Sunday, September 30, 2012

Model Cities Update

The Honduran press has been full of news about Model Cities over the last couple of weeks.

As our readers will recall, the oversight and transparency commission, headed by Paul Romer resigned en masse because they were shut out of the negotiations with Grupo MGK, and when they asked, denied permission to review the Memorandum of Understanding between Honduras and this group.

This lack of transparency seems not to bother Porfirio Lobo Sosa one bit.  With the removal of Romer and the other "transparency commission" members from the oversight and approval process, this means that the Honduran Congress has all the oversight  and approval power in the Model Cities process.

In a 50 minute interview with Michael Strong on a libertarian internet radio program on September 10, we learned that Strong plans that his model city will be in the valley around San Pedro Sula, and is not interested in the other locations being discussed.  So much for idea that model cities would be in uninhabited areas: the San Pedro Sula area is the business and industrial center of the country, a region already host to many free enterprise zones (maquilas). San Pedro itself is the country's second-largest city.

Michael Strong is not proposing to build Paul Romer's vision of a model city.

Strong's vision differs, he says, in four key ways.  First, it is based on the entrepeneurial model he says rules in Silicon Valley:  start small and when that works, scale it up.  In Strong's Free City, residents have access to the best laws without having to be governed by foreigners.  Strong sees this as more respectful of local autonomy and sovereignty than Romer's model. Third, the governor, a Honduran, chooses what legal systems are available to the residents. Thus residents can have contracts based on Honduran law, or, as Strong advocated in the interview, on Texas business law, because that is the closest to the 19th century ideal he favors.  Strong says, finally, that his model does not rely on a land grant from the Honduran government, but rather purchases the land to increase its size as needed.

There are signs that this normally rubber-stamp Honduran Congress is restless about the Model Cities project, however.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, the head of the Congress, and  a presidential candidate for the National Party, announced this week that any vote establishing the bounds of the land for Grupo MGK would be delayed until after the primary elections in November.  Ostensibly, the reason was that there were then 24 legal challenges to the law filed with the Supreme Court-- a number now much, much higher.

Practically, model cities are a political hot potato with the electorate.  Moving the vote after the primary elections may also be intended to prevent voter backlash.

Meanwhile, Hernandéz main legislation writing proxy in the Congress is hard at work, trying to fix the flaws in the law, presumably so that after the primaries, Hernandéz and company can proceed with their ever-evolving introduction of new colonialism in Honduras.

Where is Lempira when you need him?

1 comment:

Karen Bahr Caballero said...

How painfully prophetic...