My friend and comrade Eduardo Galeano had been ill for some time, but the treatment worked and he would recover and put pen to paper again. Asked to comment on him in a TV interview with Telesur, this is what I said:
What Bolivar sought to accomplish with sword, Galeano did with his pen. He sought to unite the continent against US imperialism. He spoke for the underground voices of the continent when US-backed military dictatorships had crushed democracy in most parts of South America; he spoke for those who were being tortured; he spoke for the indigenous people crushed by the dual oppression of Empire and creole oligarchs.
Was he optimistic or pessimistic? He was both and often simultaneously, but he never gave up hope. That remained strong all his life. It is visible in his lyrical works on South American history. History written as poetry. It is there in his journalism from La Marcha in the Uruguay of the 60s to La Jornada in Mexico today. He was never dogmatic, always open to new ideas.
After the tyranny of the dictatorships he realised like many others that the armed road had been a disaster, that the Cuban Revolution could not be imitated blindly. The birth of new social movements and the Bolivarian victories were a source of inspiration and concern. He did not want to see old mistakes repeated. Whenever we met this was strong in him. We were not simply defeated by the enemy, he would insist, but also to a certain extent by ourselves.
He wrote with a biblical simplicity, strong and political with history as his teacher.
Read Galeano is what I would advise every aspiring young radical journalist today. Don’t mimic him. Learn from him.
Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).