Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul by Michael Reid

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Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape. This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America’s efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world’s most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries, including Brazil, Chile and Mexico, democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chavez’s oil-fueled populism, and much is at stake. Failure will increase the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe, jeopardize stability in a region rich in oil and other strategic commodities, and threaten some of the world’s most majestic natural environments. Drawing on Michael Reid’s many years of reporting from inside Latin America’s cities, presidential palaces, and shantytowns, the book provides a vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world.

Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul

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Ripped And Torn: Levi’s, Latin America and the Blue Jean Dream by Amaranta Wright

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Amaranta Wright was a young writer living in Miami when Levi’s hired her to travel through Latin America. Her brief was to befriend teenagers and report back with every aspect of their lives: their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations. At first, she saw the job as a means to travel around a continent she loved. But as time passed, the more sinister and divisive aspects of what she was being asked to do became apparent, her attempts to understand the dispossessed of these countries constantly frustrated by the mechanics of corporate globalisation – its unspoken aim to reduce individuals to bullet points.
This is a compellingly humane portrait of a continent in crisis – riddled with paradox, complexity, beauty and brutality. It is a book about the arrogance with which we in the West refer to ‘developing’ continents, the developed world’s overarching desire to turn people into consumers, and the often insidious methods employed to this end. It is about what happens when indigenous voices are silenced by corporate vision.

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Long After Midnight At The Nino Bien: A Yanqui’s Missteps In Argentina by Brian Winter

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After moving to Argentina on a whim, Brian Winter, a young American reporter, embarks on a crusade to learn that devilishly difficult dance that demands both discipline and passion: the tango. While he dances the night away in the milongas with the fiery denizens of Buenos Aires, the country around them collapses, gripped by inflation, street riots, and revolution. In a book that is part travelogue and part history, the author evokes his immersion in a dark underworld. He visits old dance salons, brothels, and shacks on the dusty Pampa, searching for the tangos shady origins in the hope that understanding may help him dance better. Along the way, he discovers that the tango, with its tales of jealousy, melodrama, and lost glory, may hold the secret to the country that is inexplicably disintegrating before his eyes.

Hell’s Gorge: The Battle To Build The Panama Canal by Matthew Parker

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Hell’s Gorge traces a heroic dream that spanned four centuries: to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.The human cost was immense: in appalling working conditions and amid epidemics of fever, tens of thousands perished fighting the jungle, swamps and mountains of Panama, a scale of attrition comparable to many great battles.
Matthew Parker explores the fierce geo-political struggle behind the heroic vision of the canal, and the immense engineering and medical battles that were fought. But he also weaves in the stories of the ordinary men and women who worked on the canal, to evoke everyday life on the construction and depict the battle on the ground deep in ‘Hell’s Gorge’. Using diaries, memoirs, contemporary newspapers and previously unseen private letters, he draws a vivid picture of the heart-breaking struggle on the Isthmus, in particular that of the British West Indians who made up the majority of the canal workforce.
Hell’s Gorge is a tale of politics, finance, press manipulation, scandal and intrigue, populated by a dazzling cast of idealists and bullies, heroes and conmen. But it is also a moving tribute to the ‘Forgotten Silvermen’, so many of whom died to fulfil the centuries-old canal dream.
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Bonjour Blanc: A Journey Through Haiti by Ian Thomson

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Haiti: one thinks of voodoo, Papa Doc, political violence and desperate poverty. In Bonjour Blanc Thomson explores all of the dread demons and eccentricities of this unhappy republic. He is initiated into the feared Bizzango religion, an African animist cult whose associates venerate a coffin and human skulls; he talks to zombies, the walking dead. Part history, part personal travelogue, Thomson introduces us to a lively gallery of eccentrics: a Russian Cossack, a Swiss chess champion who had studied Einstein, and an ancient voodoo priest. Yet Haiti is also noted for its history as a retreat for writers – Anthony Trollope, Ian Flemming, Alexandre Dumas, Graham Greene and Eugene O’Neill – and Thomson wonderfully explores their Haitian adventures.
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Jungle Capitalists: A Story Of Globalisation, Greed And Revolution by Peter Chapman

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In this powerful and gripping book, Peter Chapman shows how the pioneering example of the banana importer United Fruit set the precedent for the institutionalized greed of today’s multinational companies. From the business’ 19th Century beginnings in the jungles of Costa Rica, via the mass-marketing of the banana as the original fast food, United Fruit’s involvement in bloody coups in Guatemala and El Salvador, the mid-1970s and the spectacular suicide on Park Avenue of the company’s chairman, from its bullying business practices to its covert links to the US government, United Fruit blazed the trail of global capitalism through the 20th Century. Chapman weaves a dramatic tale of big business, lies and power to show how one company pioneered the growth of globalization and – in doing so – has helped farm the banana to the point of extinction.
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And The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out): Wall Street, The IMF And The Bankrupting Of Argentina by Paul Blustein

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This dramatic, definitive account of the most spectacular economic meltdown of modern times exposes the dangerous flaws of the global financial system. In the 1990s, few countries were more lionized than Argentina for its efforts to join the club of wealthy nations. Argentina’s policies drew enthusiastic applause from the IMF, the World Bank and Wall Street. But the club has a disturbing propensity to turn its back on arrivistes and cast them out. That was what happened in 2001 when Argentina suffered one of the most spectacular crashes in modern history. With it came appalling social and political chaos, a collapse of the peso and a wrenching downturn that threw millions into poverty and left nearly one-quarter of the workforce unemployed. Paul Blustein, whose book about the IMF, “The Chastening”, was called ‘gripping, often frightening’ by “The Economist” now gets right inside Argentina’s rise and fall in a dramatic account based on hundreds of interviews with top policymakers and financial market players, as well as reams of internal documents. He shows how the IMF turned a blind eye to the vulnerabilities of its star pupil, and exposes the conduct of global financial market players in Argentina as redolent of the scandals – like those at Enron and WorldCom – that rocked Wall Street in recent years. By going behind the scenes of Argentina’s debacle, Blustein shows with unmistakable clarity how sadly elusive the path of hope and progress remains to the great bulk of humanity still mired in poverty and underdevelopment.
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