It’s a commonly used term, but the idea of a “Banana Republic” (penned by the writer O’Henry) actually stemmed from the governments formed in the tortured Northern Triangle of Central America: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
When the U.S. government creates volatile conditions in other countries, they or their citizens cannot be surprised when the people of those countries show up at your doorstep. The hundreds of thousands of children currently fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border are refugees, and should be treated as such. They are the victims of policies the United States government created decades ago (and in some instances, currently).
People (especially ignorant ones) are very reactionary, and rarely take the time or energy to research history and the past, to find out WHY certain things happen. They see a news headline or hear about a certain event and have a knee-jerk reaction, falsely believing that this crisis just began recently, not realizing it has been decades in the making and definitely has a back story. Similar to 9/11. It didn’t begin with the terrorist attacks of that day, it was decades in the making and stemmed from U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East in the 80s. They created this monster!
The situation at the border with these Central American children is no different, and also has its roots in the 1980s…
People, when put in certain situations, will do whatever it takes to better their lives, even if that “breaks the law.” Especially when they are aware that our government is the main cause of many of their problems in their homeland. The same way some of your ancestors came here and occupied Native Lands, all because they were trying to escape war and tyranny.
For the uninitiated, in the 1950s the U.S. government overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz, all for United Fruit company (aka Chiquita Brands International - Chiquita bananas). And turned Guatemala into a “Banana Republic” (that term isn’t just a yuppie clothing brand)! During the Eisenhower administration, Secretary of State John Dulles was motivated to act in Guatemala because he had “business interests” in the holdings of United Fruit corporation. The United Fruit Company lobbied to have president Jacobo Arbenz overthrown, and the Eisenhower administration, along with the CIA dutifully granted them their wish.
Árbenz was ousted in a coup d’état engineered by the United States government and the CIA and was replaced by a military junta headed by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. Árbenz went into exile after the coup and died in Mexico in 1971. Guatemala then entered a period of hell…
Similar to how former vice-president Dick Cheney had oil ‘business interests’ in Iraq, the Eisenhower administration didn’t like that president Jacobo Arbenz wanted to nationalize Guatemalan businesses and install socialist reforms. They didn’t like the fact that farmers were unionizing and demanding rights, better working conditions and pay from the banana plantations. So they had Jacobo Arbenz removed and installed a brutal dictatorship that went on to kill millions of Guatemalans, which eventually led to Guatemala’s brutal 36 year civil war.
Eisenhower and company installed a pro U.S. puppet government, trained them, armed them (at the School of the Assassins - look it up!) and gave them immunity to rape, rob, kill, disappear and maim as they pleased. The Guatemalan government and the United States labeled anyone against the corrupt Guatemalan government a “communist” and gave them a rubber stamp to kill anyone labeled as such.
The Guatemalan civil war was mostly fought between the corrupt government of Guatemala and various leftist rebel groups supported chiefly by ethnic Mayan indigenous people and Ladino peasants, who together make up the rural poor (the majority of the country). The government forces of Guatemala have been condemned for committing genocide against the Mayan population of Guatemala during the civil war and for widespread human rights violations against civilians.
One of the killers and human rights abusers during that time period was recently elected president of Guatemala (Otto Pérez Molina). Up to 200,000 people died or went missing during the war, including 40,000 to 50,000 people who “disappeared”.
In neighboring El Salvador it was no different. The U.S. government once again installed a brutal dictatorship, all under the guise of fighting “communism.” This also led to a bloody civil war, lasting from 1979–1992. The conflict was between the military-led government of El Salvador (which the U.S. trained, advised and supported) and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or ‘umbrella organization’ of five left-wing guerrilla groups.
The full-fledged civil war lasted for over twelve years, and saw extreme violence. It also included the deliberate terrorizing and targeting of civilians by death squads, the recruitment of child soldiers, and other violations of human rights, mostly by the United States backed military. An unknown number of people “disappeared” during the conflict and the UN reports that more than 75,000 were killed. The United States contributed to the conflict by providing large amounts of military aid to the government of El Salvador during the Carter, and Reagan administrations.
