The above linked-to article is from Upside Down World, which links to the original article on the In These Times website. I would normally prefer to utilize the original source for the article in my top of post link, but the In These Times website pops up an advertizement and, seeing how ‘I’ am not advertizing to you, I’ll use the Upside Down World link. And Upside Down World, while I’m at it, is a fine website.
An excerpt from the above linked to article follows:
Foreign Interests Pulling the Strings
All along the Model Cities program has been driven and crafted by foreign actors. One of the original architects of the idea was U.S. economist and New York University professor Paul Romer, an advocate of “charter cities” that were supposed to offer a “clean slate” free from corruption, bureaucracy and economic and social problems in developing countries.
Romer was part of a transparency commission that resigned en masse in September because they said the Honduran government was shutting them out and dealing primarily with a UK-based outfit called Grupo MGK. Grupo MGK is part of Grupo de Desarrollos Especiales LLC, a business incorporated in Nevada in Sept. 2012 by businessman Kevin Lyons. Lyons had previously registered another business in Nevada aimed at establishing model cities, but its license was pulled by the state. Another leader of Grupo MGK was Michael Strong, an American founder of charter schools and head of a touchy-feely, save-the-world-through-entrepreneurship outfit called FLOW (Freedom Lights Our World). The Economist described the Honduras model cities movement as the playground of seemingly fringe American libertarians with “links to prominent libertarians with deep pockets,” including Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey.
As reported by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Strong was quoted on Fox News saying, “Our goal is to be the most economically free entity on Earth.”
Another of the major investors in the Model Cities plan appears to be a developer known as the “porno king of Canada.” Randy Jorgensen has been pushing tourist-related projects in the area around the city of Trujillo, which is targeted for Model City development. That region is also home to the Garifuna people and to the Guadalupe Carney campesino community that has been a locus of resistance and land reclamation efforts. (It is named after a Chicago priest who was killed—possibly with cooperation from U.S. forces—during the Central American conflicts of the 1980s.)
The Guardian described how haphazard and half-baked the Model Cities plan seems to be:
Details of the arrangement remain sketchy. Three possible locations were mentioned—Sula valley, Agalta valley and the southern region of Honduras – and the initial investments seemed small compared to the scale of the ambition.
The plan appears to have been thrown together in the space of less than a year, partly to boost the economy and partly to make Honduras more attractive to foreign investors who fear crime (Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate) and political instability.
Which is interesting, because critics and activists, and people who pay attention and care, and are yappy, like myself, will talk about this story, which includes a background of great violence, past and ongoing, perpetrated by some of these people and certain corporatocracy governments who they support and/or are a part of. But they probably can’t help themselves. They are a macho bunch. As much as they like, and need, to bullshit the people, they also like to show off their power, which means they don’t mind it so much when we see how they’re crushing us. It’s a bit of gamble – since there’s a huge segment of the population in highly propagandized developed ‘democracies’ who are dumb and supportive of everything authority says and does, the way elites want them to be, who could still be pissed off if aroused – but macho, greedy, glory-seeking exploiters will be macho, greedy, glory-seeking exploiters.
What would coup governments do without compliant so-called public broadcasters, like Canada’s CBC, to give them unchallenged (from live guests) air time to try to sell the world on 1. their crimes specifically and 2. fascism generally. There’s a helpful video from the coup government advertizing their perversity on the CBC website. But there is only the briefest of audio clips of a couple of critics who oppose this crap. There is no transcript for this podcast, unfortunately. Call it transparency and democracy if you wish. I heard this sorry report while I was doing security guard duty in downtown Toronto Saturday morning, the 23 of February. I was mostly reading Noam Chomsky’s awesome “Hopes And Prospects” (pub 2010), in which he (and assorted economists) has some interesting things to say about the correlation between the application of neoliberal principles, as he puts it, and declining democracy on the one hand, with the one following the other, and the application of opposite economic principles, like protectionism and industrialization, and the resultant economic growth and comparatively healthier social indicators on the other hand. Honduras came up for mention.
In fairness, The show did link to a few ‘quite’ critical views on this. There’s this link to the In These Times’s article that I link to here at the top of my post. And there’s a link to an Al Jazeera show about it, titled “Charter cities: Neoliberal viagra,” which I had a look at. I then did what I usually do, since I’m blogging about this. I went to YouTube to see whether I could find this AJ ep online, the way I usually do with Democracy Now! episodes, with success. I see an entry of the title of the AJ episode with the strikeout line it and no sign of the video. There’s not much I can do about that, the way no one can do much about a discussion in which we are forced to be talked at by special interests, with no opportunity to talk back or question them, let alone hear (easily) from others with different views. Call that an ‘innovation’ in democracy.
