Robinson takes readers from the salt plains of Chile to the depths of the Amazonian jungle to stitch together the story of Latin America's last decade, showing how the imperial plunder of the past carries on today under a new name.
Robinson introduces many South Americans whose lives have been upended in the current economy, which now faces domination not only by its historic big brother, the U.S., but also by China, whose burgeoning tech industry demands access to those same scarce metals. Robinson writes passionately and expects that his readers have more than a little knowledge of the subject.
The impressive amount of legwork he has put in tramping all across the region is undermined by excessive fealty to the thesis put forward in Open Veins – which has been cruelly caricatured as,'We’re poor, it’s their fault.' Robinson acknowledges Galeano’s later renunciation. But rather than explore why or take it as a warning of the pitfalls that await him he simply doubles down, rehashing its overly simplistic anti-capitalism and anti – these days US – imperialism rather than seeking to better contextualise it ... the book contains valuable reporting from some of the frontlines of the global economy. But the focus is too narrow, replicating the problem Galeano eventually came to see with his classic of having reduced history to just one dimension ... For all its wide travel, Gold, Oil, and Avocados, with its relentless anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism, is far too uninterested in the multiple other forces at work in shaping contemporary Latin America ... Worse, for a book that claims an anti-imperialist lineage, it denies agency to Latin American citizens themselves. Its cumulative effect is to caricaturise a vast and complex region as just one big Honduras, a banana republic where the campesinos are oppressed by a small elite who do the bidding of an all-powerful Washington, which still snuffs out any resistance through coups, hard or soft, in order to keep its domestic consumers satisfied ... there are also too many errors and selective misrepresentations ... Such cavalier handling of facts allied to its weak exposition of regional politics and economics end up draining the book of authority. By the chapter on oil, a riot of misinformation, the author admits an acceptance of conspiracy theories as a useful key to understanding Latin America. It is in its own way an admission of the book’s struggle to prove its thesis.
Sharp portraits ... deeply troubling ... Readers see the devastation firsthand ... An urgent eyewitness account of how culture and land are being destroyed by 'a remorseless process of commodification.'