Eyes Wide Open: A Journey Through Today’s South America
Pascal Dupont (2009)
Spanish with English subtitles
Eyes Wide Open was intended as a sequel to the late (deceased April 13, 2015) Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. It was Galeano’s book that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez presented to newly elected president Barack Obama in 2009. According to Galeano, the entire history of Latin American is based on the stripping of the continent’s resources by Europe and the US. It started with gold and silver, followed by tin, copper, rubber, sugar, salt peter, cocoa, coffee, guano and bananas. This grotesque asset stripping was accomplished mainly through the brutal suppression and exploitation of its (majority) indigenous population.
Eyes Wide Open mainly concerns Latin America’s rejection of US neoliberalism and neo-colonialism, with the recent election of “leftist” leaders in eight countries (Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). The filmmakers visit four of them (Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador), to ascertain whether their new presidents have kept their promise to bring about true economic democracy. Interviews with grassroots leaders are interspersed with with a variety of media footage and commentary by Galeano.
The documentary also discusses the Bolivarian Alliance of the America’s the eight countries formed and its defeat, in 2005, of the Free Trade of the Americas treaty George W Bush tried to foist on them.
Lula Sells Out to Cargill
The filmmakers are highly critical of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) for reneging on his promise to redistribute elite land holdings to landless peasants. Instead he sold out to the giant agrobusiness Cargill, authorizing generous government subsidies to help them establish vast GMO soy plantations in Brazil’s Amazon basin.
Evo Nationalizes Bolivia’s Oil and Gas Industry
Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales, who came to power in 2006 as a direct result of Bolivia’s water wars,* has a far better track record. The documentary details his decision to nationalize Bolivia’s oil and gas industry and use the income to fund government pensions for the elderly, free education and safer working conditions for Bolivian tin miners. Evo also re-nationalized the tin mines, which had been privatized, and rehired all the miners who had been laid off.
Multinational oil companies (mainly Exxon, Shell and Total) owned 60% of Bolivia’s fossil fuel industry, and the US ambassador (ie CIA) colluded with the Bolivian opposition to block Evo’s land reforms in the rich eastern provinces. In 2008, provincial police gunned down a peaceful peasant protest demanding the land they had been promised. Evo responded by expelling the US ambassador.
Bureaucracy and Corruption in Venezuela
The segment on Venezuela begins with the massive popular protest that defeated the attempted US coup against Chavez in 2002. It also includes a lengthy segment on Chavez’s housing reforms, profiling one of the female housing activists he put in charge of overseeing the replacement of a barrio full of tin shacks with a modern apartment complex.
Venezuela’s land reform efforts weren’t nearly as successful as Bolivia’s, which filmmakers blame on bureaucracy and corruption within the Chavez government.
Constituent Assembly Writes New Constitution in Ecuador
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa is presented in a much more favorable light. Eyes Wide Open focuses mainly on his decision to call a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. The latter would recognize, for the first time, the multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural basis of Ecuadorean society. This new constitution would also be the first in the world to recognize the rights of nature.
*Bolivia’s water wars were a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1999-2000, over the privatization (resulting in massive price hikes) of the city’s municipal water supply. In 2003-2005, similar protests broke out over the privatization of Bolivia’s natural gas supply. The protests eventually led President Sánchez de Lozada to step down and flee to Miami.
An important film, and well-described. I find it disturbing that our education in the US fails to provide any information about the inexcusable ongoing violence of US interventions into the affairs of South and Central America.
You’re right, Carol. Most of this information was totally new to me.
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Reblogged this on msamba.
Great link. Thanks. A lot of this are following developments in Greece quite closely.
Reblogged this on ihtis69.
This article, re-blogged in it’s entirety, at ‘Finding Truth in an Illusory World’…Thank you!
Amazing humour in the face of adversity!
I am uneasy as I laugh at the intentional irony pointing to suffering and death…
I wonder if the late Hugo Chavez had a laugh after his gift was delivered to President Obama?
I think he was like grief-stricken at Obama’s neoliberal turn, as most of us were.
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It’s Colombia not Columbia.
Thanks, Don. As it turns out (see onnovocks’ comment below), I shouldn’t have been talking about Colombia at all. For some reason, I got Bolivia and Colombia confused.
