“Lack of Cuban style health-related conditions has cost the lives of about 40 million South American children over the last 6 decades. Better dead than Red imposed by Uncle Sam on the utterly innocent – no ‘right to life’ for South American infants under brutal American hegemony.”
The bottom-line measure of the success or otherwise of imperial policies or domestic social policies is the attendant Excess Mortality (avoidable mortality, avoidable death, excess death, death that should not have happened). More specifically, excess death is the difference between the actual deaths in a country and the deaths expected for a peaceful, decently-run country with the same demographics.  This essay looks at excess mortality over the last half century or so in South America (used for convenience in this essay to denote that part of the Americas minus North America i.e. Central and South America and the Caribbean).
Detailed analysis of data from the UN Population Division enables estimation of the excess deaths for essentially every country in the world since 1950.  I have performed this laborious exercise and indeed written a book on the subject with the working title Body Count: Global Avoidable Mortality since 1950 that is currently being prepared for publication.  The numbers are horrendous – the 1950-2005 excess deaths total 1.3 billion (for the whole World; 2005 population 6.45 billion), 1.2 billion for the non-European World, 1.1 billion for the Third World, about 0.6 billion for the Muslim World, 55 million for the European World (2005 population 1,100 million) and about 50 million for South America (as defined above; 2005 population 540 million).
These huge numbers of avoidable deaths over the space of a mere 55 years (1.3 billion for the World) demand some kind of comparison with previous human experience. The Black Death (the Plague) decimated Europe – it killed about 2/3 to 3/4 of the affected populations and, overall with about 25 million dying, killed about 1/4 of the overall European population. The other catastrophe was the European invasion of North and South America that caused horrendous loss of life through violence, dispossession and slavery but mostly through introduced diseases against which the “native” populations had little resistance. However a rough estimate can be made of the excess deaths from estimates of an Indian population of North and South America totalling about 24 million in circa 1500.  These catastrophes are each only half the size of the post-1950 excess mortality in US-dominated South America (50 million) and only about 2% of the 1950-2005 excess mortality in the First World-dominated World as a whole (1.3 billion).
To get man-made mass avoidable mortality comparable to that of the 1950-2005 Third World Holocaust (1.1 billion excess deaths) one has to turn to British-ruled India (1757-1947). One can estimate from conservative figures for expected death rates, observed death rates and population that the excess deaths in British-ruled India totalled about 0.6 billion (1757-1831), 0.5 billion (under Queen Victoria, 1831-1901) and 0.4 billion (1901 until Independence in 1947) i.e. 1.5 billion in total.  The 1950-2005 excess deaths in the South Asian countries of the former British Raj (2005 population 1,460 million) total 465 million. Thus the carnage wrought largely through First World hegemony in the Third World in the last 6 decades (1.1 billion excess deaths) is commensurate with that associated with British rule of India since the accession of Queen Victoria (1831) until Independence (1947), specifically 0.9 billion excess deaths. 
Before returning specifically to South America it is useful to consider a fundamental flaw in Western scholarship when it comes to excess death (avoidable death) – in general it is simply IGNORED when it pertains to non-European victims of European policies. Thus everyone is aware of the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million excess deaths)  but due to lying, racist, holocaust-ignoring academics, politicians and journalists very few are aware of the contemporaneous WW2 man-made Bengal Famine in British India (peak years 1943-1944; 4 million victims; due to deliberate British neglect; critically caused by a huge increase in the price of rice – those who could not pay starved, as analyzed by 1998 Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen of Harvard and Cambridge; and associated with huge military and civilian sexual abuse of starving women and girls, 30,000 in Calcutta alone and possibly hundreds of thousands province-wide).  Indeed Colin Mason in his A Short History of Asia has suggested that this “forgotten” WW2 atrocity on the same scale as the Jewish Holocaust may have been due to a deliberate British “scorched earth policy” to forestall Japanese invasion of India. 
A major reason for this genocide-ignoring or holocaust-ignoring – whether of the WW2 Bengal Famine (4 million victims), the 1950-2005 Muslim Holocaust (0.6 billion victims), the 1950-2005 Third World Holocaust (1.1 billion victims) or the post-1950 South American Holocaust (50 million excess deaths) – is because the awful truth is unpalatable and reflects appallingly on ostensibly civilized Anglo-American and other European societies complicit in these atrocities. However “history ignored yields history repeated” and this genocide-ignoring simply means that the carnage of the Avoidable Mortality Holocaust is continuing – each year about 16 million people die avoidably (about 10 million of the victims being under-5 year old infants). 
