Archives for category: Americas

Over the last decade, around the world, China has been buying up mountains and mines, agricultural land, and oil fields at an extraordinary rate. In 2007, a Chinese company bought the mineral rights to two billion tons of copper in a Peruvian mountain for U.S. $3 billion. This was relatively small change; in 2008 the same company spent $14 billion on a stake in Australia’s aluminum industry. Since 2005, China has engaged in nearly 500 direct foreign investments and large contracts, valued at U.S. $505 billion–roughly one billion U.S. dollars per week.

These investments ensure China an upper hand in future struggles over resources. Finite and rapidly depleting supplies of land, water, minerals, and fossil fuels cannot match rising demand, driven by a growing world population, rapidly increasing global wealth, and urbanization. This fundamental supply-demand imbalance will lead to higher commodity prices and an increased risk of resource-driven conflict. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, commodity prices increased 150 percent. And since 1990, at least twenty-four civil wars and violent conflicts have had their origins in commodities. Many more conflicts are likely in the coming decades.

Yet China seems to be alone in adopting a multilateral commodities strategy, relying on trade, investment, resource swaps, and financial transfers to gain resource control. In 2010, China pledged to lay $12 billion worth of railway lines in Argentina, helping to sweeten relations with that country and facilitate export of minerals. In 2009, China loaned Russian oil companies $25 billion in exchange for a twenty-year supply of oil, at 300 thousand barrels per day. These deals benefit both China and its resource-rich hosts

By contrast, many other national governments have adopted a unilateral approach to resource acquisition and control, using a mix of military force to gain access to resources abroad and taxation and export bans to prevent control of domestic resources. In April, Argentina nationalized a majority stake in the energy company YPF, formerly a major subsidiary of the Spanish company Respol, after the discovery of new major natural gas deposits off its coast. Heavy-handed policies to exert control over local resources and commodity prices are not limited to the developing world. In March, Australia introduced a 30 percent tax on iron and coal mining profits, in an effort to grab cash from a local resource boon. Such policies are ultimately inefficient, hamper global production, exacerbate shortages, and force commodity prices even higher.

The predilection of the United States and her allies for military incursions into resource-rich regions such as Iraq, for example, almost always disrupts production and forces commodity prices higher. Political uncertainty can add a risk premium of $10 or more to the price of a barrel of oil.

Despite the serious risks that come with possible global commodity shortages, no unified international body exists to address these challenges. In the absence of such an entity, China’s multilateral approach to the commodity problem is sensible. Ultimately, if the world doesn’t take larger steps to address the imbalance between resource supply and demand, we face higher prices, scarcity, and more resource conflict.

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The text is original in Portuguese and is found here (The translation is a google one)

Some people mistakenly include the election of Ollanta Humala as president of Peru between the signs of a progressive change in the South American continent. If Humala’s past no longer justify such an assessment, how is breaking all the promises that are made ​​to confirm elect him as an opponent of progress of the Peruvian people and the independence of his country.

You must remember him and inform those who have not yet realized. As for the most “political”, prefers to forget.

During the internal war was military chief in Madre Mía, Tocache, Huánuco, under the pseudonym “Captain Carlos”. He was accused of murder and torture, but paid for witnesses who changed their statements.

Boasted of having been praised by his superiors. ¿Who praised the leaders in this period? Who killed innocent (in the military who wanted to do so they had to flee the country). His military service record of those years “lost”. Their heads are so far rewarded with important positions.

In the 2006 campaign of a politician said that right should not be punished by the military murderers denounced the Truth Commission, which raised protests from human rights organizations. And he protested too, but because in an election campaign should not touch at that point so sensitive to the “military family.” Now this is the ruling family.

Later he was appointed head of the barracks Locumba in Moquegua, since Montesinos confidence we needed to move forward the process of Fujimori’s reelection.

On 29 October 2000, Montesinos called four times from your phone to the headquarters said as she fled the country on the sailboat “Karisma”, while the beginning was “Locumbazo.” The phone calls from 9970-8099 Montesinos to landline 054-713791 took place at 10:52 AM and the three remaining around 14 pm that Sunday.

