Steve Benen observes the absurdity of right-wingers arguing that America will achieve “banana republic” status unless we allow past crimes and human rights violations to go unpunished. But I think there’s something weirder about the specific decision to use this term, and about Karl Rove’s specific comparison of Barack Obama’s America to “a Latin American country run by colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” I mean, since when are Americans conservatives against Latin American countries being run by colonels in mirrored sunglasses?
The Summit of the Americas went down just a few days ago, and we were treated to the view that not only is bona fide leftist dictator Fidel Castro so horrible that we should attempt to starve the victims of his misgovernment into line, but also that essentially all the democratically elected left-of-center leaders across Latin America — from Rafael Correa to Daniel Ortega to Hugo Chavez to Evo Morales to Cristina Kirchner are America’s enemies. And to the end of defeating these guys, American conservatives have a long history of backing America-friendly military dictators. Just a few years ago the Bush administration backed a coup against Chavez. The Somoza regime that Ortega overthrew in the late 1970s had been backed for years by the United State. Many American conservatives were so in love with Argentina’s military dictatorship that they were inclined to support it even against Saint Margaret Thatcher.
Back to basics, the origin of the term is that a “banana republic” is a Latin American despotism being propped up by the United States government at the behest of US-owned fruit exporters. It’s a specifically left-wing form of derision for the sort of historical abuses of American power in the Western Hemisphere that conservatives can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge.