Will the U.S. Be the Next Banana Republic

 

Central America

Migrant caravans keep leaving Central America traveling across Mexico toward the U.S. border  Who are these emigrants and why are Republicans so anxious to stop their progress?

President Trump’s assertion is that these are rapists, killers, terrorists and the worst sort of people.  He would have us believe that the members of the caravans are merely criminals and that they have no reason to seek asylum.  The facts are somewhat different.

To begin to understand the present we have to first look, briefly, at history.

Central America is a region consisting of seven small countries: Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama.  With the exception of Belize, a British colony, the various states within Central America were Spanish colonies.  All but Belize and Panama won independence from Spain in 1821.  However, they were annexed at the hands of the army of the First Emperor of Mexico the following year.  The next year, 1823, the empire fell and Mexico became a republic.

As Mexico became a republic the independent status of Central America was acknowledged, and the region became the United Provinces of Central America in 1824. The United Provinces of Central America UPCA (PUCA – Provincias Unidas de Centro-America) was briefly the Federal Republic of Central America.  Envisioned as a Republic in the fashion of the United States of America or France by liberals, the Republic was almost immediately threatened by factions seeking independence.  One of the most notable leaders of the movement toward unification was Francisco Morazan who, during the 1820s and 1830s led a number of movements to unify.  Morazan was captured in Costa Rica by conservatives in September of 1842 and assassinated, effectively ending the UPCA.  The conservatives who killed Morazan wanted a conservative government under tight control by the Catholic Church.

A number of attempts to unite the area were made during the remainder of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Leaders were not enthusiastic, but there were compelling reasons for some form of alliance.  These reasons included military protection, pooling of resources and enhanced trade.  For a brief period (1856-57) there was a military coalition that successfully fought off the efforts of William Walker, an American adventurer, to invade Central America.

The Spanish-American War had more influence on the Pacific than the Caribbean nations, but the Treaty of Paris forced Spain to give Cuba independence and cede Puerto Rico to the United States effectively giving Spain no residual presence in the northern part of the Western Hemisphere.  The role of the church, however, was not immediately diminished.

Any discussion of Central America and the current conditions must talk about Banana Republics.  Neruda, the Chilean poet’s second stanza of Canto General (translated from the Spanish) sums the problem up well.

“…The Fruit Company, Inc.

Reserved for itself the most succulent,

The central coast of my own land,

The delicate waist of the Americas.

 

It rechristened its territories

As the "Banana Republics",

And over the sleeping dead,

Over the restless heroes

Who brought about the greatness,

The liberty and the flags,

 

It established a comic opera ...”

 

Banana Republic is a term coined by American author O. Henry in Cabbages and Kings (1904), a thematic collection of short stories.  In short, a banana republic is a state with a ruling plutocracy of politicians, landowners and businessmen that enjoy great wealth at the cost of independence from a multinational corporation such as the United Fruit Company, and the reduction of the rest of the population to impoverished cheap labor to produce a limited product such as bananas or minerals.

In Central America during the early 20th Century, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras, the United Fruit Company – with the occasional assistance of the U.S. government – created a political and economic climate similar to the imaginary country of Anchuria of which O Henry wrote.

Following World War II the U.S. government, in order to “stem the tide of communism” established the Central Intelligence Agency.  In Central America the CIA propped up right wing governments, supported political coups and further aggravated the problems of poverty in countries like Nicaragua and Honduras. 

"...The vast majority of Central Americans today live in perpetual misery alongside tiny elites that enjoy unparalleled prosperity. The average cat in [the U.S.] eats more beef than the average Central American. In Nicaragua, 54 percent of the people have no safe drinking water. In Guatemala, 44 percent are illiterate, and Indians, who constitute half of the country's population, have an average life-span of forty-eight years. Seven out of ten Hondurans live in desperate poverty, only one rural resident in ten has electricity, and less than two in ten have access to safe drinking water. Infant mortality was seventy per 1,000 births in 1990, compared to less than nine per 1,000 in the United States."