Ollanta withdrew 57 soldiers from the barracks to do exercises. Abroad, told them that it was a uprising against the government, and led them to the camp where miner Toquepala phoned Radio Programs communicate the “survey”, which was urgently needed so that attention will centrassem in drawdown and drain Montesinos pass unnoticed.

When left the camp he had only reservists recruited by Antauro, soldiers had fled. Fujimori fled the country and then sent the resignation by fax. The presidency was occupied by Valentín Paniagua. Humala introduced him to surrender, having been touring the Moquegua and Arequipa for over a month.

Nowhere in the world is to happen what happened here: this survey against which to overthrow the government or not fired a shot, and chiefs in charge of the report that deal were ordered not to carry ammunition. ¡In over a month of “survey to overthrow the government” was not even a skirmish!

After that was held a few days and was sent as military attache to the embassy in France and then to Korea, earning a lucrative salary.

He returned to Peru and took the organization of reservists – true and false – that his brother Antauro (already arrested) had ridden through the newspaper Ollanta, in which he wrote a few things against imperialist interests.

Never been to any popular protest. Never left said, “leftists” who invented it is to quiet the conscience.

What is certain, however, is that in his campaign in Cajamarca promised to defend against water and pray that one of his first position as ruler was to say “Conga continues, give goes where.”

Never agreed with democracy. As recalled above, not consulted on whether the soldiers were willing to stand up against the government, ordered them as military chief to do so. He says that his party is not like the others in that leadership positions are chosen by election. In his party he is the one who appoints.

There was never Congress in his “party”, he gives orders, not for a moment abandoned his military hierarchical mentality.

To deceive the people that voted him by his promises of change, a cabinet nomeu “progressive” transitory, that quickly changed.

Valdes has now changed, not to be reactionary, but because things innocently said that the president thinks but does not say that, as q ue admire Fujimori and Humala should not fulfill their campaign promises. The new office will pursue the same policy but avoid saying what he thinks.

The people must realize that those who govern are the large transnational companies, for their own benefit by “military family” of the president.

The Peru remains colony, first in Spain, then England, then the United States and now transnational corporations, which do not care if they kill nature and Peruvian population, the only thing that matters is winning the largest amount of money possible in the shortest time possible. Ollanta is the viceroy.

Despite having known all this when he won the elections considered it a triumph, because if it had been any other gaining the poor people would have felt defeated. When Humala triumphed, the people said “We won ¡”. But when Humala began to govern the people felt angry, betrayed, willing to fight to defend what they voted for, and that’s what you’re doing.

Sólo el pueblo organized sí mismo if the release.

La Haine

here we can read an analysis of Portuguese Communist Party on the situation in Portugal (in Portuguese)

 Prediction: 2013 will be a year of serious global crisis. That crisis is predictable, and in fact has already begun. It will inescapably confront the next president of the United States. Yet this emerging crisis got not a mention at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We’ll see if the Democrats do better.

The crisis originates in this summer’s extreme weather. Almost 80% of the continental United States experienced drought conditions. Russia and Australia experienced drought as well.

The drought has ruined key crops. The corn harvest is expected to drop to the lowest level since 1995. In just July, prices for corn and wheat jumped about 25% each, prices for soybeans about 17%.

These higher grain prices will flow through to higher food prices. For consumers in developed countries, higher food prices are a burden — but in almost all cases, a manageable burden.

Americans spend only about 10% of their after-tax incomes on food of all kinds, including restaurant meals and prepackaged foods. Surveys for Gallup find that the typical American family is spending one-third less on food today, adjusting for inflation, than in 1969.

But step outside the developed world, and the price of food suddenly becomes the single most important fact of human economic life. In poor countries, people typically spend half their incomes on food — and by “food,” they mean first and foremost bread. When grain prices spiked in 2007-2008, bread riotsshook 30 countries across the developing world, from Haiti to Bangladesh, according to the Financial Times.   A drought in Russia in 2010 forced suspension of Russian grain exports that year and set in motion the so-called Arab spring.

Since the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian government has provided subsidized bread to the population. A disk of round flat bread costs about a penny. In the later 2000s, however, the Mubarak government found it could not keep pace with surging grain costs. As Egypt’s population doubled from 20 million in 1950 to 40 million in 1980 and now more than 80 million, Egypt has gained first place as the world’s largest wheat importer. The price rises of 2007-2010 exceeded the Mubarak government’s resources. Cheap bread vanished from the stores. Discontent gathered. In the August 18 issue of the British magazine The Spectator, John R. Bradley, an Arabic-speaking journalist long resident in Egypt, described what happened next:

“The conversations of tiny groups of Cairo’s English-speaking elites, and their Western drinking companions, were a world apart from talk among the Egyptian masses. … The main hope of those who poured into Tahrir Square was shared by the revolutionaries in Tunisia: that sudden and radical change would miraculously mean affordable food.”

And if food prices surge again? China is especially vulnerable to food cost inflation. In just one month, July 2011, the cost of living jumped 6.5%. Inflation happily subsided over the course of 2012. Springtime hopes for a bumper U.S. grain crop in 2012 enabled the Chinese central bank to ease credit in the earlier part of the summer. Now the Chinese authorities will face some tough choices over what to do next.

Remember when ANC was a terrorist organization under US view, or PLO or Arafat or FARC (this one is a terrorist group yet)…

When the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacked and killed 24 Turkish soldiers in October 2011, the violence made headlines around the world. But it also highlighted the very different approach the Turkish media takes when it comes to covering highly politicised stories.

The administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, is often cited as proof that an Islamic government can exist within a democratic framework. Yet, when it comes to freedom of the press, the Erdogan government has a lamentable reputation – and it is growing worse.

It is not just about article 301, the ambiguous and controversial law that outlaws criticism of “Turkishness”. Nor is the criticism limited to the number of Turkish journalists behind bars.

In Turkey, there is a tacit obligation that the media follow the government’s wish for the PKK to be referred to as ‘terrorists’. However, global media outlets are not so easily dictated to, and Reuters found itself in the firing line when it continued to refer to the PKK as ‘rebels’.

Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser were the three main forces behind the organization’s creation. Kwame Nkrumah, the Marxist pan-African leader of Ghana, and Ahmed Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia, would also put their weight behind the NAM and join Tito, Nehru, and Nasser. These leaders and their countries did not view the Cold War as an ideological struggle. This was a smokescreen. The Cold War was a power struggle from their perspectives and ideology was merely used as a justification.

(here in  Portuguese)

The word “non-alignment” was first used on the world stage by Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon, India’s ambassador to the United Nations, while the term “Third World” was first used by the French scholar Alfred Sauvy. Third World is a debated political term and some find it both deregulatory and ethnocentric. To the point of confusion the phrase Third World is inextricably intertwined with the concept of non-alignment and the NAM.
Both the NAM and, especially, Third World are wrongly and carelessly used as synonyms for the Developing and Under-developing Worlds or as economic indicators. Most Third World countries were underprivileged former colonies or less affluent states in places like Africa and Latin America that were the victims of imperialism and exploitation. This has led to the general identification or misidentification of the NAM countries and the Third World with concepts of poverty. This is wrong and not what either of the terms means.
Third World was a concept that developed during the Cold War period to distinguish those countries that were not formally a part of the First World that was formed by the Western Bloc and either the Eastern/Soviet Bloc and Communist World that formed the Second World. In theory most these Third Worlders were neutral and joining the NAM was a formal expression of this position of non-alignment.

Aside from being considered Second Worlders, communist states like the People’s Republic of China and Cuba have widely been classified as parts of the Third World and have considered themselves as parts of the third global force. Chairman Mao’s views defined through his concept of Three Worlds also supported the classification of communist states like Angola, China, Cuba, and Mozambique as Third Worlders, because they did not belong to the Soviet Bloc like Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

In the most orthodox of interpretations of the political meaning of Third World, the communist state of Yugoslavia was a part of the Third World. In the same context, Iran due to its ties to NATO and its membership in the US-controlled Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was politically a part of the First World until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Thus, reference to Yugoslavia as a Second World country and Iran as a Third World country prior to 1979 are incorrect.

