August 4, 2002

Banana Republics 101 Part I

Most people who live in or are from underdeveloped countries take offense when anyone refers to their own or, for that matter, any other country, as a Banana Republic. The term originated in the Central American countries were the United Fruit Co. operated, but has come to signify countries which may not even qualify to be called countries because of the way they are run. I do feel like I live in one, when I try to explain to my friends from abroad any of the following:

-For the first time in ten years Venezuela has economists in both the Minisitry of Finance and the  Ministry of Planning. In the past, we have had a Mathematician, a Sociologist, an Urban Planner and an engineer, to cite a few.

-Venezuela is part of OPEC, where it gets together with its most important competitors to decide how much each country should produce per day. Interestengly enough, Venezuela is the OPEC country, other than Iraq for different reasons,  that has reduced its production the most in the last thirty years. Despite this, few Venezuelans are convinced we should split from OPEC. Thats ok with me, but don’t you think we should even discuss it?

-There were mudslides in the coastal zones near Caracas in Dec. 1999. Estimates are that close to 40,000 people died. The US Army Core of Engineers offered to rebuild the coastal highway (for free!!) an send ships to Venezuela. The Government refused to accept the aid and the ships  turned back. To this day, three years later, the highway has yet to be completed.

-We say we live in a democracy. Despite this, only one candidate in the last ten years was elected in a primary of his party. He lost.

-There were riots this week in Caracas. Government supporters rioted for two days, shot people, blocked streets and created chaos in the city. The Government announced today that it had asked the Attorney General to investigate the abuses of the police when they used tear gas from a helicopter. The President has banned the flying of police helicopters over the city. There has been no call to investigate the rioters, where they got their weapons or who leads them.


Hate to see what a Banana Republic would be like…..



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