From Conquistadores, Dictators and Multinationals to the Bolivarian Revolution

I come to talk about some horrific things that have befallen Latin American and Caribbean people, but I also will talk about some extraordinary things that are making our America the most hope-filled region, a beacon for the planet's future.

Keynote speech at the Conference on Land and Freedom, of The Caribbean Studies Program, University of Toronto, October 31, 2009.

“Es importante no olvidar que uno ha olvidado.”

(“It is important not to forget that one has forgotten”)

F. Baez [1]

I come to talk about some horrific things that have befallen Latin American and Caribbean people, but I also will talk about some extraordinary things that are making our America the most hope-filled region, a beacon for the planet’s future.

Today is the last day of the month of October – the month in which many countries celebrate “Columbus Day”, the day supposedly Europeans “discovered” the misnamed continent of America, and tonight is Halloween when tradition says that spirits of the dead may roam.

What would the spirits of our America say if we indeed could see and hear them?

I dare to answer for them: that Columbus was a mass murderer, an unrelenting racist, who carried out one of the most complete and extensive genocides in history upon the original peoples of our America. Their spirits would tell us all the cruelties that these barbaric Europeans perpetuated upon them.

During the II World War, the German Nazi government carried out a deliberate and organized genocide against Jewish people in Europe and it included eliminating all sorts of “misfits” such as mentally ill people, homosexuals and indeed, any dissenter to their empire. It is good that even now, 64 years afterwards, the memory of that holocaust is kept alive so the world may not forget that state terrorism, that horrific genocide. An estimate of six million has been calculated died in the Nazi concentration camps. We must never forget.

However, an even greater genocide against the indigenous peoples of this continent is “controversial” or denied, instead of outwardly repudiated. It was that “civilized” European massacred other “civilized” Europeans that was found so shocking about the Nazi atrocities. Not so when those massacred are dark people from beyond. Centuries before the Nazi, there was this other genocide, one that has been largely forgotten, hidden behind a masquerade called “progress” or “civilization”.

The period of Conquest of Latin America and the Caribbean – roughly between 1492-1570- was an organized, deliberate, physical elimination of entire peoples through brutal torture and death. It included their enslavement “for their own good” , the suppression of their culture, history, and languages. They systematically destroyed their original records, the learning, the music, the theatre, and dance of the original peoples throughout the vast region. In other words, it was also a cultural genocide. As the brilliant Latin American scholar Fernando Baez [2] demonstrates, it is this destruction of our history that lies at the heart of the contradictions, the dependency and the exploitations that continues today in Latin America and the Caribbean: a continent that has been robbed of much more than just its rich resources, its peoples have been denied its collective memory and true identity.

Let us remember some of that history because, in fact, it continues to impact us to this day: the pillaging of our America, the racism with which our peoples have been and are regarded, the misery under which many are still living, has persisted through Conquest, Colonialism and post-colonialism to this, the era of global capitalism.

That same Columbus, whose name is celebrated in streets, schools, monuments, even an entire country, personally led the massacre against the Taina (Arawak) people of Haiti with a few cavalry, 200 foot soldiers and trained dogs.[3] It is well documented in the historical record that in the Caribbean and in Mexico thousands of indigenous women were raped then thrown to trained dogs that tore them to pieces.[4] In Haiti, the repression and murder of the Taina people was so complete that by mid 16th century, its culture had been eradicated completely.[5]

A very small number of Europeans during the Conquest were able to exterminate an indigenous population of between 70 to 100 million people. None of the genocide of the 20th century can compare to this carnage, not Hitler, not Stalin, indeed, one cannot think of any historical genocide of this magnitude. [6]

Their cultures have been lost.

At the beginning of the 16th Century, the indigenous people represented 99% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, today they represent only 30%. In the countries that have the greatest percentage of indigenous peoples (Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia and Ecuador) they count no higher than 27%. There are 770 distinct indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean but not one group has more than 5, 000 members. They are among the poorest of the poor, excluded, marginalized, suffering misery, and hounded by landowners, miners, and multinational companies that covet their lands and resources. The history of our America is the history of land and freedom – the struggle to defend one and to exert the other.

Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, today México City, was a marvel of urban design – much more sophisticated, better planned, healthier and as beautiful as any in Europe. Its destruction and pillage at the hands of Hernán Cortéz was monumental; it was the first great looting in our America. The genocide of the Mexican people was unbelievable, unprecedented: the 25 million inhabitants that Techochtitlán had in 1500 was reduced to one million between 1519 and 1605: that is a 96% decrease of the indigenous population. Tenochtitlán was not destroyed as an “unintended” consequence of war – as the historian Hugh Thomas asserts: ” its destruction was a deliberate tactic, deliberately and carefully, methodically carried out, with all the energy of a European war without thinking that they were ruining a work of art…”[7]

Fernando Báez points out that today one cannot imagine building a Christian church on top of the pyramids of Egypt or Stonhenge – yet that is what happened in Tenochtitlán: today one can see México’s cathedral that was deliberately built on the ruins of the great Aztec temples. This is a key example of the cultural looting, the destruction of a culture and all its artifacts, symbols and history. México of course, in the 19th century went on to lose half of its land to another empire, the USA.[8]

The destruction of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, the largest in South America that extended from Colombia to Chile and Argentina, followed the same pattern as Tenochtitlán’s. Francisco Pizarro, carried out the conquest of the Incas through butchery and treachery. It is documented that he invited the best Inca warriors and their wise men to visit him and callously poisoned their drinks with arsenic.[9]

Lope de Aguirre, another sanguinary conqueror, one of the great destroyers of indigenous cultures, went thorough eastern Venezuela leaving such a wake of murder and destruction that his name is still synonymous with all that is vile about the Conquest. He was obviously insane, as in the end he killed his own companions and his only daughter. One can speculate that perhaps the blood lust of all these barbaric men of conquest was a sign of their madness. The great nation of the Caribes in Venezuela, who ferociously defended its land and freedom, was laid waste by men such as these.

As for the Mayas, in southern México and Central America, they like the Aztec and Incas, were great builders and had records of their knowledge and an accurate solar calendar. Fray Diego de Landa (1524-79) wrote what the conquerors did to the Mayas: ” They carried out unbelievable cruelties, they cut off their noses, arms and legs, they cut off women’s breasts, tied pumpkins full of rocks on their feet and threw them into deep lagoons; they beat the children with sticks when they did not walk fast enough and if they got sick they cut off their heads…The Spaniards excused themselves by saying that they could not subjugate so many people unless they filled them with fear of terrible punishments.” However, religious fanatism led this same Landa, in 1562 to authorize the killing of 4,000 Mayans from Mérida, because they refused to stop adoring their idols.[10]

The ancient Spanish sought gold in our lands. One historian of the time said they “were like hungry swine lusting after gold”. Seventy years after Columbus landed, the Spanish Monarchs – Isabel and Ferdinand -had obtained more than 185,000 kilos of gold and 16 million kilos of silver. This fortune was the fruit of the slave work of indigenous peoples and African people. It is estimated that 15 million Africans were kidnapped and transported to the Latin America and the Caribbean – with 5 or 6 million dying on the way at sea.

The Spanish Monarchy was overjoyed with Columbus’ exploits that came at the most opportune moment to save the aristocracy from the ruin of their racist wars that had driven the Arabs and the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. This they carried out so efficiently, killing or expelling many thousands of them, and destroying as much of their cultural books and artifacts as possible, that they spent their royal treasure, ruined their agriculture and economy and were facing a dire decline of their fortunes, when Columbus offered them the wealth of a new continent and new peoples to oppress.