The term Third World has also given rise to the phrase “Global South.” This name is based on the geographically southward situation of the Third World on the map as opposed to the geographically northward situation of the First and Second Worlds, which both began to collectively be called the “Global North.” The names Global North and Global South came to slowly replace the terms First, Second, and Third World, especially since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.

The NAM formed when the Third Worlders who were caught between the Atlanticists and the Soviets during the Cold War tried to formalize their third way or force. The NAM would be born after the Bandung Conference in 1955, which infuriated the US and Western Bloc who saw it as a sin against their global interests.

Contrarily to Western Bloc views, the Soviet Union was much more predisposed to accepting the NAM. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev even proposed in 1960 that the UN be managed by a “troika” composed of the First, Second, and Third Worlds instead of its Western-influenced secretariat in New York City that was colluding with the US to remove Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from power in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as other independent world leaders.

Fidel Castro and Cuba, which hosted the NAM’s summit in 1979 when Iran joined as its eighty-eighth member, would actually argue that the Second World and communist movements were the “natural allies” of the Third World and the NAM. The favorable attitudes of Nasser and Nehru towards the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc’s support for various national liberation movements also lends credence towards the Cuban argument about the Second and Third World alliance against the capitalist exploitation and imperialist policies of the First World.

The first NAM summit would be held in the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade in 1961 under the chairmanship of Marshall Tito. The summit in Belgrade would call for an end to all empires and colonization. Tito, Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Sukarno and other NAM leaders would demand that Western Europeans end their colonial roles in Africa and let African peoples decide their own fates.

A preparatory conference was also held a few months earlier in Cairo by Gamal Abdel Nasser. At the preparatory meetings non-alignment was defined by five points:

(1) Non-aligned countries must follow an independent policy of co-existence of nations with varied political and social systems;

(2) Non-aligned countries must be consistent in their support for national independence;

(3) Non-aligned countries must not belong to a multilateral alliance concluded in the context of superpower or big power politics;

(4) If non-aligned countries have bilateral agreement with big powers or belonged to a regional defense pact, these agreements should not have been concluded in context of the Cold War;

(5) If non-aligned states cede military bases to a big power, these bases should not be granted in the context of the Cold War.

All the NAM conferences to follow would cover vital issues in the years to come that ranged from the inclusion of the People’s Republic of China in the UN, the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, African wars of independence against Western European countries, opposition to apartheid and racism, and nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, the NAM has traditionally been hostile to Zionism and condemned the occupation of Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Egyptian territories by Israel, which has earned it the seamlessly never-ending aversion of Tel Aviv.

Education and Cuba Libre, 1898-1958

The last Spanish colony in the Americas, Cuba launched a second war for independence in 1895, more than half a century after the establishment of independent republics in the rest of Spanish America. However, the intellectual war against Spanish domination began earlier, before the first failed revolution of 1868-78.

In particular, many nineteenth-century Cuban intellectuals, including Jose Marti, believed that the Catholic education of the colonial period, available only to elite men, operated as a means of suppressing national liberation by preaching loyalty to crown and church. Cuba Libre or Free Cuba, they argued, the independent and democratic nation for which so many Cubans fought and died, could not be successfully established without the foundation of a system of free, universal, secular public education.

(…)

Fears persisted that the United States intended to annex the island. While Cubans expressed gratitude for US efforts to construct a public educational system, accusations that the military government planned to ‘americanize’ education fuelled these fears of annexation.

What provoked these accusations? The American administration modelled Cuba’s public educational system on that of the United States. The school law of the state of Ohio provided the model for Cuba’s school law. US curriculum formed the basis for the new Cuban curriculum, which employed Spanish translations of US textbooks. The military government sent Cuban teachers to the United States for training and US educators came to Cuba to design and teach in the new educational system.

