RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre, left) commemorated Tuesday the 12th anniversary of the June 28, 2009 coup d’état to the then president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, with a protest against the Employment and Development Zones (Zede) promoted by the ruling party.
On a boulevard in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, dozens of supporters of the Libre party gathered to express their rejection of the Zede and their support for Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife and presidential candidate of that party.
“Today we started the social mobilization in Tegucigalpa, soon there will be a nationwide mobilization” against the Zede, said to journalists Rafael Alegría, former deputy of Libre, first opposition force in the Honduran Parliament.
He pointed out that the protest is being held to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the “sad and fateful coup d’état” of June 2009.
The overthrow of Zelaya, who was promoting political reforms that the law prevented him from carrying out, was “a tragedy for the country,” said Alegría.
Zelaya, who had assumed power on January 27, 2006, was deposed and expelled from the country for a four-year term with seven months left in his term.
The protest, called by the National Movement against the Zede, which brings together more than thirty civil society organizations, was dissolved by the torrential rains falling on Tegucigalpa when the demonstrators had traveled about two kilometers.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ALSO REJECTS ZEDES
Earlier, Libre, whose general coordinator is Zelaya, held its extraordinary national assembly at the private country club Bosques de Zambrano, some 30 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa, where Xiomara Castro remembered the “martyrs” of the coup.
“The dictatorship is approaching its inevitable end, it filled us with misery, privatizations, and deaths, they forced thousands of our compatriots to undertake the humiliating route of exile, and now they are tearing our territory in the Zedes, let us not surrender to adventurers and pirates under the pretext of creating jobs at the cost of losing our motherland and dignity as a nation,” Castro stressed.
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The Libre supporters who attended the assembly chanted “No to the Zedes”. At the same time, Zelaya’s wife indicated that if she wins the Presidency of Honduras, her government “will build schools instead of walls, will build hospitals instead of barracks and will return to all the children of this country the dignity that can only be obtained with the dignified work” of the workers, “not with slaves in the Zedes”.
PRESIDENT DEFENDS INITIATIVE
Faced with the rejection of the Zede, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández said today that “it is normal” that many sectors opposed the initiative and pointed out that the country’s Supreme Court of Justice has stated that “they are constitutional”.
“Generally, the people who have adverse criteria about the Employment Zones are those who have companies or speak from the comfort of their jobs,” the ruler stressed at a press conference.
“Why can’t we aspire to have employment-generating zones as has already happened in Korea, in Singapore, in the United States itself?”, he added and insisted that the Employment Zones are “highly job-generating”.
“Hondurans have to be innovative, transformers and daring, all within the framework of the Constitution, but showing that it is necessary to generate jobs for Hondurans because that is what people need: to have income in their pockets”, said President Hernandez.
NEW MODEL CITIES TO ESCAPE EXTREME VIOLENCE
Over the last several years, the Honduran government has been aggressively advancing a “model cities” project that it argues will provide options for its citizens to escape the extreme violence in their country without migrating to the U.S.
The model cities, which are formally called “Zones for Employment and Economic Development” (“ZEDEs”), purport to be autonomously governed areas that will attract foreign investment and compete for residents by establishing safer communities and better-managed institutions governed by the rule of law.
The ZEDEs trace their origin to a concept formulated by development economist Paul Romer, who proposed the idea of “charter cities.” Within charter cities, beneficial public-policy reforms could be enacted with assistance from developed-country governments. The cities would simultaneously provide residents from the surrounding areas with expanded opportunities and enable successful reforms to be replicated throughout the surrounding region –– much as China used special economic zones like Shenzhen to pilot economic reforms three decades ago.
The model cities project understandably has its critics. Various Honduran civil society organizations have opposed the project from the beginning. Paul Romer himself backed out when he believed Honduras was acting in a non-transparent manner. Weeks later the Honduran Supreme Court struck down the project as unconstitutional.
Honduras’ government has been undeterred, however. The Honduran Congress fired four of the Supreme Court justices who struck down the project –– an act that itself exemplifies the very rule-of-law issues that the idea is designed to address. It passed a new, but only slightly revised, model cities law and contracted the South Korean government and Posco Plantec, an engineering firm, to conduct site selection and feasibility studies.
It then appointed a 21-member committee to govern the first ZEDE, composed of prominent right-leaning and libertarian members from around the world. Finally, in May 2014, the new law survived a constitutional attack, receiving approval from the reconstituted Supreme Court.