Welcome to the Inauguration of the Banana Empire: Pablo Neruda and Donald Trump

Here are a few thoughts on the big event of this week…

Not so long ago, banana republic was a term used to describe countries in Central America run as family dictatorships. These were countries under the thrall of US imperialism. They were also oligarchic tyrannies subjugated to one family and to one (maybe two) industries. Aside from serving US economic and foreign policy interests, the point of these countries—the reason for their existence—was (had been made into) the aggrandizement and enrichment of a ruthless strong man, his family and his cronies. Forget serving the common people of the country.

Pablo Neruda, possibly Latin America’s greatest poet of the twentieth century, wrote a poem about banana republics entitled “The United Fruit Company.” Here are a few memorable lines describing the United Fruit Company of the poem’s title:

it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
… flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

That was 1950 and Central America. Fast forward to 2017 and the inauguration of President Trump later this week.

Do the lines feel newly relevant?

Can you hear the drunken flies buzzing?

True, the United States is no vassal state, neoimperialized into submission. It is a global power, the most powerful on earth. Still, surely, there is no need for me to connect the dots regarding the reality that is slowly coming into being (everything is a process, and fortunately nothing is irreversible).

No, the United States is no Banana Republic.

Welcome to the Banana Empire.


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