(…)

And after the 1959 Revolution

Fidel Castro and his followers understood the disillusionment, cynicism and frustration afflicting the country. They took up the cry of the nation’s past liberators and, when futile peaceful protest against Batista exposed the sham of the republic’s institutions, they turned to the long tradition of armed struggle for the sake of Cuba Libre. Castro claimed for his movement the legacy of Cuba’s apostle, Jose Marti. He reminded the country of Marti’s words. ‘An educated people’, Marti had believed, ‘will always be strong and free’.

During his trial after the unsuccessful assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, Castro exposed the nation’s misery. He included an economic analysis in his nationalist appeal and declared:

«Our educational system is a perfect complement to our other problems. In a country where the farmer is not the owner of the land, why should any man want agricultural schools? In a city where there is no industry, what need is there for technical or industrial schools? … Less than half of the children of school age attend rural public schools, and those who do are barefoot, half naked, and undernourished. Many times it is the teacher who buys the necessary school materials with his own salary. Is this the way to make a nation great?»

Cubans agreed that it was not. When the fidelistas offered them a new dream of Cuba Libre, it is little wonder they followed.

The Colombian government has signed a formal agreement with the FARC to start a peace process to end the armed conflict which has devastated the country since 1964, reported Venezuelan news network Telesur on Monday.

According to Telesur, “high level sources within the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC have just signed an agreement to begin a formal peace dialogue.”

The Venezuelan news network confirmed a report by Colombian television station RCN that the formal peace talks are planned in the Norwegian capital of Oslo in October. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not confirm this for Colombia Reports.

Telesur reported that the Colombian president is soon to make the official announcement of the deal and the upcoming talks.

Newspaper El Espectador on Sunday reported that senior security adviser Sergio Jaramillo has been leading the government commission in Cuba that has been trying to prepare formal peace talks between the government and the guerrilla group that has been at war with the state since its foundation in 1964.

Jaramillo is reportedly being assisted by Environment Minister Frank Pearl who, according to U.S. diplomatic cables began seeking contact with the FARC when serving as peace commissioner under former President Alvaro Uribe.

  • Peace talks news archive

Colombia’s ambassador to Cuba, Gustavo Bell, reportedly is also involved in the talks. According to RCN, Santos’ brother Enrique has also been attending the meetings.

The Venezuelan government, while not directly involved in the preliminary, has been called on as mediator when talks turned sour, reported the newspaper.

According to both El Espectador and Telesur, the FARC’s spokesperson in Cuba is Mauricio Jaramillo, alias “El Medico,” one of the members of the guerrillas’ political leadership who “according to rumors” was accompanied by guerrilla commander “Ivan Marquez” on at least one occasion.

RCN reported that the government’s agenda has six basic themes which include FARC demobilization, ceasefire and the decommissioning of arms, all issues which have limited past efforts at negotiations.

The guerrilla group’s conditions consist of agricultural reform, renegotiation of multinational involvement in oil and mining industries, environmental issues and the involvement of social organizations in the eventual peace talks, reported radio station W last week.

While rumors of preliminary peace talks first surged in January, the still-unconfirmed negotiations were set high on the Colombian public and political agenda by Uribe a week ago.

Uribe’s rejection of peace talks caused the opposite reaction from Colombian congress, whosemajority of political parties voiced its support for a negotiated end to the 48-year old armed conflict, leaving the former president and his allies isolated.

According to a report by newspaper El Tiempo, the Uribe government was seeking talks with the FARC between 2005 and April 2010.

read here (in Portuguese), this text from Domingos Lobo

Jorge Amado pertence a uma geração de autores brasileiros que produziu, a partir dos anos 1930, uma literatura que começava – depois do fulgor realista de Machado de Assis – a pensar o Brasil fora da herança arcádica do colonialismo, fugindo aos apelos do modernismoe, até, da Renascença Portuguesa em cuja revista Águia poetas como Ronald de Carvalho e Guilherme de Almeida haviam colaborado.

