Oddly Enough

Sales of book jump on Chavez gift to Obama

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gives U.S. President Barack Obama a copy of "Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina" by author Eduardo Galeano during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad April 18, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CARACAS (Reuters) - A book that inspired a generation of Latin American leftists is ringing up big sales after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave it to U.S. President Barack Obama in an effort to ease diplomatic tensions.

“Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” a manifesto decrying centuries of imperialism in the region, was No. 2 on’s bestseller list on Sunday after Chavez presented it to Obama at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

In response, Chavez jokingly proposed a business partnership with the new U.S. president, marking a sharp distinction from nearly a decade of feuding with Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, whom he called “the devil.”

“So I said, Obama, let’s go into a business. We’ll promote books -- I’ll give you one, you give me another,” Chavez said.

Asked at a news conference what he thought of the gift, Obama said, “I thought it was a nice gesture to give me that book. I’m a reader.”

The 1971 book by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano describes Latin American history as 500 years of looting and pillaging of natural resources by outsiders ranging from colonial Spain in the 1600s to U.S. multinational corporations of 20th century.

This was not the first time Chavez’s book recommendations have proved a boon to authors. Sales of U.S. linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival” soared after Chavez plugged it during a U.N. speech.

In recent years, Venezuela has led the region’s resurgent anti-U.S. sentiment. But at the summit in Trinidad, Chavez proposed naming a new ambassador to Washington. He expelled the U.S. ambassador in September and Washington responded by kicking out Venezuela’s envoy.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Fabian Andres Cambero