walk, passing the night drinking in the bars of Rio, quietly, in bar after bar, hugging the vanquished.

*Eduardo Galeano*, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is the author of _Football in Sun and Shadow and Memories of Fire_. ©IPS


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.

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. Next to nothing was said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will soon be 15 times longer than the Berlin Wall. And the Moroccan Wall, which for 20 years has perpetuated Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, goes unmentioned altogether. This wall, continuously mined and surveilled by thousands of soldiers, is 60 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? ***

Just eight years old, after eleven operations, the girl said: ‘If only we didn’t have oil.’

In July 2004 the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the West Bank Wall violated international law and ordered it torn down. Thus far, Israel hasn’t found out about it.

In October 1975 the same court found that there was no ‘tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco’. To say that Morocco was deaf to the court’s finding is an understatement. It was far worse: the day after the decision was issued, Morocco began the invasion, the so-called ‘Green March’, and before long it had seized vast areas and expelled the majority of the population in a wave of blood and fire.

And so it goes. ***

A thousand and one UN resolutions have confirmed the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

What good were they? A plebiscite was to be held so the population could decide on its fate. To ensure victory, the Moroccan monarch filled the invaded territory with Moroccans. But before long not even the Moroccans were deemed trustworthy. And the King, who had said Yes to the plebiscite, said Who knows? And later he said No, and now his son, who inherited the throne, also says No. The denial is the same as a confession. By denying the right to vote, Morocco confesses that it stole a country.

Will we continue to accept such developments? To accept that in a universal democracy we subjects have a right only to obedience?

What was the effect of the 1,001 UN resolutions against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory? And the 1,001 resolutions against the blockade of Cuba?

As the old saying goes: ‘Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.’ ***

These days patriotism is a privilege of dominant countries. When the dominated countries try it, patriotism smells suspiciously like populism or terrorism, or simply deserves no attention.

The Saharawi patriots who have fought for 30 years to regain their place in the world have won diplomatic recognition from 82 nations, including my country, Uruguay, which recently added its name to the large majority of the countries of Latin America and Africa.

But not Europe. No European country has recognized the Saharawi Republic. Including Spain. This is an instance of serious irresponsibility, or perhaps amnesia, or at least disaffection. Three decades ago the Sahara was a colony of Spain, and Spain had a legal and moral duty to protect its independence.

What did imperial rule leave behind? After a century, how many professionals did it train? Three: a doctor, a lawyer, and a trade expert. That is what it left behind. That and a betrayal. It served up this land and its people on a platter to be devoured by the Kingdom of Morocco. ***

A few years ago, Javier Corcuera interviewed in a Baghdad hospital a victim of the bombing of Iraq. A bomb had destroyed her arm. Just eight years old, after eleven operations, the girl said: ‘If only we didn’t have oil.’

Maybe the people of the Sahara are guilty because off their long coastline lies the greatest treasure of fishes in the Atlantic Ocean and because beneath the immensity of its seemingly empty sands lie the world’s largest phosphate reserves and perhaps oil, natural gas and uranium.

This prophecy could be, though isn’t, in the Qur’an: ‘Natural resources will be the curse of the people.’ ***

The refugee camps in the south of Algeria are in the most desertic of all deserts. It is a vast void, surrounded by nothingness, where only rocks grow. And yet in this place, and in the liberated areas, which are not much better, the Saharawis have been able to construct the most open and the least machista society in the entire Muslim world.

This miracle of the Saharawis, who are very poor and very few, cannot be explained solely by their tenacious will to be free, which is abundant in these places where everything is lacking. It is also largely a factor of international solidarity. And the majority of assistance comes from the people of Spain. Their vital solidarity, memory and dignity are far more powerful than the waffling of governments and the cynical calculations of business.

Note: solidarity, not charity. Charity humiliates. Do not forget the African proverb: ‘The hand that receives is always lower than the hand that gives.’ *** The Saharawis wait. They are condemned to perpetual anguish and perpetual nostalgia. The refugee camps carry the names of their kidnapped cities, their lost meeting places, their haunts: L’ayoun, Smara, Dakhla.

