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Capitol riot: The ‘third world’ trope offends, misreads history

Condemning the Capitol Hill riot, President George W. Bush and Senator Marco Rubio likened it to political upheavals in “Banana Republics” and the “third world.” But Lucia Dammert, a Wilson Center Global Fellow and Professor at the University of Santiago of Chile objects to the comparison to the Global South -- adding that the U.S. has played a key role in sparking the turbulence, especially in Latin America. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano reports.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In response to last week's violence at the Capitol, some have compared the unrest here to that of other countries, such as in Latin America, which has a turbulent history of political upheavals.

    NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with Lucia Dammert, a global fellow at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson Center and a professor at the University of Santiago of Chile about those comparisons.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    So in a statement Wednesday by Former President George W. Bush, he described the riots in the U.S. Capitol as quote "how elections are disputed in the banana republic" and "not our democratic republic."

    Many other politicians and political commentators were making similar comparisons, likening Wednesday's events to coup d'etats in quote "the third world."

    As an academic from Peru who has studied political unrest and security across Latin America, what do you make of these comparisons and the surprise that something like this could happen in the U.S.?

  • Lucia Dammert:

    I could see at least a couple of issues here. One is the complete lack of understanding of what's going on in the U.S. This is very different from coup d'etats in Latin America. This is something that has been building for a long time, is a link to domestic terrorism, is linked to the increasing levels of racism and classism, most of political discussions. But on the other side is also, you know, the perfect picture of our leaders in the U.S. who are not really linked to what's going on in other parts of the world. In fact, in most cases, when we had coup d'etats, the American embassy was involved in some of those situations.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    The Venezuelan government issued a statement, which says "with this unfortunate episode, the United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression".

    When we talk about political unrest and government takeovers in Latin America, can you tell us a little bit more about what the U.S.'s role has been?

  • Lucia Dammert:

    When we talk about, you know, civil wars or dictatorships in Latin America, mainly in the 70s and 80s, we have this process of moving towards some ideas of socialism being implemented, Latin America. And for that reason, either the U.S. on some of the armed forces in Latin America, in cases such as Chile, Argentina, Brazil, but also Peru, Ecuador and others, there was a fight over what is what type of model of development we will have.

    And in that sense, military personnel, along with the economic elite, move into these coup d'etats that actually put aside any possibility to move forward into a more socialist type of model. And in that sense, most of the actions of the U.S. during the 70s and 80s were mostly linked to their economic-political agenda. That, of course, it was, again, socialism or communism. And in most cases, we have even documents that show participation in harboring or helping armed forces and political elite people to do these things.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    How do people in Latin American countries such as Chile, Argentina respond to being called "banana republics." or part of "the third world." Are those descriptions appropriate or are they pejorative?

  • Lucia Dammert:

    Yeah, they're pejoratives, of course. I think that we are pretty much appalled about what is going on in the U.S. We are very surprised of how fragile the system was. I think that nowadays we are more in a hemispheric area, more than ever. And actually we share many problems, one of them being inequality and lack of education.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    What is the legacy of a Trump presidency in Latin America, and how will that impact the type of relationship that the incoming Biden administration can-might have with Latin American leaders?

  •  Lucia Dammert:

    Well, there are good news. The good news is that President Biden knows Latin America. Most Latin American researchers and experts that we have some expectations over a more multilateral agenda of the U.S. towards Latin America.

    We believe in a country that could leave this rhetoric of violence or military interventions in Venezuela. We believe that in the last four years, the U.S. has not–has not been specifically successful in bringing democratic concepts anywhere, not, of course, even in Venezuela.

    So, of course, the legacy of Trump is a legacy of of how politically incorrect words could be spoken in the first chair of many governments, how racism could be, you know, be included in some political debates. And we really hope that those will be forgotten.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    Lucia Dammert of the University of Santiago in Chile and the Wilson Center, thank you so much for joining us.

  •  Lucia Dammert:

    Thank you for the invitation. It's great to have been with you.

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