- from the chapter "Central Americans: Intervention Comes Home to Roost" in Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonzalez (2)

U.S. policy on granting asylum does not count poverty as justification.  It does not count escape from gang violence as justification. It does not count escape from domestic violence as justification.  It does not recognize economic oppression from right wing plutocracies as justification.  It favors granting asylum for those escaping socialist or communist led countries.

Asylum seekers coming from countries like Honduras or Guatemala are simply escaping conditions set in place by U.S. supported multinational corporations. 

These are not the “huddled masses” that our government wants to welcome.  We want huddled masses of engineers and computer technicians.

The absolute vilification of residents seeking asylum from Central America is necessary to hide from North Americans the fact that the U.S. created the conditions that the migrants are fleeing.  It is one thing to recognize on an intellectual level that cheap goods come at the expense of child labor.  It is another to actually meet the child.

It is also possible that U.S. leaders do not want us to see that they have in mind for us what they produced in Central America; a tiny incredibly wealthy group who control government in order to protect their wealth and a business model that excludes the vast majority of Americans from sharing in that wealth.  The same mind-set that produced problems in Central America would take away our social safety net, eliminating healthcare services and social security, leaving us all to die in our youth from malnutrition and outbreaks of diseases like cholera.

There is just one problem with that picture.  Where will the market for our cheap products be if the whole world is made up of banana republics?

The first boatload of bananas coming from Honduras and Guatemala to Boston sold at a 1000% profit to the merchant.

There has to be a Boston in which to market the bananas.

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Views: 86

Comment by Ron Powell on November 3, 2018 at 7:32am

Not until bananas are a cash crop here and the people who pick them are the majority population....

Comment by koshersalaami on November 3, 2018 at 10:20am

Interesting question in the title. That is the direction we’re going, with increased polarization of wealth. 

“The absolute vilification of residents seeking asylum from Central America is necessary to hide from North Americans the fact that the U.S. created the conditions that the migrants are fleeing.” What strikes me about this sentence is how parallel the Central American situation is to the American Black situation. I’ve spoken to many conservatives both online and in person and what strikes me most about them is how in denial they are about the White role in creating the conditions that led directly to the conditions of Black circumstances and resultant behaviors that they vilify. 

With one exception. They think they see it when it comes to dependence on government of the poor, which means that they think they have grounds for saying that less intervention would help. How convenient. 

What this whole mindset indicates is just how America’s wealthy view the rest of the population. If the majority of Americans become poor it’s because of their own inaction and has nothing whatever to do with policies imposed on the US, such as less government assistance because of less government revenue caused by such actions as reductions in inheritance taxes. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 3, 2018 at 12:42pm

"... If the majority of Americans become poor it’s because of their own inaction "  They will view the majority, much of which will be white, the way they view blacks and Hispanics now.  We will all be poor because we're lazy, not because the deck has been stacked in such a way that there is no way to gain ground.

Years ago Heifer Project International supplied bee hives to poor workers on coffee plantations.  The honey gave the plantation workers a little cash that could be parlayed into a better life.  Afraid of too much independence the plantation owners sent men out to smash the hives at night.

It's the same mindset as abusive men have who keep their wives "barefoot and pregnant."

Comment by Doc Vega on November 4, 2018 at 3:43am

I don't know where you were educated but you are regurgitating the same trash as all America hating college professors teaching young students to have contempt for their own nation and embrace fallacies like socialism! America did not create the poverty of the world!

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 4, 2018 at 5:55am

Doc Vega, thanks for you thoughtful comment.  "My country, right or wrong", huh?  I don't have contempt for our country because I think the nation is made up of the people who live in it; not the few who run it to their advantage and the detriment of everyone else.   When spokesmen for our government talk of our "national interests" they are not talking about the interests of its citizens; they are talking about the interests of multinational businesses.

There was a time when the assertion, "what's good for business is good for the country" was true because it was a time American businesses hired Americans in large numbers and paid them a fair wage.  That has not been true for decades.  Businesses avoid labor as a variable cost, and look for any labor that is unavoidable in dark corners of the world where people are much poorer and desperate.

No, we did not create poverty, it has always been here.  We just institutionalized it in many parts of the world.