Spain had the upper hand in the colonization of our America but, it was not the only country. Guilt is shared by half of Europe. The Portuguese, English, French, Swedish and Danish ran slave trades and took over many of the Caribbean islands to turn into sugar plantations. Ironically, the immense fortune that Spain obtained from the Americas was spent -not on industry or investment in the development of Spain itself- but by the idle aristocracy on conspicuous consumption, and huge estates. Soon Spain owed millions to Europe’s bankers and traders – German, Genoese, Flemish, Dutch. They all had a stake in Spain’s looting of our America.

In Venezuela, for example, to pay off debts to the Fugger German bankers, huge tracts of land and authority were given to them (1528) and in 1520 to the German Welsers, both who proceeded to wage a bloody war against the original peoples of Venezuela in search for gold. Bartolomé de las Casas, who wrote a chronicle in 1552 of the cruelties of the Conquest, described these Germans as “rabid wolves and lions”, as “devils” that obliterated entire, peaceful ethnic groups in their thirst for gold. [11] One has to have a strong stomach to read his descriptions of the cruelties of that time of conquest.

Spain, its productive capacity stunted, had to import most of the manufactured goods it needed, and so the manufactured goods Spain sent to its colonies were not made in Iberia, but in other European countries. [12] Indeed, it was Latin American gold and silver, and African gold, ivory and slave labor, which paid the way for European capitalist development. As the famous economist John Maynard Keynes stated: “The modern age opened …with the accumulation of capital which began in the 16th century…which resulted from the treasure of gold and silver which Spain brought from the New World into the Old…I trace the beginnings of British foreign investment to the treasure which Drake stole from Spain in 1580.”[13]

The period of Colonization – from the late-16th to the mid-19th centuries- was a time in which Spain carried out a methodical process of substituting cultures of our America for a European one. The racist mentality predominated, but they would not have recognized it as such, but just as the natural, logical way of things.

The colonial elites that emerged took their cue from the Spanish aristocracy. They had little interest in developing agriculture or industry except in as much as it allowed them to live in opulence. Its racism, of course, dampened any interest in the human development of the indigenous populations, except that which would serve to subjugate it, by eliminating their language, denying worth to their, traditions, art, history, all to be substituted by European values and an instrumental Christianity.

Venezuelan elites today have a profoundly racist complex that has even led intellectuals to refer to the Colonization as a positive event ( “the golden legend”). They have considered the system of “encomiendas” -enslavement of Indigenous peoples to work for particular landowners- simply as a way of “taking care of ” them, and, many have glossed over the role that African slaves had on our economies and culture. To this day, many deny that inequality has roots in racism. For example, in Venezuela it has only been now, under President Chávez’s government that recognition is given to African-Venezuelans. This the elite denounces as Chávez creating racism where none existed before.

Yet Colonial society was based on a rigid racial system that pervaded all its workings. There was a legal classification according to racial mix: the white people were of course the dominating elite, but even they had to have documents to prove the “purity” of their Spanish blood if they wanted to attain certain positions of power or join the professions; lower class whites were thus limited to lesser occupations and positions. All the rest, mixed people, were called “inferior peoples”, or pardos and legally classified by their racial mix; mulattos were white and black, Tercerones were mulatto and white; Cuarterones were Terceron and white; Quinteron were white and Cuarteron; and Zambo were Indian with mulato or black. The colonial rules micro-managed all social life and any education or cultural expression were those approved by the elites. But even the elites suffered Spanish censorship which was ubiquitous in literature, history and the arts.

Throughout Colonial times indigenous and Black people were considered lazy, unreliable, and even wicked and Spain justified their subjugation to itself and the world, as part of the evangelization of otherwise savage peoples. Two objectives were foremost: the destruction of any traditional religion that was not their version of Christianity, and the eradication of indigenous languages. More than 1,000 indigenous languages disappeared in 500 years – that is two per year.[14]

There were many rebellions and conflicts but I would like to tell you about two instances against Colonial rules carried out by Venezuelan women. By law, only white women were allowed to wear mantillas or mantos (shawls), hence they were called Mantuanas. In the 1770’s Maria Francisca Peña, a Venezuelan pardo, started to use a manto – and took her case to the Real Audiencia – the maximum Spanish Law Court- and won that right. From then on mulatas took en masse, to the use of shawls. She was considered a woman of scandal for this. A few years later, the mulata women of Coro – in the eastern part of Venezuela- openly rebelled against the white women’s exclusive right to the use of rugs and carpets in the churches. (There were no pews). This was considered “abominable dissolution” and “detestable abuse” and was not successful, but they made their point. One official stated: “Their mulatismo is of an arrogant, insolent and shameless kind”.[15]

They eventually prevailed.

