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1899 -- Rio De Janeiro


Sorcerous hands play with the price of coffee, & Brazil cannot pay the London & River Plate Bank & other very important creditors.

It is the hour of sacrifice, announces the Finance Minister Joaquim Murtinho. The minister believes in the natural laws of economics, which by natual selection condemn the weak, that is to say the poor, that is to say almost everyone. Should the State take the coffee business out of the speculators' hands? That, says an indignant Murtinho, would be a violation of natural laws & a dangerous step toward socialism, that fearsome plague that European workers are bringing to Brazil: socialism, he says, denies freedom & turns man into an ant.

National industry, Murtinho believes, is not natural. Small as it is, national industry is taking labor from the plantations & raising the price of hands. Murtinho, guardian angel of the great-estate order, will see to it that the crisis is not paid for by the owners of men & lands, who have survived intact the abolition of slavery & the proclamation of the republic. To pay off the English banks & balance the books, the minister burns in an oven any banknote that comes his way, suppresses any public service that is handy, & lets loose a hail of taxes on the poor.

Economist by vocation & physician by profession, Murtinho also makes interesting experiments in the field of physiology. In his laboratory he extracts the encephalic mass of rats & rabbits & decapitates frogs to study the convulsions of the body, which continues moving as if it had a head.

Eduardo Galeano, Faces & Masks, p253

( Cited, Daily Bleed, Jan 30, 1894 )

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