A really fundamental reason for the IGNORING is that our altruism has been evolutionarily selective to enhance the survivability of our KIN (children and close family and tribal relatives) (see Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene).  There was little selective advantage in altruism towards distant people – indeed it can be argued that the opposite is true. Psychologist Professor Paul Slovic explains our genocide-ignoring behaviour in terms of this hard-wired but extremely localized and focussed altruism.  We can respond to distant individuals (e.g. the Iraqi child with all his limbs blown off) but altruism declines dramatically with the second such child and indeed the Mainstream media, politicians and the Western public utterly IGNORE the horrendous on-going reality (accessed by a few mouse clicks from UNICEF)  that 0.6 million under-5 infants die each day in US- or US surrogate-occupied Occupied Countries (HAITI, Somalia, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan) – i.e. 1,640 daily or ONE PER MINUTE – this being largely due to US Alliance Occupier non-provision of life-sustaining requisites demanded unequivocally of Occupiers by the Geneva Conventions. 
Before providing a detailed summary of the 50 million post-1950 excess mortality in South America there are some further key distinctions to be made that relate to causality and culpability. Princeton’s Professor of Bioethics, Professor Peter Singer (quoted as the world’s most influential living philosopher) has argued cogently that the moral responsibility for avoidable death is the SAME whether that death is brought about actively or passively (Professor Singer’s example: doctors deliberately killing a new born child or allowing the child to die through withholding sustenance and medicine; my example: shooting Iraqi children or depriving them of life-sustaining requisites demanded by the Geneva Convention).  Thus violent or non-violent death have the same mortal outcome and are associated with the same moral culpability. In the succinct analysis below of South American excess mortality I have provided comments on both means of avoidable death by way of (a) acutely relevant comments of observers and (b) 1950-2005 excess mortality estimates.
Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492 and the horrendous decimation of indigenous peoples commenced. The general pattern in the Caribbean involved Spanish invasion, enslavement of Carib and residual Arawak Indians and importation of African slaves required to work sugar and cotton plantations after Indian populations crashed due to disease and violence.
As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them with, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7,000 children died in three months.
— Bartolomé de las Casas on Spanish enslavement of Indians in Cuba 
The bodies of these Indians and of the slaves who died in the mines produced such a stench that it caused a pestilence … the flocks of birds and crows that came to feed on the corpses were so numerous that they darkened the sun, so that many villages along the road and in the district were deserted.
— Fray Toribio de Benavente (Motolinia) on Indian slaves of the Spanish 
British, French, Dutch and Danish colonial involvements were followed by major US interventions in the 19th century. Haiti and the Dominican Republic achieved independence in the 19th century but US hegemony was reinforced by post-WW2 military invasions. Similarly, Cuba achieved independence from Spain but was immediately seized, together with Puerto Rico, by the US. Since the 1960s Cuban independence has been associated with sustained US economic blockade and threat. Most of the very small Caribbean islands variously gained independence in the post-1950 era with continuing neo-colonial arrangements and general US hegemony involving commercial domination, threat and invasion in the case of Grenada. 
In Central America the pre-colonial Aztec and Maya civilizations were remarkable for their social organization and public architecture. Spanish invasion in the 16th century led immediately to decimation of indigenous populations by disease and colonial violence. The subsequent Spanish colonies achieved independence in the early 19th century with politics involving liberal/conservative and military/civilian dichotomies. However there was major repeated commercial and military intervention by Britain, France and the US in the 19th century. Thus the US successively removed huge swathes of Mexican territory and excised Panama from Colombia, the British excised Belize and the French installed an Emperor in Mexico. US hegemony expanded further in the 20th century with direct and indirect military involvements and long-term physical occupation in the case of Panama. Honduras-based US military backing of rightists against the left was variously associated with prolonged civil wars and huge civilian deaths in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in the post-1950 era. 
Papal intervention determined general Portuguese confinement (with minor perturbations) to Brazil with Spanish conquest of the rest of South America. Portuguese invasion was associated with decimation of indigenous populations and the consequent need for African slaves to work sugar, cotton and coffee plantations. Decimation of indigenous Arawak, Chibcha and Carib peoples through disease and violence led to African slavery in the Atlantic countries of the Caribbean islands, Colombia, Venezuela and French, Dutch and British Guiana. Spanish exploration of the Amazon caused utter devastation of a sophisticated Amazon basin agrarian civilization. Spanish conquest of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Chile destroyed the sophisticated Inca civilization through disease and enslavement.  The horrors of Belgian rubber collection in the Congo (10 million Congolese murdered) were mirrored by brutal, genocidal British rubber collection practices in Amazonia. 