Essa nova geração de poetas e prosadores, de Carlos Drumond de Andrade a Vinícius de Moraes, de Guimarães Rosa a João Cabral de Melo Neto, visava criar uma literatura autónoma face ao legado do romantismo e do realismo portugueses, que fosse, a um tempo, consciente e interventiva, centrada na realidade brasileira e sul-americana, exprimindo uma sintaxe nova mas fugindo ao folclorismo romântico de José de Alencar, e investindo a sua capacidade discursiva na denúncia das escandalosas desigualdades sociais, as misérias e sevícias sofridas pelo povo miúdo, que a crise de 1929 e o avanço, na Europa, do nazi-fascismo tornavam evidentes mesmo num país que tentava, através do discurso hiperbólico de Getúlio Vargas, proclamado pelos seus seguidores como pai dos pobres, manter o Brasil neutral face ao vasto conflito que abalava o mundo. A neutralidade não o impediu, no entanto, de manter clara simpatia pelos países do eixo, de perseguir, com o patrocínio do clero reaccionário, os comunistas e seus companheiros de jornada e de luta.

La Directora Nacional del Colegio de Profesores y candidata a la Presidencia de la CUT, Bárbara Figueroa, asistió a la marcha convocada por los estudiantes secundarios, acompañada de una delegación del Magisterio, compuesta por la también dirigente nacional Silvia Valdivia.

A las 11 de la mañana ya se reunían miles de estudiantes secundarios provenientes de diferentes comunas de la Región Metropolitana, para manifestar su rechazo al lucro en la educación y la necesidad de terminar con la administración de la educación pública escolar, la municipalización.

Atendiendo a la resolución del Colegio de Profesores en su última Asamblea Nacional Extraordinaria, de apoyar la movilización de los estudiantes, solidarizando con los secundarios y protegiendo los horarios en las escuelas, las Directoras Nacionales del gremio Bárbara Figueroa y Silvia Valdivia asistieron al punto de encuentro.

La marcha ni siquiera alcanzó a partir cuando las Fuerzas Especiales ya estaban reprimiendo fuertemente a los jóvenes.

Figueroa comentó que “no es posible que el Gobierno se siga negando a la participación ciudadana, los actores sociales, estudiantes, profesores y trabajadores, han demostrado que ya no se quedarán callados ni permitirán que los pasen a llevar, por más represión que les pongan encima”

“Los docentes hemos venido aquí porque las demandas de los estudiantes son también las nuestras” recordó Figueroa y agregó que “desde que en los 80 se introdujo la municipalización los docentes hemos rechazado esta forma de administración pues sólo apunta a profundizar las diferencias sociales”, concluyó Bárbara Figueroa

Neruda is celebrated by Chileans–as a poet—to a degree that is truly rare on this planet. We in the North are not used to poets being such celebrities. Our great poets are revered and respected, but really only a small fraction of our society have read their poems. In Chile, though, everybody knows Neruda, everybody has read Neruda: miners, housewives, bakers, maids, school children. To his beloved Chilean people, to so many Latin Americans, Neruda is still the source of tremendous pride, regardless of one’s political orientation.

And Neruda was such a Chilean, such a Latin American, in how much he cared for his country, continent and its people. They were his cause, his pride and the most important audience for his poetry. Though he constantly traveled, he would always return to Chile (only living abroad while serving diplomatic positions).

Neruda’s masterpiece, Canto General, is emblematic of his passion for his continent. The epic poem– Canto, as in song– is a class-based Marxist and humanistic interpretation of the history of the Americas, written as Neruda was developing his burgeoning pan-American consciousness and perspective.

“I live, I still live, and I think many of us live inside the world Neruda discovered,” Ariel Dorfman told me on a warm spring day on the Duke campus, where he is a Distinguished Professor of Literature, Latin American Studies and Theater. We had been discussing Canto General, in which, as Dorfman put it, “He basically named Latin America in a new way, and he claimed for Latin America the possibility of being lyrically and epically in a story of resistance. And what was very special about that for me was that he managed to understand that the struggle of the people for their liberation, for their full humanity, was parallel to the struggle of the nature of Latin America to be expressed, to be freed. . . to be shown.”