In frustration I tossed in the below comment to the first video I could find on this scary topic. It was a TED Talk by Paul Romer and I was unable to even leave a comment on it. My first attempt was met with a YouTube message that there was an ‘error’. YouTube didn’t say what. I thought “Perhaps it’s the dot in WordPress.com,” and so I took it out. There’s still an error. I understand. Here’s the comment: “I’m look[ing] for Al Jazeera’s video (for embedding in WordPress dot com) titled “Charter cities: Neoliberal viagra” video. When you’re going to report a story, you want ‘all’ the information there is on the subject. Is AJ barred from YouTube? Or do they just avoid using it? Maybe another member here can clue me in.”
From the above linked-to Al Jazeera article by Belén Fernández, the following:
No sooner was the blatantly colonial charter city project in Honduras declared unconstitutional by the Honduran Supreme Court last year than it found itself back on the agenda.
The gist of the project is the creation of free-market enclaves on Honduran territory that are unaccountable to national laws and are instead governed by foreign corporate interests. In a recent edition of Inside Story, Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi summarises the magical resurrection of the charter city movement after the court’s ruling of unconstitutionality:
“Congress, dominated by the ruling party, subsequently voted to sack four of the judges who were against the project, and that has helped clear the legal obstacles.”
Given that Honduras is not even accountable to Honduran law – something made especially clear by the illegal coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 that was also facilitated by Congress – it’s not immediately clear why legally autonomous city-states must be erected.
A promotional video for the “special development regions” promises “more efficient and investment-friendly [rules] than the ones used today in the rest of the country”, which disingenuously suggests that Honduras is not already one big free-market enclave in the sweatshop tradition.
Indeed, one of the motives for deposing Zelaya had to do with his less than total obsequiousness to foreign capital. Current President Pepe Lobo, who ascended to power via illegitimate elections held in the aftermath of the coup, obediently set about courting the global elite with an event called “Honduras is Open for Business”.
Bringing together investors from 55 countries, the conference’s distinguished guest list included US officials, the world’s richest person Carlos Slim, Colombia’s former president-cum-human rights violation extraordinaire Alvaro Uribe, and Paul Romer – mastermind of the charter city concept.
Economist and political commentator Maricruz Magowan, one of the participants in the Inside Story discussion, argues during the programme that Lobo has embraced the charter city initiative as a means of signalling that Honduras is on the path to democracy following “the problem”. Rattansi interjects the literal term: “the coup”.
Of course, if Lobo really wanted to promote a democratic image of Honduras, he might refrain from presiding over an illegitimate regime and a system of institutionalised state violence and impunity.
Here’s a link to both the podcast of The Current show, “The World’s First Corporate City To Be Built In Honduras”, narrated by some guy named Mike in Montreal, and a blurb about the show. How long will I search to find some info on Mike in Montreal (like his exact name and position)?:
There are billions of people in developing countries who don’t have a single city that would be willing to welcome them. But the amazing [thing] about cities is that they are worth so much more than it costs to build them. So we could easily supply the world with dozens, maybe hundred, of new cities. – Paul Romer
Paul Romer is an American economist with a big idea. He isn’t talking about building just any city. He’s talking about self-governing city-states with their own laws, governments and judicial systems … “model cities” that would be safe-havens from, and inspirations for, the troubled nations in which they’re located. He calls them Charter Cities and they would be run by a variety of foreign-owned corporations. They would lease the land, rent the accommodations, run the water and sewers systems … even oversee the police, schools and hospitals.
Paul Romer cites as examples of success city-states like Hong Kong, Singapore and even the Vatican. Before he gave that TED Talk in 2009, Paul Romer was having a tough time getting much traction for his idea. Some critics said it was nothing less than an updated version of colonialism.
But then Octavio Sanchez came calling. He is the Chief of Staff to the President of Honduras. He wanted a Charter City. The two men paired up and got the proposal through the Honduran Congress twice before the country’s Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
However, now the Congress has now passed a new proposal. And Octavio Sanchez is hopeful that this time, it will move forward. Octavio Sanchez is the Chief of Staff to Honduran President, Porfirio Lobo. He’s at the presidential palace in the capital,Tegucigalpa.
We also heard from Keane Bhatt in this segment. He is with the North American Congress on Latin America.
And Carlo Dade thinks Canada should be buying in. He is a Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. He was in Washington, DC this morning.
And Grahame Russell is the Director of Rights Action Canada. He was in Connecticut.
We contacted the Canadian International Development Agency and Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino. The minister’s office declined our interview request. In an e-mail, a media relations official with CIDA told us this:
“The CIDA program in Honduras focuses on Food Security and Securing the Future of Children and Youth, in particular health and education. At the present time, CIDA has no direct involvement with the Model Cities. We will follow with interest how this initiative develops.”
