Since the conquest and peripheralization of vast regions of America by Spain and Portugal in the sixteenth century, the exportation of raw materials to the core has been constant. But there has been an evolution in the characteristics of the peripheral role. During the sixteenth century, gold and silver were central, and their exportation played an important role in the economic development of northwestern Europe. During the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, agricultural products emerged as the most important exportations: sugar, indigo, coffee, and rubber. During the twentieth century, sugar, coffee and bananas continued to be significant, but petroleum and mineral resources also came to be essential exportations, integrally tied to the technological development of the United States
In his description of the open veins of Latin America, Galeano describes the increasing dependency of the United States on the petroleum and minerals of Latin America during the twentieth century, including copper, tin, iron, bauxite, magnesium, and nickel. Given their importance in the development of the economic and military power of the United States, Galeano refers to them as the “underground sources of power” (2004:175-221). Writing in 1970, he notes that petroleum, copper, zinc, bauxite, iron, manganese, nickel, and tungsten were necessary for the US Armed Forces, which at the time were engaged in the Vietnam War. He writes: “The growing dependency with respect to foreign supplies causes a growing identification of the interests of North American capitalists in Latin America with the national security of the United States. The internal stability of the world’s greatest power appears intimately linked to North American investments south of the Río Grande. Nearly half of these investments are dedicated to the extraction of petroleum and the exploitation of mineral wealth, ‘indispensable for the economy of the United States as much in peace as in war’” (2004:175-76; 1997:134-35; quoting Edwin Lieuwen). By the 1960s, Latin American governments had granted generous concessions to US companies providing access to: iron, manganese, and radioactive elements in Brazil; lead, silver, and zinc in Bolivia; petroleum in Venezuela; copper in Chile; nickel and manganese in Cuba (prior to 1959); and bauxite and manganese in British Guiana (Galeano 2004:175-81; 1997:135-39).
We will be exploring in subsequent posts the efforts of the United States to ensure its access to Latin American petroleum and to copper in Chile, tin in Bolivia, and iron in Venezuela and Brazil.
Galeano, Eduardo. 1997. The Open Veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent, 25th Anniversary Edition. Translated by Cedric Belfrage. Forward by Isabel Allende. New York: Monthly Review Press.
__________. 2004. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, tercera edición, revisada. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, open veins of Latin America, Galeano, petroleum, minerals