The U.S. government feared El Salvador’s, pro U.S., right-wing dictatorship would collapse and the left-wing FMLN would topple them, similar to what had taken place in neighboring Nicaragua… installing a socialist government friendly to Cuba and the Soviet Union… In particular, the United States feared that victory by communist forces would threaten the Panama Canal and other US strategic interests, including bananas, palm oil, timber, coffee, seafood, sugar… They used this unfounded fear, that El Salvador would become “communist” to justify all their actions…
In my home country of Nicaragua, the U.S. also installed a puppet government, the Somoza family, which went on to run the country for 52 years. This brutal regime, killed, raped, robbed, looted and disappeared any and everyone who was against the regime and their corrupt policies. This led to a full scale revolution, headed by the guerrilla group known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
The Sandinista’s toppled the Somoza dictatorship and took power in July 1979. Since Nicaragua was only the second country in the Western Hemisphere to successfully have a revolution in modern times (Cuba being the first), the Reagan administration feared other puppet states having revolutions, especially El Salvador, and to a lesser extent, Honduras and Guatemala. It didn’t help that the Sandinista government of Nicaragua was assisting El Salvador’s FMLN to achieve their revolution. This gave Reagan and company all the ammo they needed to run their dirty war.
Honduras was also a US puppet state (still is), and from there the U.S. government began training, arming and supplying a group of terrorists known as “the Contras.” From Honduras and Costa Rica this group went on to stage terrorist attacks against civilians in Nicaragua, which led to the Nicaraguan civil war. During the war between the Contras and the Sandinista’s, 30,000 people were killed.
In Honduras, efforts to establish guerrilla movements foundered on the generally conservative attitude of the population. Nevertheless, fears that the civil wars wracking its neighbors might spread to the country led to the killings and disappearances of leftists, spearheaded by the army’s Battalion 316. Honduras became a key base for the Reagan administration’s dirty war. US troops held large military exercises in Honduras during the 1980s, and trained thousands of Salvadorans in the country. The nation also hosted bases for the Nicaraguan Contras.
After the Sandinista’s won the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984, which were judged to have been free and fair, the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo on Nicaragua, hoping to weaken the Sandinista government. Reagan also stepped up his terror campaign against Nicaragua.
After it was revealed that the Contra’s where kidnapping children, raping them and turning them into child soldiers, and engaging in outright terrorism, planting land mines, congress cut off all aid to the Contra’s and prevented the Reagan administration from further supporting them. The US passed the Boland Amendment in 1982, aimed at limiting U.S. government assistance to the Contra’s in Nicaragua. This however did not stop Ronald Reagan and his ilk from supporting the Contra terrorist organization.
After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (the Iran–Contra affair).
The US government through the CIA and George H.W. Bush, also began importing cocaine from Nicaragua and Panama and selling it on the streets of L.A., New York and Miami. This act, coupled with the illegal selling of arms to Iran, became known as the Contra Scandal, and almost led to Ronald Reagan’s impeachment!
At the time vice president George H.W. Bush was friends with General Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was heavily involved with drug trafficking and money laundering, and was also good friends with Pablo Escobar. Manuel Noriega, much like the dictators of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador was installed by the US government. Noriega supplied the Nicaraguan Contras and other guerrillas in the region with weapons and ammunition at the request of the US government.
Once Manuel Noriega began thinking for himself and no longer served a purpose to the U.S. government, they and mainly George H.W. Bush, turned on him, much like he did on his other friend from the 80s, Saddam Hussein. In 1989 the U.S. invaded Panama. The “intervention” led to hundreds of civilian and military deaths during the two weeks of war.
The urban population, with many living below the poverty level, was greatly affected by the 1989 ‘intervention.’ The war caused the displacement of 5,000 people and the deaths of 1,000. The U.S. lost 23 troops and 325 were wounded. The economic damage caused by the intervention and subsequent civil disobedience has been estimated to be between 1.5 and 3 million dollars.
The invasion of Panama and the toppling of Manuel Noriega, was seen by many as a warning and a threat to the Nicaraguan Sandinista government, who had just negotiated a peace treaty with the Contra’s at the time, and were in the process of a new presidential election.
The message was clear to the people of Nicaragua, “if you re-elect Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista’s, what happened to Panama will happen to you!” And it worked. The FSLN (Sandinista’s) were defeated in the Nicaraguan presidential elections, and the US backed candidate Violeta Chamorro won.
The International Court of Justice, in regard to the case of Nicaragua v. United States in 1984, found; “the United States of America was under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury caused to Nicaragua by certain breaches of obligations under customary international law and treaty-law committed by the United States of America”.
