Montevideo: Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist and author who was a leading light in Latin America’s anti-capitalist movement, died after a battle with lung cancer on Monday, his publisher said. Galeano was 74.

Galeano’s writing career spanned half a century, but he is best-known for his seminal 1971 book ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ (‘Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina’).

Subtitled ‘Five centuries of the pillage of a continent’, it remains a classic in anti-capitalist, left-wing circles. Crackling with indignant anger, the work describes the colonial-era scramble for Latin America’s riches by European powers, followed in the twentieth century by the region’s economic dominance by Britain and the United States.

A copy of the book was famously gifted by Venezuelan firebrand leader Hugo Chavez to US President Barack Obama in 2009, sending it to the top of the Amazon bestseller list.

A spokeswoman for publishing house Siglo XXI Editores, which published his works, said Galeano passed away in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.

“His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair and good storytelling," wrote his friend, the Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, in the foreword to a recent edition.

Into exile

Galeano started out as a journalist in the 1960s, writing ‘Open Veins’ at a time when he said his cattle-producing country “produced more violence than meat or wool."

Following a coup in 1973 and the banning of the book, he fled to neighboring Argentina. When that country’s military dictatorship began its ‘dirty war’ against leftists in 1976, he went into exile again, this time in Spain.

There he wrote Latin American historical trilogy ‘Memories of Fire’, returning to Uruguay as the dictatorship ended in 1985. A lifelong soccer fan, he penned a history of the game, ‘Football in Sun and Shadow’, in the 1990s.

He later moved to distance himself from his most famous work, and in particular what he described as a “stodgy" writing style, saying in 2014: “Open Veins tried to be a book of political economy, but I didn’t have the necessary training."

The book has also been criticized for painting Latin American countries as victims, with parts of it seeming dated in light of the emergence of a middle-class and stable democracies in much of the region in recent decades.

For a generation of Latin Americans who grew up in a tempestuous time of idealism and brutal repression, though, it will remain a touchstone. Reuters

Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires and Rosalba O’Brien in Santiago contributed to this story