Chavez Gives Obama Book on Latin American History

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009; 11:43 AM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, April 18 -- With the media watching their every gesture, President Obama and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela continued their getting-to-know-you phase with a gift and another handshake, this one for more than one camera.

Before Obama began a closed-door meeting with the leaders of UNASUR, an association of the 12 South American nations, Chavez walked around the u-shaped table and handed him a book, "Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina," or "The Open Veins of Latin America." Cameras clicked, tape rolled.

The work, originally published in 1970, is probably the best known by Eduardo Galeano, an Uruguayan writer of socialist leanings. It explores the history of European colonization of Latin America and what Galeano believes is the malign political and economic influence the United States has exerted over the region in recent decades.

Galeano was persecuted in the 1970s by military juntas in Uruguay and Argentina, both recognized by the U.S. government. He now serves on the advisory board of TeleSUR, a South America-wide satellite channel based in Caracas, Venezuela. Chavez's communications ministry oversees the channel.

In an interview with the radio program Democracy Now! soon after Obama's election, Galeano said, "The White House will be Barack Obama's house in the time coming, but this White House was built by black slaves. And I'd like, I hope, that he never, never forgets this."

"I thought it was one of Chavez's books," Obama said after the meeting. "I was going to give him one of mine."

Will Obama, who used some rudimentary Spanish to greet Chavez the night before, read the book?

"The president is a very well-read man," said a senior administration official. "But I don't know what his reading list is."

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