The mix of the races has been held up historically as something positive, as proof that the Spanish were not racist since they procreated with Indigenous and Black people. This covers up the horrible historical truth of the rape and sexual abuse of millions indigenous and African slave women, by their oppressors. It was not white women who married or procreated with indigenous men or Black men; it was the white dominant male who took women, mostly as concubines, from among the indigenous and slave population. I myself am a direct descendant of a mulato slave, my 3X great grandmother, named Felipa Lucena. After giving birth to a lighter coloured son, she won her freedom from my landowning ancestor, who- to his credit made him- his heir. This son, Capitán Hipólito Casiano Lucena, (my great great grandfather) became captain in the patriot army of Simón Bolívar and an abolitionist who helped Bolívar in his campaign to free slaves. For his efforts, he was savagely murdered by the local aristocracy of Carora.

In the 19th Century, during the wars of independence, it is not surprising that the “pardos” and indigenous peoples flocked to the revolutionary armies. Not all, but significant numbers. One historian of the time said that the Venezuelan indigenous peoples did not forget the indignities and cruelties with which their ancestors had been treated by the ancient Spaniards and were an integral part of the army of Simón Bolívar.

One consequence of the cultural destruction was that the Latin American and Caribbean societies that emerged, elites and all, believed themselves to be a mere copy of European societies, and- as the famous Venezuelan writer Rómulo Gallegos postulated : our societies were a perennial struggle of “the civilized ” against “the barbarous”. So our studies centred on European parameters – literature started with Cervantes, not with the Aztec Códices, the study of government started the Magna Carta , not with the Popl Vuh, the study of history started with Columbus, not with the history of Machu Pichu, the study of art, music, poetry started with its Europeans manifestations not our indigenous traditions. Therefore, the upper classes persisted in their emulation of all that was European and later from the USA, and all that was “Indian” or “Black” was necessarily, inferior.

However, the sad reality is that after Independence, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean fell under the heel of another empire, the USA. Our America obtained a freedom FROM (a Colonial power) but did not attain a freedom TO (to exercise that freedom according to their sovereign will).

The three main instruments of US hegemony are:

  • Economic: through the lure and inroads of capitalist investments and business ventures with US corporations.

  • Military: The first decades after Independence from Spain, was via gunboat diplomacy, then by co-opting the region’s armed forces thorough the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia, USA, that trained the Latin American and Caribbean military in torture and to wage war against their own people, all under the justification of fighting communism.

  • Cultural: this perhaps is the most ubiquitous, most sophisticated, and most insidious. Its instruments are a plethora of USA scholarships, internships and jobs in corporations, cultural associations, and NGO’s. Nowhere was the cultural domination of the USA more intense and more successful than in oil-rich Venezuela. US Oil companies and corporations and associations, acted as a socializing agent to produce leaders for Venezuela in business, politics, the armed forces, and the police. Venezuela’s elites lost the capacity to operate as instruments of national affirmation the more they became partners with US foreign capital and multinationals. One sociologist described this elite as having a perspective that was totally devoid of a role for the mass of the people; that had little or no sustained contact with them and in no sense felt pressured to meet the needs of the population.[16]

We clearly see this today as this elite battles the nation affirming government of President Chávez.

US hegemony was not easy and did not come without a price for Latin America and the Caribbean. Since the end of the 19th Century, the USA invaded, overthrown, and destablized governments in the region about 90 times. Every one of the 20th century dictatorial governments in Latin America and the Caribbean has been backed by the USA. Indeed, in order to successfully grab power, it has been the sine qua non that the putative dictator must have the okay of the local USA embassy.