“From the political aesthetic point of view, Canto General has no equal,” Dorfman, who was exiled from Chile after Pinochet’s 1973 coup, continued, “There’s not one bad verse in Residencia en la tierra, but Canto General is full of verses I would sort of say, well hey, ‘they’re too propagandistic, bombastic.’ But when he hit the target in the Canto General, what he did was he redefined what America meant. América. Even North America, but particularly Latin America.”

Awesome in scope and simultaneously deeply probing, Canto General is considered by many to be one of the more important books in the whole cannon of the world’s poetry. And it extends well beyond the world of well-versed lovers of literature and academic scholars. In 2003, I went to a construction site on a new line of Santiago’s metro in order to interview workers about their thoughts on Neruda. There, José Corriel told me that Canto General was his favorite book by Neruda because it’s “la parte combativa de Neruda,” the combative side. “The importance of Canto General,” he said, “is that it shows us the Américas’ history from a different point of view.” Canto General, he explained, is told from “the point of view of the people themselves, not the history told by the conquerors. Yes, we could call it the ‘history told by the conquered.’”

He indeed drank deeply from that cup, as Latin America’s poetic essence flowed through the book’s two hundred and thirty more poems, in which he named so much of both America’s integrities and its external evils.

Canto General’s literary roots are the lyrics of his hero Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Mayan’s Popul Vuh and, as seen in “Amor América (1400),” the literature of the Bible. “Amor América (1400)” lays out Neruda’s idea of the American Genesis, a pre-Columbian Eden, before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores and the subsequent “imperialistic” foreign powers’ injustices. In this Eden, as Neruda described it, all was pure, so natural that “Man was earth, earthen vase.”

The Europeans extinguished the ancient “lamp on earth,” according to Neruda’s thinking. He portrays the Spanish Conquest as a tragic injustice forced on “his” people, despite his European heritage. The Europeans, to him, were barbarous and ruthless. “Like a wild rose, a red drop fell on the thickness”–so ended America’s Edenic first phase of history. (The poet doesn’t mention, though, the barberry that many pre-Columbian societies had ruthlessly enacted on others within the continent: the blood let by the Inca’s imperialism, the Aztec love of war, the Mayans` human sacrifices, the violence of Apache warriors. . . For he is not just invoking the peaceful indigenous of his land which would be called Chile, he is talking all of the Americas, “from the peace of the buffalo / to the beaten sands of the land’s end.”)

Neruda identifies himself with the indigenous people. “I searched for you, my father, young warrior of darkness and copper,” he writes in “Amor América (1400)”. In the poem, all indigenous people, peaceful and belligerent alike, are his “fathers”; he is their son. Pablo Neruda, though, was actually born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, with no native names in his lineage, but rather Spanish family names, with Neftalí, from his mother, suggesting some Semitic roots.

In Canto General, the “pastoral hermanos” are his brothers, presented as the land itself:

My Araucanian fathers had no

crests of luminous plumes,

they did not rest on nuptial flowers,

they did not spin gold for the priest:

they were stone and tree, roots

When the bestselling Chilean novelist Isabel Allende fled her country after Pinochet’s coup, she couldn’t take much with her, “some clothes, family pictures, a small bag with dirt from my garden, and two books: Eduardo Galleano’s seminal Open Veins of Latin America, and an old edition of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. Like the bag of earth, with Neruda’s words I was taking a part of Chile with me, for Neruda was such a part of my country, such a part of the political dreams destroyed that day.”

Neruda is one of history’s greatest examples of a soul rebel who used his pen as his sword in his constant fight for a better world. At his political core was a populism based on his fundamental belief that the common man, the worker, the poor, deserved a seat at the table as much as anybody else:

Neruda’s communism was not based on egalitarianism, but rather the equality of possibility.

Even as a teenager, witnessing the injustices against the indigenous and working class to which he was exposed, Neruda felt the poet’s calling– el deber del poeta: an obligation, a duty, a debt he owed to give voice to the people through his poetry. He promised a commitment to humanitarianism, using literature to enrich, empower and engage in the pursuit of progressive social change.