The Galeano book was not a present to Mr. Obama, though it was hyped as such. After all it was in Spanish, a language Mr. Obama does not read -- and Cuban and Venezuelan military intelligence surely would have advised Mr. Chávez of that fact. Its purpose was instead a way for the resentful Venezuelan to shove his anticapitalist, anti-American prejudices in Mr. Obama's face before rows of television cameras.
Yet, unwittingly, Mr. Chávez's gag gift served another purpose. If there has been any doubt about how he has run his oil-rich country into the ground during a decade of booming petroleum prices, the mystery is now solved. Mr. Galeano's book is Mr. Chávez's bible.