When Fidel Castro had the audacity to overthrow the US backed dictator Batista, and after the failure of the US invasion of Bay of Pigs, then Operation Mongoose (1961) authorized by President Kennedy, befell Cuba with all manner of covert operations to overthrow the government. It was a prelude of greater crimes to come.

The peoples of our America then suffered another wave of genocide, an ideological one. In 1975, a diabolical plot emerged with the direction of the CIA, to unite the dictatorships of Latin American in a “War on Communism”. It was the infamous Operation Condor that murdered, tortured or disappeared thousands of social reformers, socialists, and communists, from the various countries, noticeably Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. The inhuman men who carried out this Operation, invented “rendition” whereby people were snatched off the streets in one country and then transported to a second country where they would be tortured and disposed of without leaving a trace.

The examples of Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende were too great a risk for the USA.

Venezuela, then supposedly a model of democracy, had a secret police trained and led by CIA agents (such as the criminal Luis Posada Carriles who blew up a Cuban airliner and is today living freely in Miami.) This secret police invented a novel way of disposing of troublesome reformers after torturing them they would drop them into the sea from helicopters, hoping that way their bodies would never be found. But bodies were found -washed up on the shore.

Throughout the region, 60,000 progressive reformers, socialists or communists were victims of this genocide.

In the 1990’s, a new phase of economic domination emerged: a more virulent model of Capitalism. Not content with the “normal” extraction of resources, the multinational companies, with their partners, the IMF and the World Bank came up with the package of policies that would extend markets further into areas previously run by governments. This was called the Washington Consensus. Its premise was that multinational private enterprises could do a better job of safeguarding the public interest than the inept governments of the region. Therefore it prescribed privatization of public services, wide spread deregulation, lifting of tariffs, unrestricted investment flows and free access of large corporations to public contracts and domestic markets. These corporations even wanted to own the water that fell from the skies and ran in our streams.

These neo-liberal capitalist measures were foisted onto Latin American and Caribbean governments as conditions for obtaining international loans and even by threats. They have been a spectacular failure by almost any indicator: in one decade, they stunted the growth of income per person in the region (it fell from 82% to 9% to 1%), they increased the number of poor by 14 million, yet US banks and corporations obtained $1 trillion in profits from Latin America.[17]

The country that was most affected by these measures was the country that most thoroughly applied them: Venezuela. It was the country where the first popular rebellion against these measures occurred in February 27th of 1989 -the Caracazo- wherein about 3000 were killed by armed troops.

By 1998, this oil-rich country’s economy was in ruins, schools and hospitals were almost derelict, and almost 80% of the population was impoverished.

But now we come to the good news.

In 1998, against all odds, Hugo Chávez, won the presidential elections in Venezuela by an astounding landslide, literally eliminating the two parties that had hitherto mis-governed the country for 40 years. Immediately the elites and middle classes opposed him as an upstart, an Indian who does not know his place, a Black who is a disgrace to the position. Hugo Chávez established a new Constitution that re-set the rules of a government that had been putty in the hands of the elites. Ratified in overwhelming numbers, the Constitution gave indigenous peoples, for the first time, the constitutional right to their language, religion, culture and lands. It established Human Rights, civil and social, like the right to food, a clean environment, education, jobs, and health care , binding the government to provide them. It declared the country a participatory democracy with direct input of people into political decision making through their communal councils and it asserted government control of oil revenues: Oil belongs to the people.

The wealthy elite and its satellites, with backing of the USA, failed to overthrow President Chávez in 2002, and failed to paralyze the state oil company and the economy in 2003 with sabotage and lock out. These desperate acts of a profoundly anti-democratic opposition served only to consolidate the Bolivarian Revolution. However, the opposition continue to this day, its covert operations, and international campaign to discredit President Chávez, financing paramilitary and opposition groups.

