As crowds stormed the building in the heart of American democracy on Wednesday, stunned US officials, including a former president, resorted to the same phrase to make comparisons: “banana republic.”
“In this way, the results of the elections in the banana republic are being challenged, not in our democratic republic,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
His sentiment is more vividly reflected on Twitter by spokesman Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.
While Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., A former presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter, “This is anti-American anarchy of the 3rd style in the world.”
But American comparisons of violent and insane pro-Trump mobs that plunged the Capitol into chaos, leaving at least five dead, with events in so-called Third World countries have been met with ridicule and insult from many people living and working in developing countries.
The phrase “banana republic” is thought to have been coined in the early 1900s by the American author O. Henry in his historical collection Cabbage and Kings. It is often used as shorthand for Latin American countries characterized by political instability and unicultural economies dominated by foreign capital.
The analogy, largely derived from United Fruit Co.’s monopoly on the banana industry in South America in the early 20th century, is a useless and “tired trope,” said Lisa Munro, a Latin American historian.
Thinking of the United States as a “banana republic” does not help people understand that the events in Washington were “entirely created by the United States,” she added.
With the unfolding of events in Washington, Andrei Gomez-Suarez, a former Colombian government official, said the “banana republic” was used repeatedly on social media and that comparisons were made between President Donald Trump and populist leaders such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro.
“For people who always thought these things were happening outside of America, not inside America, that was a turning point,” said Gomez-Suarez, co-founder of the Rodeemos el Diálogo or Embrace Dialogue think tank and works. as an academician specializing in peacebuilding in Colombia.
The events set “a really bad precedent coming from the United States,” he said.
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The social divisions that led to the Black Lives Matter protests, America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the Capitol riots all challenged the idea of American exclusivity and the US position on the world stage, he said, making it more likely that the United States would soon be “replaced” by other participants.
“Many now say the United States will not be a ‘world power,'” Gomez-Suarez said, adding that events in the Capitol were “part of America’s decline.”
Comparisons with Third World nations were “offensive” and were based on “pretending that the so-called First World is superior,” said Carlos Lopez, a professor at the Mandela School of Public Administration at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
However, many Africans were accustomed to “denigrating” the language of the United States, and Trump in particular, citing reports that Trump had identified Haiti and African nations as “strange countries” in 2018. Trump denied using the phrase.
Gautam Bhatia, an Indian author and constitutional lawyer, told NBC News that comparisons to the “Third World” were “not so much offensive as ironic.”
From slavery to protracted wars and foreign intervention, Bhatia said, American violence is neither new nor surprising.
The United States has long suffered from a “democratic deficit,” he said, “but because of American hegemony, it is not defined that way.”