Organized Violence

5 July 2019

Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin America
Edited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-Larsen
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$34.95 ISBN 9780889776104

What an eye-opening book! The amount of research required to end up with Organized Violence is staggering. Besides Paley and Granovsky-Larsen, 15 additional experts contributed to this meaty tome. The result is a well-rounded, masterful exposé on the violence in Latin America. But it is so much more than that; it’s an in-depth catalogue of human rights, social justice, and global capitalism mixed with violence. 

Organized Violence is so packed that it isn’t easy to give a true glimpse into the book in a brief review. The subject matter is multi-faceted, with more layers than are apparent at the outset. Add the emergence and growth of capitalism into the equation and you have a subject that is extremely complex. The war on drugs, an abundance of poverty, and people living in constant terror complicate it even further.

I was simultaneously horrified and humbled at how little I know of what is going on in other parts of the world. Take Honduras for example. One of the predominant cultures in that area – the Garifuna people – is being so threatened and displaced that UNESCO has declared the Garifuna culture one of nineteen “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” One of the main threats is the tourism industry that has bulldozed their way into the area, making it nearly impossible for the Garifuna way of life to continue. And it doesn’t sit right that the majority of the tourism companies that have pushed the natives from their homes and lives are Canadian firms. 

I am a facts junkie and this book is full of them. A few of my favourites:

  • Columbia, Sudan, and the Congo are the top three responsible for the displacement of millions of people. 
  • Latin America accounts for at least 536 murdered activists between 2000 and 2015.
  • By 2017, five men owned over $410 billion of wealth, compared to $400 billion shared among the poorest half of the world’s population. 

So many factions make an appearance in this book, adding to the layers. Just a few of them include the Knights Templar, Sicartsa (the National Action Party in Mexico), Occidental Petroleum, the World Bank, Goldcorp (a gold mining giant), the National Liberation Army, the United Nations, the Viceroy, the International Finance Corporation, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, among dozens of others. 

This book is a hidden gem, especially for anyone who wants to increase his or her knowledge of events in the world. More specifically, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in what has been going on in Latin America from the mid-20th century to the current day. 


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