Comment by Doc Vega on November 4, 2018 at 11:35am

Rodney, I would take issue with you on 2 points. 1) The Monroe Doctrine is what has dictated our actions during the 50's and 60's in counteracting the Soviet led Marxist regimes that sprang up in Central America that the CIA acted upon with sometimes regrettable methods. When under Obama the government allowed a Russian armada to travel across the Pacific to Venezuela we now see just what a Communist regime does to not only it's own population but to its own economy. Cuba was another example but earlier and why Eisenhower should have acted while Castro was brutally liberating that small nation from the ravages of capitalism. It would be purely academic to describe just what kind of economic travail has been foisted upon the people there by a Marxist government.

2) The Golden Coast created as a result of US consumerism most definitely benefited third world nations such as Taiwan, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and even China as they were able to employ their populations and fabricate raw resources for the US retail market and reorient their economies toward manufacturing that they extended to other global trading partners.

3) There's nothing wrong with nationalism as long as it is for a just cause and all these idiots trying to equate Hitler and Trump are exactly the reason why we have deep division within our society. No, I do not advocate America no matter what she does. It must be just.

Comment by Maui Surfer on November 4, 2018 at 2:06pm

Doc, you are clueless, nothing new there.

Rodney, you have, as threatened, written quite a piece here, full of facts. Having surfed all these countries for fifty years I have seen them go up and down, and right now, due to US fed Cartels, they are down, down, down.

However, as a critic, your herstory is much to recent. Panama, and Jamaica, are the Spanish Main. This is where the rush for gold and riches by the Habsburg scum and others like them first took a donkey route of riches over the Isthmus of Panama, and eventually hammered through the canal. This area has more herstory than America ever will, and represents the changing of the guard of the entire world.

I could go on, but, again, please include your opinion why the logo of the United Fruit Company is a firearm?

Also, bananas have lost value, I have so many in my yards I let the homeless feast on them on Maui and donate them on Oahu.

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 4, 2018 at 7:45pm

Maui, there was a banana plant growing outside my hooch in Vietnam.  I watched the bananas develop and the day before I had imagined that they would be ready to pick some Vietnamese did it for me.  It turns out that bananas are native to Southeast Asia, but they were first introduced to Britain in the the 1500s by Spanish or Portuguese traders who called them after the West African word, banana.  From West Africa they made it across the Atlantic in the early sixteenth century.

I'm mystified by "organic" bananas since no one I know eats the skin (although I've seen references to people making a tea from the peel).  The peel was the basis of a scam in the 1890s of people suing as a result of a claim that they had slipped on a banana peel. 

There once was a young girl named Hannah

Who slipped on a peel of banana.

As she lay on her side,

More stars she espied

Than there are in the Star Spangled Banner.

All of that aside, I didn't read the history you mention about Jamaica. 

Doc, the Monroe Doctrine was a doctrine meant to protect American businessmen rather than the American population. 

I don't regard capitalism regulated to protect the general population to be socialism.  As you mention we have several social experiments that porove that purely socialist economic systems don't thrive.  For the population at large capitalism is needed to provide investors the opportunity to gain profit and to provide employment for workers.  Capitalism without labor does not serve that purpose.  In the current model of increasing production by eliminating labor, that purpose is not served.  A rising tide does not always float all boats. 

Money, it has been shown, does not increase general happiness.  However, lack of resources necessary to provide basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter and sanitation produces profound misery.

Comment by Maui Surfer on November 4, 2018 at 9:47pm

Port Royal, Jamaica, was the center of the entire Panamanian Manilla to Madrid route. It sank, like Atlantis. You can dive the ruins.

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 5, 2018 at 4:00am

I visited Jamaica as a tourist once.  It was a pretty island with a lot of poor people.  My diving was limited to snorkeling and not in Jamaica.  A good friend who was a salvage diver says Jamaica, where he lived for several years teaching at a girls school, is not a good place to salvage dive.  The bottom drops off too steeply so wrecks are too deep.  I'll have to ask him about Port Royal.

BTW, he was asked to teach music.  In his first class he told them that he would teach them a song and have them sing it back.  He sang.  They repeated in four part harmony.

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