They are called children of the clouds because they have always chased the rain.

For more than 30 years they have also pursued justice, which in our world seems rarer even than water in the desert.

*Eduardo Galeano*, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is author of _The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire_. ©IPS

The second founding of Bolivia

*On 22 January 2002, Evo was expelled from Paradise.* Or rather: Deputy Morales was thrown out of Parliament.

On 22 January 2006, in the same grand chamber, Evo Morales was sworn in as the President of Bolivia. Or rather: Bolivia is beginning to realize that it is a country with an indigenous majority.

At the time of Evo’s expulsion, an indian deputy was rarer than a green dog. Not so four years later: today there are many legislators who chew coca leaves, an age-old custom prohibited in the sacred halls of Parliament. ***

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 50 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.

The same holds true for the rest of the Americas as well, the United States included. Our nations were born lies. From the beginning, the independence of the countries of the Americas was usurped by a minuscule minority. Without exception, all of the first constitutions left out women, indians, blacks and the poor.

The election of Evo Morales is, at least in this sense, the equivalent of the election of Michelle Bachelet in Chile. Evo and Eva. For the first time Bolivia has an indigenous president and Chile a woman president. Similarly Brazil has the first black minister of culture. After all, doesn’t the culture that has saved Brazil from sadness have roots in Africa?

In these lands sick with racism and machismo, there will be some who see all of this as downright scandalous. But what is scandalous is that it didn’t happen sooner. ***

The mask comes off, the face appears, and the torment rages.

The only language worthy of faith is that born of the necessity of speaking. The most serious flaw of Evo is that the people believe him, because he radiates authenticity even when speaking in Spanish, in which he makes an error here and there as it is not his mother tongue. The PhDs, who flout their mastery of echoing distant voices, accuse him of ignorance. Peddlers of promises accuse him of demagogy, and those in the Americas who trumpeted one God, one king, and one truth accuse him of being a tyrant. And the assassins of the indians shake with panic in fear that their victims are like them.

Bolivia seemed to be no more than the pseudonym of those who ruled the country, and sucked it dry as they sang their anthem. And the humiliation of the indians, transformed into a custom, seemed to be fated.

But in recent times, months, years, this country 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.

In the case of Bolivia’s gas, an ancient tale was being acted out again: the plundering of the country’s treasures, which has continued for more than 400 years, from the middle of the 16th century. Where the silver of Potosi once lay, a hollow mountain stands; along the Pacific coast where saltpetre was found, all that remains is a map without a sea; and where the tin of Oruro was, only widows are left.

This, and this alone, they left behind. ***

It will not be for nothing that the indigenous flag of the Andes pays homage to the diversity of the world

The uprisings of recent years were riddled with gunshots, but they succeeded in preventing Bolivia’s gas from ending up in foreign hands, and in blocking the privatization of water in Cochabamba and La Paz. They toppled governments ruled from abroad, and said no to payroll taxes and other sage edicts issued by the International Monetary Fund.

From the point of view of the civilized media, these explosions of popular dignity were acts of barbarism. A thousand times I must have read or seen or heard that Bolivia is an ungovernable, incomprehensible, intractable, unviable country. The journalists that repeat this are wrong: they should confess that Bolivia is, for them, an invisible country. ***

There is nothing unusual about it. This blindness is not only a bad habit of arrogant foreigners. Bolivia was born blind to itself because racism clouded its vision, and there is no lack of Bolivians who prefer to see themselves with eyes that scorn.

But it will not be for nothing that the indigenous flag of the Andes pays homage to the diversity of the world. According to tradition, the flag was born of the encounter between the female and the male rainbow. And this rainbow of the earth, which in the native language means ‘woven of rippling blood’, has more colours than the rainbow of the sky.


*Eduardo Galeano* is the author of _The Open Veins of Latin America_ and _Memories of Fire_.


Subscribe   Ethical Shop