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O’Grady’s Honduran Free Market Fantasies

Honduran soldiers battle harm of populism (Photo: Reuters)

Mary O’Grady, editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal and champion of the 2009 coup d’état against Honduran President Mel Zelaya “because he was trying to extend his presidency in violation of the nation’s constitution” [read: because he was trying to conduct a nonbinding public opinion survey to gauge popular will to rewrite a document produced at the height of Honduras’ cold war service as a U.S. military base], has finally found an acceptable reason for constitutional revision.

O’Grady’s latest dispatch from Tegucigalpa begins:

What advocate of free markets hasn’t, at one time or another, fantasized about running away to a desert island to start a country where economic liberty would be the law of the land? If things go according to plan, more than one such ‘island’ may soon pop up here.

Honduras calls these visionary islands ‘model cities,’ and as the Journal’s David Wessel reported from Washington 10 days ago, the Honduran Congress is expected to soon pass an amendment to the constitution that would clear the way to put the concept into action.

The idea is simple: A sizable piece of unpopulated government land is designated for use as a model city. A charter that will govern the city is drafted and the Congress approves it. A development authority is appointed by the national government. The authority signs contracts with the investors who will develop the infrastructure. The city opens for business under rules that act as a magnet for investment.”

It would seem that free market advocates fantasizing about running away to desert islands of economic liberty might have already had their fantasies sufficiently fulfilled via sweatshop opportunities in Honduras.

Undeterred, O’Grady insists:

Now the little country that stood up to the world to defend its democracy seems to be affirming a belief that it needs to change if it wants to ward off future assaults on freedom.”

The valiant Honduran defense of democracy consisted, of course, of the overthrow by the country’s tiny elite, in concert with the U.S., of a president engaged in such assaults on freedom as a raise of the minimum wage to approximately $290 a month in certain sectors, support for legislation to ban open-pit mining, and willingness to discuss land reform.

It is meanwhile unclear how the designation of government land for what is essentially an experiment by an American economist can be construed as democratic in nature when Honduran farmers attempting to reclaim property illegally acquired by wealthy businessmen are subjected to assassinations and other forms of harassment by military and paramilitary units.

In case there is any doubt as to the identity of “the Honduran people” that O’Grady claims to speak for in her articles, she ends this particular one with a quote from Zelaya’s predecessor Ricardo Maduro, described as “a fan” of the model cities scheme:

If we want to develop we have to find a way to counterbalance the populism that causes us so much harm. The model city is a way of decentralizing power and connecting people to their government.”

As for previous counterbalancing efforts against threats posed by the non-elite, Maduro holds the distinction of having presided over a regime that, according to former chief of internal affairs for the Honduran police María Luisa Borjas, exterminated 3,000 extraneous Honduran youths via a liberal application of the term “gang member.”

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1 Comment

  1. rosemerry says:

    The first word from Honduras for ages!
    “counterbalancing populism” sounds like the normal US reaction to humans.

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