The madness of the 80s didn’t end there. Sure the civil wars of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua ended, but the fallout had only began… Many of the psychopathic killers who had raped, tortured and murdered with impunity fled to the U.S. and found safe-haven there. Many of the U.S. trained, Salvadorian death squad members came to Los Angeles, where they found hostility from an already established Mexican community. This combined with the fact that many of them didn’t know how to do anything else except kill, rape, rob, and extort, went on to form Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) a transnational criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to other parts of the world.
As more and more people fled the wars of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to the U.S., many of them sought joining gangs as a form of protection and community. Cities like L.A. at the time were already in the midst of a gang crisis and epidemic. The crack cocaine Reagan and Bush pumped onto the streets of L.A. through the (Iran-Contra) scheme, only made matters worse, as now gangs began a brutal murder campaign to divide up street turf and defend it.
It’s important to note that most immigrants fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras were honest, hard-working people, not criminals interested in gangs or crime, but in fleeing it. Unfortunately they got lumped in with the bad people and the massive influx of refugees led congress to pass the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Under the Act, minor offenses such as shoplifting made individuals eligible for deportation.
When the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed in 1996, it was applied retroactively to all those convicted of deportable offenses. Previously, immediate deportation was triggered only for offenses that could lead to five years or more in jail.
This law led to the mass deportations of many violent gang members, who were simply released by the U.S. back into Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, without warning those governments of who these guys were or what they had done in the U.S.
Instead of being behind bars, they were free to roam the streets of Central America and set up gang chapters in those countries, which led to transnational criminal gangs such as MS-13 and 18 Street, which now run huge parts of those countries in the Northern Triangle, and are deeply involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, murder, extortion, money laundering, terror and assassinations. Those gangs also still run parts of L.A. and other major U.S. cities.
The gang epidemic in Central America is a result of U.S. deportation policies. Many of the kids showing up at the U.S. border are fleeing this madness, because back in their home countries, either you join the gang or they kill you. It’s a lose-lose situation. The gangs “tax” all businesses in their territory, extort money from food vendors, shop keepers and bus drivers, and walk into schools and ‘recruit’ kids by force, much like the government death squads of the 80s did.
There are also still U.S. corporate interests and policies at play driving this immigrant crisis. Multinational corporations such as Dole, Chiquita bananas, Walmart, Nike, Coca Cola, DOW, Cargil, to name a few, are still interfering in these countries affairs and having the U.S. government do their bidding, effectively keeping the Banana Republic mantra alive.There are also “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA and DR-CAFTA driving poverty and making life harder for farmers and rural workers.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (both creations and control tools of the U.S.) also are manipulating these countries politics and economy, after having taken over the debt from the civil wars they endured. These institutions place pro corporate, pro U.S. “guidelines” and hoops which they must follow and jump through, otherwise be found in default of their loans. Or be viewed as hostile towards “the West” and “Western interests.” They control their banking system, set “guidelines” for their currency and interest rates and peg their currency to the U.S. dollar, making it harder for the average Central American to survive on their local currencies.
They (the U.S. and its corporate goons) also continue to influence elections, and sometimes engage in outright coup d’état’s, much like the one that took place in Honduras in 2009. President Manuel Zelaya, a left-leaning politician, who was democraticly elected by the people of Honduras, was forcibly removed by the Honduran military, with U.S. help and approval.
Zelaya was held in a U.S. airbase outside Tegucigalpa before being forcibly sent to San José, Costa Rica. Zelaya attempted reentry into the country on several occasions. According to the constitution, it is illegal to expatriate any Honduran citizen, yet they did. Roberto Micheletti, the former President of the Honduran Congress and a member of the same party as Zelaya, was sworn in as President by the National Congress on the afternoon of Sunday 28 June for a term that ended on 27 January 2010. No country recognized the de facto government as legitimate; all members of the UN condemned the removal of Zelaya as a coup d’état.
Yet some Republican Party members of the U.S. Congress voiced support at the time for the new government. On 21 September 2009, Zelaya returned to Honduras and entered the Brazilian embassy. From its roof, he attempted to incite his supporters in a rebellion. The government disrupted utility services to the embassy and imposed a curfew in an attempt to maintain order in the area when Zelaya’s supporters protested around the embassy.
