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Hugo's book club

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Move over Oprah. There's another popular television host who has demonstrated that his endorsement can translate into instant notoriety for the lucky author and publisher.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- whose 'Alo Presidente' TV program is part of his compulsive mass communication and popular education -- already proved he could help sell books when, at his famous UN speech calling George W. Bush 'the devil,' he brandished a copy of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival. That book immediately shot up the Amazon.com charts.

But that Chomsky endorsement pales in comparison to the impact that Chavez has had in manufacturing readers' consent to purchase Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America, the Uruguayan author's classic work. In just a couple of days since Chavez presented the book as a gift to Obama at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad it has moved from fifty-four and something thousandth position to become the number two bestseller on Amazon.com.

You can watch a video of Chavez delivering the gift here. And you can order the book here. Galeano, for those who aren't familiar with his body of work, is one of the great Latin American writers of his generation, combining an elegant, lyrical style with sharp, critical analysis of imperialism's devastation of the land and resources of the Americas.

Galeano's sweeping and engaging history of Latin America became a banned book during the dark years of military dictatorships in the southern cone of South America; the author himself lived in exile for many years. Even if this book wasn't making worldwide headlines, it would still be an absolute must read for understanding the western hemisphere today. Of the heads of state at last weekend's Summit, it's likely that a majority read Galeano's book as youngsters, and that -- along with the region's powerful social movements -- helps explain why the 'pink tide' is rising in Obama and the U.S. Empire's backyard.




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