Indigenous societies in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay were variously destroyed by disease, dispossession, war and ultimately by explicit, merciless genocide of the Indigenous Indians in the 19th century (that mirrored what the Anglo-Celts did in North America and Australia at the same time). Thus the following eye-witness account from Charles Darwin:
This is a dark picture, but how much more shocking is the undeniable fact that all the women who appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood! When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he answered “Why what can be done? They breed so!
— Charles Darwin recounting a Spanish commander’s view of genocide in Argentina
When Darwin published The Descent of Man in 1871, the hunting down of Indians was still going on in Argentina, financed by a bond loan. When the land was cleared of Indians, it was shared among the bondholders, each bond giving a right to twenty-five hundred hectares.
— Sven Lindqvist in Exterminate All the Brutes 
Brazil achieved independence associated with Anglo-French war in Europe. Revolution against Spanish rule variously succeeded under Simon Bolivar in the early 19th century. Subsequent social development in the Spanish and Portuguese countries involved liberal/conservative and civilian/military political tensions, European immigration and malignant external intervention (primarily from the US, Britain and France). In the 20th century, US hegemony was reinforced by explicit military invasions, commercial dominance, backing of military régimes against socialists and malignant interference, most clearly seen in the US-backed overthrow of democracy and associated mass murder in Chile. Here is a damning CONFESSION by one of America’s greatest generals, Major General Smedley Butler of the Marine Corps:
I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps … And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism …I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903…I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street … Looking back on it I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. 
For a damning summation of US atrocities in Central America in the post-war era see the 2005 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech of Harold Pinter:
Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer. The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now. 
South America has not fared as badly as other parts of the world in terms of post-1950 excess mortality as revealed by the following estimates of “1950-2005 excess mortality” (in millions) and also expressed as a percentage (%) of the 2005 population (for the purposes of illustrating comparative impact): Overseas Europe (North America, Israel and Australia; 9.8 million, 2.7%), Western Europe (19.7 million, 5.0%), Eastern Europe (25.6 million, 7.6%), South America (Latin America and Caribbean) (50.6 million, 9.4%), East Asia (168.6 million, 10.9%), South East Asia (140.2 million, 25.1%), Central Asia (including Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran) (49.1 million, 20.7%), Arab North Africa and Middle East (70.5 million, 23.0%), South Asia (465.3 million, 31.9%), Pacific Islands (including Papua New Guinea) (2.3 million, 27.3%) and Non-Arab Africa (300.8 million, 43.2%). 
By way of comparison, “1950-2005 under-5 infant mortality” as a percentage of the 2005 population has been 1.5% (Overseas Europe), 1.7% (Western Europe), 3.8% (Eastern Europe), 9.7% South America (Latin America and Caribbean), 10.7% (East Asia), 12.8% (South East Asia), 13.0% (Pacific), 17.0% (Central Asia), 15.4% (Arab North Africa and Middle East), 19.5% (South Asia) and 27.3% (non-Arab Africa). 
Occupation by the US or its surrogates is DEADLY as revealed from the following UN Population Division-derived CURRENT infant mortality statistics for US-invaded and US- and US surrogate-occupied Haiti as compared to other countries suffering the same fate. 
“Year 2005 under-5 infant deaths”/”year 2005 population” is 370,000 / 29.9 million (Occupied Afghanistan); 122,000 / 28.8 million (Occupied Iraq); 82,000 / 8.2 million (Occupied Somalia); 31,000 / 8.5 million (Occupied Haiti); and 3,000 / 3.7 million (Occupied Palestinian Territory) – as compared to 1,500 / 20.2 million (Occupi-er Australia) and 800 / 6.4 million (Occupi-er Israel).
“Year 2005 annual under-5 infant death rate” (i.e. as a percentage: deaths for every 100 under-5 year old infants in 2005 in a particular country) was 6.7% (Occupied Afghanistan); 2.8% (Occupied Iraq); 5.5% (Occupied Somalia); 2.7% (Occupied Haiti); and 0.47% (Occupied Palestinian Territory) – as compared to 0.12% (Occupi-er Australia) and 0.12% (Occupi-er Israel).
Communist Cuba provides a dramatic example of what could have been possible for South America – and indeed what is still possible. Thus (2003 figures) the “annual under-5 infant death rate” for Cuba is 0.17% – the same as in the United States which has about 40 times the Cuban annual per capita income. It can be estimated that lack of Cuban-style medical services, good governance and high female literacy costs about 200,000 South American lives ANNUALLY in “free”, non-Communist Latin America and the Caribbean. Further, lack of Cuban style health-related conditions has cost the lives of about 40 million South American children over the last 6 decades. Better dead than Red imposed by Uncle Sam on the utterly innocent – no “right to life” for South American infants under brutal American hegemony. (I hasten to add that this is an argument for Peace, Good Governance, High Female Literacy and Good Primary Health Care – and not for Communist Dictatorship).