It has been ten years since Hugo Chávez was first elected president of Venezuela, and in those years, we can now say that a new dawn has come not just over Venezuela, but over the entire sub-continent thanks to his example.

The impact of his Bolivarian Revolution can be seen in how it has used the enormous oil revenues and reserves to meet the real needs of Venezuelans, and this includes, the eradication of illiteracy, dramatic lowering of infant mortality, lowest rate of malnutrition in South America, the lowest ratio of inequality, the lowest unemployment in decadaes and the great majority of the people have direct access to free health care, free schools, a network of daycare, a subsidized food distribution network, and subsidized medicines. The misiones, integrated anti-poverty programs that have dramatically reduced poverty, have been internationally lauded. Only Cuba fares better.

But one of the biggest achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution is existential: a new sense of identity, a new sense of belonging, as one ordinary Venezuela said on national TV: “We are no longer invisible.” The great majority of Venezuelans feel they are now in control of their own government and destiny – despite the continuous attacks from the oligarchy and its satellites. Now the Chavistas frame all the political discourse and its name is Socialism of the 21st Century.

For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a country in the world repudiates the barbaric version of capitalism that has prevailed since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and embraces a new socialism, one that has its roots in the indigenous people’s socialism, in Liberation Theology which was born in Latin America, in Humanism, in the inspiration of Cuba, as well as the works of Marx, but not exclusively in European socialism. It is not Stalinism, it is not a copy of what has passed for socialism to date, but Venezuela’s own brand infused with the idea that the people are the protagonists of democracy, that the economy should serve people not the other way around, and that only their active and direct participation in political decision making will free the country from corruption and inequality.

The Revolutionary government of Venezuela can also claim the resounding achievement of having brokered the beginning of solid, true, integration of the nations of our America.

It started with TELESUR, a TV channel fed by the state TV stations of the nations, so that we can learn from one another and enjoy our news, art, music, directly not through the mediation of CNN.

In a historic moment, ALBA, destroyed the Free Trade of the Americas with which George W. Bush wanted to chain our economies. ALBA is its repudiation- an association of solidarity where economic projects are geared toward social justice and human development.

PETEROSUR is a consorsium of the state oil companies of South America to ensure that the oil and gas is used not just to fuel the growth of richer nations, but to help with the infrastructure needed at home.

PETROCARIBE is an initiative to provide much needed fuel to the smaller Caribbean nations with preferential financial arrangements and a fund for joint projects. It is also an assertion that Venezuela is a Caribbean nation.

The BANCO DEL SUR represents the liberation of our America from the usury and hegemony of the IMF, World Bank and other international banks and organizations whose loans have imposed nefarious neo-liberal capitalist policies on governments.

And UNASUR, defense organization of South America is the jewel in the crown of integration. Its existence is the death of the USA’s Monroe Doctrine as South America asserts that it alone assumes the defense of the region. It rejects the USA’s “war against terrorism” , stating there is no terrorism in our America, but there is an ideologically defined civil war in Colombia. As well, UNASUR has an energy council to put in place safeguards for the supply of energy for the region to protect the natural environment.

There is a grave external risk that looms over Venezuela. The one super-power has not ceased to try to de-stabalize, isolate, balkanize, and even overthrow this democratically elected progressive government. The oil is a tremendous lure – like gold was in the past. The USA funnels millions of dollars to bogus NGO’s, and the anti-democratic opposition which accepts payments from a foreign government that is hostile to their nation. And its ally, Uribe’s Colombia is a double threat: not only because of its enormous armed forces, but also its paramilitary forces that constantly raid and invade Venezuela’s borders. These Colombian paramilitary are also hired killers for the Venezuelan rich landowners opposed to Land Reform and up to now have murdered 160 rural leaders.

It is important to point out that:

  • The Colombian Army (500,000) is twice the size of combined armies of Venezuela and Ecuador.

  • Colombian military expenditures are 10 times those of Venezuela.

  • Colombia, after Israel and Egypt, receives the largest amount of US military aid in the world.

