Category Archives: Book Review

Book reviews by CASC members.






“The history of Latin America has been one of expropriation… Resources, and with them workers’ rights and public services have been squashed in a post-colonial free for all’

Dangl, a young USA writer, travels through Latin America learning about the past and present history-in-the-making events of our southern neighbours. The main focus is Bolivia but he puts it into context with reports from surrounding countries as well. Recent events in this small mountainous country – the plebiscites on the elected President, Evo Morales, and state governors, that were demanded by the US-backed wealthy who want to make a new country of the petroleum-rich region – confirmed that a majority of Bolivian people want a new government that answers to citizens and their social movements that protect and empower people & save their resources. In spite of incredible resources – petroleum, iron and other metals – Bolivia is the 2nd poorest country in this hemisphere.

The citizen-organized Gas War in 2003, a popular uprising reversed corporate policies and ousted a president. They were empowered by the success of another social uprising in Cochabamba, a Water War against the privatization of water and its sale to the Bechtel Corporation which saw Bechtel chased out – and inspired many richer more powerful groups and places around the world to fight to keep their water public. It was in these movements that the leadership skills of activist Evo Morales  – the first indigenous president in Latin America – were honed.


‘In the 1980s, the policies that enforced those beliefs came together under the umbrella of “neoliberalism.”… Neoliberalism’s objectives were the deregulation of the economy and the attraction of foreign investors. Across Latin America, trade barriers were removed, labour and environmental laws were loosened, tax breaks were given to foreign companies, and public telephones, water systems, railroads and electricity were “privatized” and sold…education, healthcare and public transportation were slashed.’


This is the program for not only Latin America, but the world. The people of Latin America have provided incredible and courageous resistance to this program – to the shame of those of us who are apathetic and politically ignorant in wealthier lands.  This resistance takes different forms across Latin America; those who occupy land, some who take over factories, others create social movements that topple governments. Dangl gives good reports from around the continent on these exciting waves of change, but I was most fascinated by his personal accounts of social groups in Bolivia that provided the hope, organization and strength for political change. He was right there on the streets during many events and it makes gripping reading.  From the feminists in Mujeres Creando who create the ways and means for women to overcome traditional oppressive values and customs so they can participate fully in society to Teatro Trono, a theatre group founded in the 1980s to ‘reclaim democracy through theatre and art’ with those who are normally exclude from artistic expression – homeless children, poor miners and many others. Social movements were the creative force for resistance. 

‘…nowhere else In Latin America did corporate globalization wreak as much havoc as it did in Boliva. Nowhere else has the people’s resistance been so strong.’


The Price of Fire is a great antidote to our ignorance and apathy, full of lively current history and stories to inspire all who long for social change but are not engaged in the process. We face the same fate if we don’t see the parallels and start organizing.   

Theresa Wolfwood is the director of the Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation. To read more book reviews and articles see:




The role of the West in Rwanda's genocide,

A People Betrayed: The role of the West in Rwanda‘s genocide, by Linda Malvern, Zed Press, 2000

Reviewed By Roger Annis


I recently read a comprehensive history of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, "A People Betrayed: The role of the West in Rwanda‘s genocide." I was drawn to read it by the experience of the current UN-sponsored occupation of Haiti. There are important parallels between the two experiences.

 In 1994, the United Nations Security Council stood by while more than one million Rwandans were killed in a planned genocide by a regime that received important backing from the U.S., France, Belgium and Egypt. The regime acted in the name of a fictional "Hutu" nationality against a minority people called "Tutsi". Killings on a massive scale began in April of that year and only ended with the military and political defeat of the "Hutu Power" regime by the Rwanda Patriotic Front. The human misery continued because the new government inherited a shattered country, and some one million people were driven out of Rwanda into a barren region of Zaire by the genocide regime in order to preserve a population base.

 I knew the rough outlines of the genocide. What the book reveals is that not only did the UN Security Council and its member countries stand by before and during the genocide, they gave active military and diplomatic support to the genocide regime. France and Egypt provided arms. France and the Security Council maintained their diplomatic recognition of the regime until its dying days. With Security Council backing, France intervened in late June with a 2,500-member military force in order to salvage the remnants of the regime and impose a "coalition" regime on the Rwandan people, that is, a government of the RPF and the architects of the genocide. (The RPF flatly refused).

 Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was the head of the UN’s "peacekeeping" contingent in Rwanda. It arrived in the summer of 1993 and numbered 2,500 troops. It did not have a mandate nor the resources to intervene and stop the genocide when it began in earnest in April 1994. In fact, as the killings mounted, Belgium, the former colonial power, pulled out the remainder of its armed forces. (France had withdrawn in late 1993). Dallaire is treated as a folk hero in Canada and internationally for his apparent efforts to stop the genocide. I think the adulation is undeserved, for several reasons.

 One, if UN forces were truly interested in stopping the genocide, they would have aided the Rwandan patriotic forces in the RPF who were attempting to do just that. But Dallaire always couched his appeal for stronger UN intervention as a measure to "separate two warring sides." In other words, he sought to preserve elements of the genocide regime in the form of an imposed coalition government, the same goal that France attempted in June. The RPF never received support nor cooperation from UN forces.

 Two, Dallaire travels and speaks widely on the Rwanda genocide. And what is his message? That the UN, the very agency that "betrayed" the Rwandan people, as the title of the book under review states, should be strengthened and reinforced. He is an enthusiastic proponent of the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine authored by the ideologues of his government (Dallaire is a member of the unelected Canadian Senate).

 Dallaire has unique insight and information of the events that transpired in Rwanda. He knows first-hand of the cruel betrayal of the Rwandan people by the U.S. and France in particular, not to speak of the UN Security Council. Does he condemn this betrayal? Only in the vaguest of language. Meanwhile, he preaches forgiveness and renewal of confidence in the governments and international institutions that betrayed.

 If Dallaire were sincerely interested in averting future Rwandas, he would denounce the "betrayals" of other peoples by the Security Council, including in Haiti. There, in early 2004, the Security Council sanctioned the violent overthrow of Haiti‘s elected president and other governing institutions, and then recognized an appointed and illegal regime that perpetrated widespread killings and human rights violations against supporters of Haiti‘s democracy.

 I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the role of the UN in today’s world. "Peacekeeping?" "Responsibility to Protect?" This book is a reminder of how poisonous are these doctrines. Beware of their proponents.

 Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network. He resides in Vancouver BC.