Honduras moving forward with the construction of three private cities

Honduras is moving forward in allowing three private cities to be built though some have voiced objections:

The “model cities” will have their own judiciary, laws, governments and police forces. They also will be empowered to sign international agreements on trade and investment and set their own immigration policy.

Congress president Juan Hernandez said the investment group MGK will invest $15 million to begin building basic infrastructure for the first model city near Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast. That first city would create 5,000 jobs over the next six months and up to 200,000 jobs in the future, Hernandez said. South Korea has given Honduras $4 million to conduct a feasibility study, he said…

The project is opposed by civic groups as well as the indigenous Garifuna people, who say they don’t want their land near Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast to be used for the project. Living along Central America’s Caribbean coast, the Garifuna are descendants of the Amazon’s Arawak Indians, the Caribbean’s Caribes and escaped West African slaves…

The president of Honduras will appoint “globally respected international figures” without financial interests in the projects to nine-member independent boards that will oversee the running of the cities, whose daily operations will be administered by a board-appointed governor. Future appointments to the board will be decided by votes by standing board members, Strong said.

I could understand how this would be alluring for governments that are struggling to attract foreign capital and create jobs. However, privatization on this scale sounds daunting and possible problematic. It is one thing to have developers own and run neighborhoods or particular projects; but a whole city? With separate international powers and not having to follow Honduran law? With a future promise of allowing citizens to vote? I could imagine some of the responses from urban sociologists who write about the privatization of public space. What happens when these developers run afoul of citizens or Honduran law and conventions? What kind of free speech rights will citizens have and will they have any say in what happens? It is one thing to have to follow the rules of corporations in private-public spaces in American cities (see these examples in San Francisco) but another when the whole city follows the guidelines of developers or “respected international figures.”

Assuming this moves forward and the cities are built, it will be fascinating to see what happens.

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