Banana republic

From Academic Kids

For the chain of clothing stores owned by The Gap, see: Banana Republic

Banana republic (or Bananaland) is a pejorative term for describing a country with a non-democratic or unstable government, especially where there is widespread political corruption and strong foreign influence. It is most often applied to small countries in Central America or the Caribbean.



The original 'banana republic' was Honduras, where the United Fruit and Standard Fruit companies dominated the country's key banana export sector and support sectors such as railways. The United Fruit Company was nicknamed 'The Octopus', for its willingness to involve itself in politics, sometimes violently. For example, in 1910 the company hired a gang of armed toughs from New Orleans to install a new president when the incumbent failed to grant the company tax breaks. The newly installed Honduran president waived the company's taxes for the next 25 years. The company's dominance in Honduras, as well as other Central American countries like Guatemala, led Pablo Neruda to write a poem titled La United Fruit Co. in Spanish.

Modern usage

In modern usage the term has come to be used to describe a generally unstable or "backward" dictatorial regime, especially one where elections are often fraudulent and corruption is rife. The foreign influence may well be more political (for example through corruption in the elite, or military support for a dictator) than economic dominance of key sectors. The term no longer implies that the foreign influence is a corporation; it could well be a foreign government, in which case the relationship can resemble a colonial one.

By extension, the word is occasionally applied to governments where a strong leader hands out appointments, advantages, etc. to friends and supporters, without much consideration for the law.

Paul Keating

In 1986, the then Treasurer of Australia, Paul Keating, remarked during a radio interview with John Laws that Australia is in danger of becoming a banana republic, referring to the relative size of the foreign debt to GDP. This statement itself, according to the economic statistics over the next year, caused a significant effect on the Australian economy.


In February of 2005, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) stated the concern that the European Union has become a Banana republic in a press conference. This is mostly due to the European Council of Ministers ignoring the requests by several parliaments and member states to reopen the Council discussions on the current software patents directive, in violation of its own Rules of Procedure. [1] (

United Kingdom

Judge Richard Mawrey in the United Kingdom quashed results of election of two local councils after it was proved that there was wide scale fraud and rigging during the election, he said, "Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising...." News Report (

Republic of Ireland

The Boomtown Rats wrote a song called Banana Republic which criticized the Republic of Ireland. Lyrics (

In literature

San Theodoros and Nuevo Rico are fictional South American banana republics in the world of Tintin that display all the stereotypes one might expect of such countries. For instance, San Theodoros is constantly limping from revolution to revolution (often fueled by outside agents); and when Tintin first lands in San Theodoros, he immediately gets bestowed the rank of colonel in the army, leading to a protest of one of the many other colonels, because there are only ten corporals in the army. One of the main contenders, General Tapioca, is supported by some outside power based on Stalin's USSR; the other one, General Alcazar, is supported by the "United Banana Co.".

Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel Nostromo is set in Costaguana, another fictional South American banana republic, which is also heavily prone to revolution. Much political power is held by a foreign mining company.

External links

es:República bananera fr:République bananière he:רפובליקת בננות nl:Bananenrepubliek pl:Republika bananowa pt:República das Bananas simple:Banana republic zh:香蕉共和國


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