On 21 September 2009, Zelaya returned to Honduras and entered the Brazilian embassy. From its roof, he attempted to incite his supporters in a rebellion. The government disrupted utility services to the embassy and imposed a curfew in an attempt to maintain order in the area when Zelaya’s supporters protested around the embassy. The following day, in Decree PCM-M-016-2009, the government suspended five Constitutional rights: personal liberty (Article 69), freedom of expression (Article 72), freedom of movement (Article 81), habeas corpus (Article 84) and freedom of association and assembly.
It closed a leftist radio and a television station. The decree suspending human rights was officially revoked on 19 October 2009. The presidential election on 29 November 2009 was held under a tense state of political turmoil and ongoing coup. Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the National Party of Honduras defeated the candidate of the Liberal Party of Honduras, civil engineer Elvin Ernesto Santos Ordoñez. Sosa was sworn into office as president in 2010, and declared his wish to bring order to the country and reapply for membership in the Organization of American States, from which they had been suspended after the coup.
Sandinista party leader Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency in Nicaragua, on November 5, 2006. And was re-elected in 2011. It is under these circumstances that it is believed the U.S orchestrated the Honduran coup d’état against left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya. Since Zelaya was closely aligned with Nicaragua’s Ortega, Cuba’s Castro, and Venezuela’s Chavez, it is believed the U.S. once again feared a Left-Wing, “Socialist” resurgence. It didn’t help that Zelaya was talking about land reform, workers rights and nationalization, as well as potentially closing the U.S. military base in Honduras.
*On a side note, with Ortega’s re-election, the U.S. instantly suspended $64 million in aid to Nicaragua. Democracy anyone?
Soto Cano Air Base (commonly known as Palmerola Air Base) is a Honduran military base 5 mi to the south of Comayagua in Honduras. It houses between 500 - 600 US troops and is also used by the Honduran Air Force academy. The US government once used Palmerola as a base of operations to support their foreign policy objectives in the 1980s. Now the U.S. military uses Soto Cano as a launching point for counter drug missions in Central America as well as humanitarian aid missions throughout Honduras and Central America. In addition to the Honduran Air Force Academy, the US military’s Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) is headquartered at Soto Cano.
The 2011 Guatemalan presidential elections, saw former military officer (and human rights violator) Otto Pérez Molina, also return to power. The timing of his election is very convenient. Because on January 12, 2012, Efrain Rios Montt, former President of Guatemala during the military dictatorship, appeared in a Guatemalan court on genocide charges.
During the hearing, the government presented evidence of over 100 incidents involving at least 1,771 deaths, 1,445 rapes, and the displacement of nearly 30,000 Guatemalans during his 17-month rule from 1982-1983. On May 10, 2013, Rios Montt was found guilty and sentenced to 80 years in prison. It marks the first time, a former head of state was found guilty for genocide by national court.The conviction was overturned, however, and Montt’s trial is scheduled to resume in January 2015. With Otto Pérez Molina in office he is immune from prosecution, and it is also expected that if Rios Montts is re-convicted, his buddy Otto Pérez will pardon him.
In El Salvador, Mauricio Funes of the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), won the Salvadorean presidential elections in 2009. And his vice-president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, also of the FMLN party, was elected president in 2014. A huge political shift for a typically right-leaning country. Apparently Ronald Reagan’s dirty war in Central America had the opposite effect of what he set out to do; the FSLN (Sandinista’s) are still in power in Nicaragua and now the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front ) are in power in El Salvador.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras has the highest rate of intentional homicide in the world, with 6,239 intentional homicides, or 82.1 per 100,000 of population in 2010. This is significantly higher than the rate in El Salvador, which at 66.0 per 100,000 in 2010, has the second highest rate of intentional homicide in the world. Nicaragua is currently the safest country in Central America, and has largely avoided the gang epidemic plaguing its Northern neighbors.
When you combine all the U.S. backed coup d’état’s, military dictatorships, military invasions, wars, IMF and world bank policies, immigration policies, drug enforcement policies, and overall meddling in Central America and Latin America, how can you be surprised when these poor people show up at your doorstep? Kids, who’s entire futures are on the line in this chaos the U.S. government has created, that they had no hand in, but must now deal with and live in. LEARN HISTORY! READ!