This segment was produced by The Current’s Jessica deMello and Naheed Mustafa.
From Noam Chomsky’s “Hopes And Prospects,” the following:
“The third military coup was in Honduras in 2009, a class-based coup ousting left-leaning President Zelaya. The U.S. reaction was unusual in that Washington joined the OAS in criticizing the coup, though tepidly, not withdrawing its ambassador in protest as Latin American and European countries did. Meanwhile, the United States continued to train Honduran officers, and the IMF, largely U.S.-controlled, provided a $150 million loan to the coup regime – after having withdrawn loans to the democratically elected Zelaya government because of disagreement with his economic policies. In an unprecedented move, the IMF had also provided immediate offers of aid to the coup regime in Venezuela in 2002.
“Amnesty International released a long and detailed account of serious human rights violations by the Honduran coup regime. If such a report were issued concerning an official enemy, it would be front-page news. In this case it was scarcely reported, consistent with the downplaying of human rights violations by governments to which U.S. political and economic power centers are basically sympathetic, as in this case.
“Soon Obama ended the limited deviations from the normal track. He separated the United States from almost all of Latin America and Europe by accepting the military coup, which his administration refused to describe in those terms. Virtually alone, the United States recognized the subsequent elections held under military rule. Obama’s ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Lorens, called the elections “a great celebration of democracy” – echoing Kennedy-Johnson ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon after the U.S.-backed military coup in 1964, which instituted the first of the neo-Nazi national security states that spread through the continent, the worst plague of repression in its history. The goal of these national security states, as described by Latin scholar Lars Schoultz, was “to destroy permanently a perceived threat to the existing structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numerical majority… [the] popular classes.” Gordon exulted that the Brazilian coup was “the most decisive victory for freedom in the mid-twentieth century,” adding that the “democratic forces” now in charge should “create a greatly improved climate for private investment.” Like Hounduras, “a great celebration of democracy.”…
“Obama even broke new ground in support for the military coup. There are two government-funded organizations that claim to support democracy in the world: the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The IRI regularly supports military coups to overthrow elected governments, most recently in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. But the NDI had held back, including in these two cases. In Honduras, for the first time, Obama’s NDI agreed to observe elections under military rule, unlike the OAS and the UN, still wandering in the realm of magical realism.” – from pages 66,67,68
From the Alternet article by Alex Pareene titled “Why TED is a Massive, Money-Soaked Orgy of Self-Congratulatory Futurism,” the following:
“There was a bit of a scandal last week when it was reported that a TED Talk on income equality had been censored . That turned out to be not quite the entire story. Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist with a book out on income inequality, was invited to speak at a TED function. He spoke for a few minutes, making the argument that rich people like himself are not in fact job creators and that they should be taxed at a higher rate…
“Hanauer had his PR people go to the press immediately and accused TED of censorship, which is obnoxious – TED didn’t have to host his talk, obviously, and his talk was not hugely revelatory for anyone familiar with recent writings on income inequity from a variety of experts – but Anderson’s responses were still a good distillation of TED’s ideology…
“Because TED is for, and by, unbelievably rich people, they tiptoe around questions of the justness of a society that rewards TED attendees so much for what usually amounts to a series of lucky breaks. Anderson says he declined to promote the Hanauer talk because it was “mediocre” (that has never once stopped TED before, but we needn’t get too deep into that), but an email from Anderson to Hanauer  on the decision was more a critique of Hanauer’s thesis than a criticism of his performance. Anderson cited, specifically, his concern that “a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted” by the argument that multimillionaire executives hire more employees only as a “last resort.” (The entire recent history of the fixation on short-term returns, obsession with “efficiency,” and “streamlining” of most American corporations escaped the notice of Mr. Anderson, apparently.) I can’t imagine this line-by-line response to all the points raised in a TED Talk happening for an “expert” on any subject other than the general uselessness and self-importance of self-proclaimed millionaire “job creators.”…
“The people at Davos and in Aspen also think they’re saving the world, and the majority of them are also deeply involved in making it much worse for people who can’t afford to go to Davos and Aspen. It is no wonder at all that a talk on how their voluntary charity can better the lives of the unwashed is received with much more enthusiasm than one on how a better use for their money would be for them to have much less of it and everyone else a little more.
“Hanauer’s talk was remarkably dry  – and I am sure that was part of the reason for its burying, because TED truly values flash and surprise over substance – and not remotely mistakable for a pro-Democratic Party stump speech. But its central message was incompatible with the TED ethos: that TED People Are Good for the World.”