Friday, September 7, 2012

Bumps in the Road Toward "Model Cities"

Xiomara Castro de Zelaya is the presidential candidate for LIBRE, the progressive party founded in the wake of post-coup activism in Honduras. She is also, as most readers of this blog certainly know, the wife of former President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the target of the 2009 coup.

Xiomara became the consensus candidate for LIBRE in advance of party primaries, named as the presidential candidate by all the different movements within LIBRE-- a circumstance that actually required the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal to make adjustments in procedures designed to insist that each current have its very own candidate.

No other party has such a consensus presidential candidate, so until the primary elections are held in November, only LIBRE has a clearly designated leader. That puts Xiomara in the unusual position of being able to issue statements on urgent national issues on behalf of the entire party, something other parties are not able to do.

This week, she spoke out against the model cities agreement announced by Juan Orlando Hernández, challenging the constitutionality of the law and describing it as contrary to sovereignty:
On this occasion we would like to alert those who, without having all the elements to judge might plan now to subscribe to contracts in Honduras under the protection of the Ley de Regiones Especiales de Desarrollo, better known as the Law of the "Model Cities". This law has already been judged unconstitutional by the Special Counsel for the Defense of the Constitution and diverse qualified segments of Honduran society have judged it an affront to the sovereignty of our country, that extends illegal privileges to the subscribers while it converts us, the rest of the Hondurans, into strangers in our own territory.

Legal challenges to the law were also filed today by what Honduran media report are fourteen groups or individuals representing affected social sectors, including campesino groups and the Garifuna organization, OFRANEH (the Organización Fraternal Negra de Honduras).

Press accounts of these legal challenges echo Xiomara's statement, citing a motion filed in October 2011 by Oscar Cruz, the former attorney for the Defense of the Constitution in the office of the Public Prosecutor. Presented to the Supreme Court, the news reports note that this motion awaits action.

Cruz is quoted in news reports as saying the law is "a mockery of the state" and "a catastrophe for Honduras":
it proposes the creation of a state within the state, a mercantile entity with state-like attributes outside the jurisdiction of the state, to which will be handed over all the traditional attributes of sovereignty.

Add to this the statement by the godfather of Model Cities, Paul Romer, who is reported to be having second thoughts about the role he supposedly was going to play in Honduras.

The British newspaper The Guardian says Romer may quit because he "not been given the powers and information necessary to fulfil his role as chairman of the transparency commission, which is meant to ensure governance of the new development zones". The report says he and others supposed to form the "transparency" commission
will issue a statement distancing themselves from this week's announcement [of the first agreements to found model cities] and calling into question the legality of their appointment, which they say has not been published in the official gazette as required by Honduran law, ostensibly because of a challenge in the constitutional court.

Meanwhile, on behalf of LIBRE, Xiomara not only challenges the constitutionality of the law: she warned
those who might initiate projects under this unconstitutional approach of model cities, will be exposed to the loss of their investment.

Xiomara ended her statement with a proposition grounded in the unique position of LIBRE as the continuation of participatory citizenship that was central to her husband's administration:
we invite the president of the National Congress and his National Party, based on Article 5 of the Constitution, which regulates plebiscites and referenda, that we should submit the Law of "Model Cities" to the opinion of the sovereign [power], and that it should be the people who decide it.

There is no possibility this "invitation" will be accepted.

What the statement does is focus attention on the fragile legitimacy of entrenched political structures in Honduras, which operate without real support from the people. Hernández will have to work hard to demonstrate any broader popular support for the controversial policy, something no one has challenged him, or Porfirio Lobo Sosa, to document before.


trode1234 said...

Interesting story. Is LIBRE going to run candidates for the national congress as well, or only the presidential race?

RAJ said...

Yes. Like all political parties, under Honduran law, LIBRE has to run candidates for a full slate of offices. Watch for a future post on the rest of the ticket.