The USA has responded to the achievements of Venezuela and the election of 11 progressive, left wing government in our America, with increased militarization.

Barak Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has installed seven USA military bases in Colombia, with a capacity to accommodate huge C 17 planes that can cross the sub continent without re-fuelling. These planes are useless against narco-traffic, the supposed reason for the bases, but they are a direct menace to Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia and to the whole region. Not a single one of the presidents of South America approved of these bases. Colombia is now a springboard for preemptive strikes, a prelude to a Middle East type of conflict in the region.

There is also indignation in the region that, after 50 years, the USA has re-activated the IV Naval fleet with the capacity to invade even the rivers of our America.

Furthermore, the affairs of the USA in the region have largely been taken out of the State Dept and placed under the Southern Command. This means that the issues and social problems in Latin America and the Caribbean are now defined as security problems, as risks that merit a military response. One of these risks they refer to is “radical populism”, meaning the leaders and movements that US politicians and corporations do not like: such as Chávez, Morales, Correa. In other words, the USA has militarized its interactions with the region. Ominous signs indeed.

The international media conglomerates misrepresent and purposefully distort the events in Venezuela and the region, and it does not properly convey the sufferings of our Honduran people today. In Canada, it is noticeable that not one major media outlet has a permanent reporter in Latin America, hence Canadians mostly receive news and opinions filtered through the USA perspective.

Although the calamities of yesteryear that befell our America are past, the old greed is present today in the exclusion, assaults by mining companies, multinational agri-businesses, large estate owners, drug traffickers and the ever present threats of the USA and its lackeys. Imperialism and resource devouring unbridled capitalism is not to be underestimated.

But, in the name of the 100 million people who lost their lives and cultures in Latin America and the Caribbean, let us not talk about the “discovery’ of America but its invasion. President Hugo Chávez has been the first president to rename Oct 12, calling it “The Day of Indigenous Resistance”, and this year President Evo Morales has renamed Columbus Day, “The Day of Mourning”. Let us not forget that we have forgotten what has happened in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, so that ethnic, ideological or cultural genocide may never be repeated on this Earth.

However, there is a new dawn, a new cadre of leaders who follow the steps of Guaicaipuro, Tupac Amaru II, Tupac Catari, Simón Bolívar, José Martí, Bernardo O’Higgins. Today, Latin America is the most exciting, the most hope-filled area of our globe today. It has key leaders, not ashamed of their indigenous and African roots, who have made their people the true participants and protagonists of government. They are truly exercising their freedom to defend the land, to challenge the imperialism and unbridled global capitalism that is destroying our planet with ecocide.

We will prevail. Venceremos.


[1] Fernando Baez, El saqueo cultural de América Latina, Random House, 2008, 31

[2] F. Baez, El saqueo

[3] Eduardo Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America, Monthly Review Press, 1973

[4] F. Baez, El saqueo, 37; Bartolome de Las Casas, Brevisima Relacion de la Destruccion de Las Indias, 1552, Ediciones Presidencia de la Republica, Caracas, 2003, 45-6

[5] Memorias, La Revolucion Haitiana, Julio-Agosto, 2008, #4, 17

[6] F. Baez, El saqueo, 39

[7] Hugh Thomas, La conquista de Mexico, Barcelona, Planeta, 677

[8] F. Baez, El saqueo, 25,26

[9] F. Baez, El saqueo, 82

[10] F. Baez, El saqueo, 75

[11] Bartolome de Las Casas, Brevisima Relacion de la Destruccion de Las Indias, 1552, Ediciones Presidencia de la Republica, Caracas, 2003, 91

[12] E. Galeano, Open Veins, 22-27

[13] John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, W.W. Norton, 1963, 361-362

[14] F. Baez, El saqueo, 103

[15] Memorias, Alborotos del Mulatismo, Julio-Agosto, 2008, #4, 28

[16] Frank Bonilla, The Failure of the Elites

[17] M. Páez Victor, Mr. Danger and the Socialism for the New Millennium, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/4133, 29 March 2006

Source: Znet