This article needs a few corrections, sorry I hate to criticize someone else’s work, I make mistakes too, but in this case I feel I have to. 1) Colombia is often misspelled by English speakers who use their spelling with a “U” instead of an “O”. This one is understandable, English speakers know him as Columbus whereas Spanish speakers know him as Colón, the person the Country was named after. 2) Evo Morales is the first indigenous President of Bolivia, not Colombia.
Now I’ll throw in my 2 cents for what thats worth. Having grown up close to that region I know that one of the big problems was/is that most of the land belongs to what are essentially 60 families and their relatives. It has been that way since before Simon Bolivar ejected the Spanish from the region that is now Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Respecting the rule of Law, these people can not be disowned of their property, and why would they give it up voluntarily? I got this information from a Colombian Politician who served in the Senate in the 70’s, I have not done any research to verify the accuracy of his account, but also have no reason to doubt him.
I don’t know what the answer is but it pains me to see a people I love and respect suffer through poverty without end. It angers me that the region is subject to so much meddling from outsiders, but that always seems to be the case in a resource rich area. I’ll now go and watch the video and may return to comment. Thank you for getting some attention for this matter. Greetings.
Saludos desde los Países Bajos,
Thanks so much for the corrections, onnovocks. Looking back at that paragraph, for some reason I seem to have been typing Bolivia and Colombia interchangeable.
As for for land monopolization by the ruling class, I really like the solution Henry George proposed in 1879 in Progress and Poverty, namely a Land Value Tax.http://stuartjeannebramhall.com/2013/12/24/progress-and-poverty-a-suppressed-economics-classic/
And thank you for taking it so well. Just got through the video. From kid through adulthood, I traveled extensively through Colombia and Venezuela, so there were many familiar things for me in the footage.
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1. Brazil: The film makes a distinction between state/people (good) and corporations (bad), but actually the players are state/corporations vs. people which is no contest. The administrators and the “peoples’ representatives” have all been bought. The problem is the existence of an all-powerful central state.
2. Ecuador: ” a new constitution. . . would recognize…rights…” In the US we have a “bill of rights” in the constitution. It was included over the objections of some who pointed out that if you list some rights, you imply that non-listed rights are not protected, and in fact there is a clause to that effect. Nevertheless, the chief US supreme court “justice” has recently pointed out that there is not a constitutional right to an abortion. The very idea that the government is empowered to provide us our rights is questionable. Weren’t we born with our basic rights? (as in the US declaration of independence) The constitution ought to be a document that contstitutes the government, not a document that defines peoples’ rights. Don’t we have the rights to do or say anything that doesn’t harm others, and also the right to sue those who do harm others, as on the environment. — rant over — food for thought
Interesting points, Don. When described this way, Brazil almost sounds like classic state capitalism, where capital is owned and controlled by the state, rather than private corporations. My understanding is the Bill of Rights was included in the Constitution because that was the only way they could get the states to approve it.
I tend to be pragmatic about rights. When I look at history, I see that ordinary people have been dominated and controlled by a ruling elite for thousands of years. The only time they have had “rights” is when they have organized and fought for them. When people cease to be organized, they lose the rights.
I know Jefferson talked about men being created equal and born with unalienable rights, but I think this was just rhetoric. He was a very learned man and was really well acquainted with the tyranny of the wealthy elite.
Reblogged this on 1EarthUnited and commented:
Thank you for sharing this information Dr. Bramhall. Latin America has been exploited for far too long, enriching the elite at the expense of the indigenous ppl. Selling out to the West for so long, the trend is reversing, Ecuador has made good progress fighting for the rights of their ppl, but constantly under threat of colored revolution, assassination and violent regime change.
Thanks for reblogging and the interesting link. I have just finished a review of Open Veins of Latin America, which I will post later this morning. One thing that really stands out for me is that the wealthy elite in Latin America only exists to service the needs of foreign colonizers – first Spain (Portugal in the case of Brazil), then England, then the US. It requires tremendous military might to maintain political and economic colonies. I get the impression that Obama is too busy with all his wars in the Middle East, the Philippines, Africa and Ukraine – while simultaneously trying to start a war in Russia and China – that he’s not in a position to invade Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay simultaneously to protect their elites.
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I would have to agree with you on that point. US foreign policy is spreading thin these days, war on too many fronts and Washington is losing control. Russia and China playing it smart, sit and wait on the sideline while watching the enemy implode.
Reblogged this on News for the Revolution.