Indeed the Cuban health care example (now being emulated by Venezuela and Bolivia) has a much wider global implication. Thus (2003 figures) it would cost about $1.4 trillion to bring the “annual per capita income” of every country in the world to a Cuban level of about $1,000 (2003 figure $1,300) and hence, coupled with peace, high female literacy, good governance and good primary health care, to abolish the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust. You could take your choice which of the following – EACH of which has a market value of about $1 trillion – we could do without: illicit drugs; alcohol; tobacco; arms; and unhealthy processed food.
The late 20th century and 21st century has seen very general democratization in South America – but with increasing competition for finite global resources Latin America is under serious threat from a violent, racist, powerful and unilateralist American Empire. However current massive electoral support for leftists Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Lula da Silva (Brazil) and Evo Morales (Bolivia) suggests that the Bush US administration has compromised its traditional US Western Hemisphere hegemony through its obsession with violent “democratic imperialism” in the Middle East and Central Asia. South Americans are re-asserting their independence from greedy, racist, violent, monolithic and malignant American hegemony.
1. G. M. Polya, ‘Global Avoidable Mortality’, 2004-2007.
2. UN Population Division.
3. Polya, Body Count: Global Avoidable Mortality since 1950 (in preparation for publication), 2007.
4. C. D. Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969).
5. Polya, ‘Commonwealth Games Statistics – Shocking, NON-REPORTED Commonwealth Games Statistics’, MWC News, May 28, 2006.
6. Polya, ‘Commonwealth Games Statistics’.
7. Polya, ‘The Famine of History: Bengal 1943′, Int. Network on Holocaust & Genocide Vol.10, 1995, 10-15; Polya, Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History: Colonial Rapacity, Holocaust Denial and the Crisis in Biological Sustainability (Melbourne, 1998).
8. Polya, ‘The Famine of History’; Polya, Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History; Polya, ‘Holocaust Denial in an Open Society and the Crisis in Biological Sustainability’, Australian Humanist, Spring, 1998, 6-7; Polya, ‘Austenizing British Atrocities in India’, Sulekha web magazine, 5 May 1999;
Polya, ‘ABC Ockham’s Razor Broadcast’, 21 February, 1999;
P. R. Greenough, Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943-1944 (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Greenough, ‘Famine’, in A T Embree, ed., Encyclopaedia of Asian History (London: Collier Macmillan, 1988), 457-459; C. Mason, A Short History of Asia: Stone Age to 2000AD (London: Macmillan, 2000).
9. Mason, A Short History of Asia.
10. Polya, ‘Global Avoidable Mortality’.
11. R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976).
12. Professor Paul Slovic quoted in Science Daily, February 18, 2007.
13. UNICEF website.
14. Polya, ‘US Terror and Occupation – War Crimes and Huge Infant deaths’, MWC News, January 22, 2007.
15. H. Kuhse & P. Singer, Should the Baby Live? The Problem of Handicapped Infants (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
16. T. Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, trans. R. Howard (New York: Harper & Row, 1984); F. Chalk & K. Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).
17. Todorov, The Conquest of America; Chalk & Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide.
18. W. Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (New York: Courage Press, 1995); Blum, Rogue State: a Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2000); Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (updated through 2003) (New York: Courage Press, 2003); P. Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary (London: Penguin, 1975); J. Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (London: Ebury Press, 2005); R. R. Bissio, Third World Guide 91/92 (Montevideo: Instituto del Tercer Mondo, 1990).
19. Bissio, Third World Guide 91/92.
20. J. Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (London: Jonathan Cape, 1997).
21. Polya, Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History; R. B. Robinson, The Magnificent Enterprise: Britons in Peru 1815-1915 (Lima, Peru, 1997).
22. S. Lindqvist, Exterminate All the Brutes (London: Granta Books, 2002), 116.
23. S. Butler, speech on ‘War as a Racket’, 1933; quoted by T. Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (London: Verso, 2002); Butler, War as a Racket (Philadelphia, 1935); Butler & Parfrey, War is a Racket: The Anti-war Classic by America’s Most Decorated General, Two Other anti-Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of it (USA: Feral House, 2003).
24. H. Pinter, ‘Art, Truth and Politics, Literature Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech’,Countercurrents, December 8, 2005.
25. Polya, ‘Global Avoidable Mortality’.
26. Polya, ‘Global Avoidable Mortality’.
27. Polya, ‘US Terror and Occupation’.
Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He has published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds. He has also recently published Body Count: Global Avoidable Mortality since 1950.