{"code":"25639","sect":"Columnas","sect_slug":"columnas","hits":"686","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/es\/202108\/columnas\/25639","link_edit":"","name":"Nobody in Honduras Wants \u201cModel Cities\u201d \u2014 Except the President","slug":"nobody-in-honduras-wants-ldquo-model-cities-rdquo-mdash-except-the-president","info":"","mtag":"Inequality","noun":{"html":"Dardo Justino Rodr\u00edguez","data":{"dardo-justino-rodriguez":{"sort":"","slug":"dardo-justino-rodriguez","path":"dardo_justino_rodriguez","name":"Dardo Justino Rodr\u00edguez","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"686","pict":{"cms-image-000034947-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"34947","name":"cms-image-000034947.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000034947.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000034947.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000034947-jpg","text":"<p dir=\"ltr\">Protest in Roatan against the ZEDE project \u201cHonduras Prospera\u201d. Citizen photography.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EProtest in Roatan against the ZEDE project \u201cHonduras Prospera\u201d. Citizen photography.\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":34947,"date":{"live":"2021\/08\/02"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"08","data_post_dateLive_DD":"02","text":"\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-d39a140f-7fff-c845-39d4-6edbd12f3973\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAfter a contentious public process, Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs, for their acronym in Spanish) were granted legal approval in Honduras in September 2013. But progress on the controversial new developments, promoted as so-called \u201cmodel cities,\u201d has been sluggish \u2014 until now, as the country heads toward a general election this November. After several failed attempts to develop ZEDEs in Amapala, a municipality in the southern part of the country, in Choloma, just north of San Pedro Sula, and in other areas along the Carribean coast, it appears that the proposals are gaining serious traction. In March, protests erupted in Crawfish Rock, on the island of Roat\u00e1n, against \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/prospera.hn\"\u003ERoat\u00e1n Pr\u00f3spera\u003C\/a\u003E, a ZEDE being developed by a consortium of international investors (Honduras Pr\u00f3spera) without any prior consultations with local authorities or the community.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EPreviously, in April 2019, rumors had spread of the construction of a ZEDE known as Ciudad Moraz\u00e1n, in Choloma, Cort\u00e9s Department, but it wasn\u2019t until October 2020 that it was revealed that the development already had about US$90 million invested in the purchase of land, housing, and office buildings.\u00a0\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe identities of the investors behind Roat\u00e1n Pr\u00f3spera and Ciudad Moraz\u00e1n remain a mystery, but it is likely that both are being backed by the same interests. And who do you think would invest in projects that face widespread criticism from businessmen, politicians, religious leaders, academics, unionists, and social activists?\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EComplaints against the ZEDEs have come from every sector of Honduran society, with the notable exception of those who remain loyal to President Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez (JOH) and continue to defend his agenda.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESome analysts suspect that the investors behind these developments are likely to be the President and his inner circle. The speculation is not that far-fetched. JOH and his affiliates are certainly not lacking in financial resources, considering that the past three administrations \u2014 the cachureca, or \u201ccrooked\u201d governments, as the nationalists are known \u2014\u00a0 have faced widespread accusations of corruption and ties to drug trafficking organizations.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThe origins of the ZEDEs\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt all began when JOH was president of the National Congress. His idea was to create model cities based on previous similar experiments in other parts of the world. News of the initiatives first began to surface in 2011.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe concept behind the ZEDEs is based on the idea of \u201ccharter cities\u201d developed by U.S. economist Paul Romer, a professor at New York University who would later become the Chief Economist of the World Bank. But Romer, who at first supported Hern\u00e1ndez\u2019s initiative and even served as an advisor to the project, eventually distanced himself from the idea, due to disagreements about its direction.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn 2012, after ruling against the first model city proposal, four of the five members of the Constitutional Chamber of the Honduran Supreme Court (CSJ) were removed by Congress. The justification was that the judges had opposed JOH\u2019s purge of the national police forces, or \u201cdepuraci\u00f3n policial,\u201d another of the president\u2019s controversial moves. The only judge not removed by Congress was magistrate Oscar Fernando Chinchilla Banegas, who had voted in favor of the initiative. As a reward for his loyalty, Chinchilla was appointed Attorney General and has now served two terms.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003ESanctuaries for the Corrupt?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThere are growing speculations that the ZEDEs may serve as sanctuaries, at least temporary ones, for current government officials attempting to escape justice once a new administration, even another \u201ccrooked\u201d one, takes power. Not only do officials face potential prosecution from an incoming administration \u2014 they also risk being subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice for their alleged \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202004\/centroamerica\/24278\/Honduras-A-Democracy-Shielding-Criminals.htm?st-full_text=all&tpl=11\"\u003Eties to drug cartels\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ERecently, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) approved special legal jurisdictions for the ZEDEs, with their own court systems and judges, but, according to the resolution, still \u201csubject to the Political Constitution of the Republic.\u201d According to the webpage for the Honduran Ministry of Economic Development, the ZEDEs will remain part of the national territory, but will be subject to a \u201cspecial regime\u201d in which investors will control fiscal policy, security, and other areas of governance.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThus, according to the law, the ZEDEs \u201cmust establish their own internal security agencies [...] including their own police, as well as agencies tasked with criminal investigation, intelligence, prosecution, and developing a penitentiary system.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EVoices in Opposition\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EConfronted with the development of two ZEDEs and the possibility of more to come, the reaction among Hondurans has been one of near unanimous outrage. Powerful business organizations, from the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) to the Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Tegucigalpa and in San Pedro Sula (the most powerful in the country), have spoken out, voicing strong and well-founded arguments against the proposals.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELikewise, the Catholic Church, under the leadership of a cardenal aligned both by blood and by ideology with the ruling party (Partido Nacional), along with the Honduran Fraternity of Evangelical Churches (Confraternidad Evang\u00e9lica de Honduras, or CEH), whose pastors have been strong supporters of the president for years, have both come out against the ZEDEs, though each for slightly different reasons. In addition, numerous municipalities have convened cabildos abiertos, or town halls, which are constitutional processes that permit communities to voice opinions and make decisions on issues that impact life in their jurisdictions. All of these communities have declared themselves \u201cZEDE-free territories.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the eyes of the government, however, the only valid opinions are those promoted by the president and officials in his administration. And as we approach the upcoming general elections, which are expected to be contentious, lacking in transparency, and plagued by more fraud, the ZEDEs have become yet another focal point of conflict.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003EDardo Justino Rodr\u00edguez is an analyst, reporter, and independent consultant for various international bodies and organizations. He is the national director of Presagio Consulting Honduras. This column was originally published by \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/latinoamerica21.com\/es\/\"\u003ELatinoamerica 21\u003C\/a\u003E, a multimedia newsroom dedicated to sharing accurate and critical information about Latin America.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003E*Translated by Max Granger\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E"}