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Charter Cities in Honduras: A Proposal to Expand Canadian Colonialism

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Protest against charter cities proposal in Honduras. Banner reads: Model Cities: Expulsion of Garifuna People from Honduras. Photo G. Trucchi.
Protest against charter cities proposal in Honduras. Banner reads: Model Cities: Expulsion of Garifuna People from Honduras. Photo G. Trucchi.

The Globe and Mail really outdid themselves today. With the help of a writer named Jeremy Torobin, they took their journalism to the level of the commentary they once specialized in courtesy of Christy Blatchford (who is now at the National Post).

The article in question is called "How 'charter cities' could lift the global economy." Hint: replace "charter city" with "colony" and you're 99 per cent of the way to understanding the concept.

Torobin relies on a report by the Macdonald Laurier Institute (MLI), a 16-page document filled with sweeping generalizations and assertions, backed up by 10 piddly footnotes. But don't worry, because as Torobin deftly points out:

The authors back up their arguments with research, such as a statistic that people who move to places with better rules than in the ones they’ve left behind can earn wages which are three to seven times higher.

Whoa, wait a sec, hang on... They back their arguments up with research and a statistic!? ZOMG.

Upon closer inspection, the report isn't peer reviewed, and a disclaimer from MLI assures readers that the authors have worked independently and are solely responsible for the content. Oh, and the authors are both involved in a "non-profit" pushing the idea of new urban colonies (ahem, charter cities) all around the world.

Doesn't stop Torobin from presenting the conclusions in the report, which he calls "intriguing," as fact. He writes:

Prof. Romer was in Ottawa Wednesday pushing his concept of “charter cities,” essentially locales created from scratch in the developing world where reform-minded people could migrate and be governed under a broad set of evenly applied rules that, in theory, could remake norms across the country. If it worked, the “political risk” that is the chief impediment to foreign investment in so many poor countries would be significantly reduced, paving the way for money to pour in. Also, in theory, similar charter cities would start to pop up as people see what's gone on in the first one and want to replicate it. Eventually, entire regions could be adopting new rules and norms established in the initial charter cities, dramatically improving the quality of more and more people's lives.

Yes, that's right. One urban colony (charter city) at at time, entire countries could be re-made into urban oases based on rules and foreign direct investment. But wait, it gets better. 

According to Paul Romer and his pal Brandon Fuller, the NYU urbanization academics and colony boosters who penned the report, Canada is especially well suited to run a new colony, ahem, charter city in Honduras. The idea has been approved by Honduras' congress (which, it is worth remembering, came about via illegitimate elections following a coup d'etat in 2009), and is known there as a "special economic region" or RED. Back to the report:

The RCMP, perhaps in partnership with another respected policing authority such as the Carabineros de Chile, could greatly enhance security and quality of life in the RED by establishing a presence in the zone – training police officers and holding officers accountable for modern standards of service and conduct in policing.

Yea, you read that right. Sorry if you just lost your lunch. The idea here is to bring in two national police forces whose origins are in the decimation and repression of Indigenous peoples and put them to work in a new colony.  

I can't bring myself to go into more detail about this pathetically colonial initiative. It's all there. Read the report yourself (if you have the urge to get angry and scoff at the same time). 

As for the Globe's pitiful attempt at "journalism" on this one, after following along on this colonial fairy tale Torobin takes the time to note "Cynics might dismiss the whole concept as a starry-eyed mix of idealism, paternalism, even imperialism." True to the tradition of Blatchfordian-Canadian-colonialist journalism, he doesn't appear to have spoken to a critic, or even played devil's advocate for a moment to understand what could possibly be wrong with this proposal.

I think it could be argued that this initiative has more to do with controlling migration and resistance movements than anything else. Miriam Miranda, a Garifuna leader, said recently of RED that "it is difficult to get information, but it is evident that we're faced with the maximum expression of the loss of sovereignty."

I look foward to more critical analysis of this proposal, but I have no illusions of finding it in the mainstream media. After all, it is already clear the old media dinosaurs want us all to go extinct along with them.

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dawn (dawn paley)
Member since Août 2008


Journalist, co-founder VMC, ex-editor & board member with Media Co-op. Author, Drug War Capitalism.

754 words


oh yes

there's another obvious colonial connection to this, which is this idea of tierra nullius, which would be applied to set up the first of these charter cities near Trujillo, ancestral & present day territory of the Garifuna people. I visited Trujillo and wrote about Randy Jorgensen's housing projects marketed to Canadian retirees there a few years ago. 

Great post, Dawn. Is there

Great post, Dawn.

Is there any proposal of whose public dollars would pay for these charter cities to be "created from scratch"?


It's not spelled out in great detail (like most of the proposal), but the suggestion is basically like a P3. The more I look into this the creepier it gets. Here's what they've got so far:

Q: Who would finance the infrastructure for a new city? 

A: City infrastructure could be financed by private investors who collect fees for the services they provide. For example, the municipal water system could be built and operated by a firm like Suez or Aquas de Barcelona that earns a return by charging users fees. An airport could be financed in a similar way and built by a private firm like Aeroports de Paris or the Changi Airport Group. They, and other firms like them, might leap at the chance to build an airport that could grow to be an important regional hub. With the predictable rules specified in the city’s charter, each type of firm could count on a stream of fee income, agreed to by regulators, that would last for many decades.

Many thanks...

Thanks for this interesting post, Dawn. Charter cities seem like an inevitable extension of gated communities, which are sadly all the rage down here in Panama. Surely these cities will be used as bases of operation for local resource extraction? As you say, pure colonialism straight from another age. 

Thanks Richard

For this thoughtful comment. I think it is basically a maquila model. What is extracted is peoples' labour & freedom.

The Charter Cities project involves a land base of 1000km2.

Q: What skill level would typical workers have? What kind of jobs would they find? 
A: In the beginning, many of the target workers would be people with little formal education who get their first paid job after moving to the city. They would work in jobs similar to those in factories that produce garments and toys.

Another gem from Romer, one of the authors of this "study" and Lobo's chief of staff:

It’s an effort to build on the success of existing special zones based around the export-processing maquila industry. These zones have expanded employment in areas such as garments and textiles, with substantial investment from Canadian firms such as Gildan, but they haven’t brought the improved legal protections needed to attract higher-skilled jobs. By setting up the rule of law, the RED can open up new opportunities for Canadian firms to expand manufacturing operations and invest in urban infrastructure.

Sweat shops and slums

Sounds like it could up resembling Colon, the Caribbean coast terminus of the Panama Canal. There you have the largest Free Trade Zone in the Americas, a heavily fortified compound - a city within a city - surrounded by crumbling, crime-ridden ghettoes. Despite the billions of dollars locked up in the city, not a single cent trickles down to the urban poor.  

Here is my take it on it...

Thanks again for alerting to me to this story. Here is my take on it:

great post

thanks for the update!

model villiages

This has errie similarities to the 'model villiage' counter insurgency tactic used in Guatemala and elsewhere as population control tactic, part of the 'drain the sea to kill the fish' anti-guerllia stuff which included genocide and the infamous 'beans and bullets' program.  its very scary to see them experimenting with this on a larger scale. I expect that large NGO's will be involved as well.

Charter cities in Honduras

Charter cities in Honduras offer great proposal to expand Canadian colonialism providing opportunity. Hope Canadian people like this excellent sounds so far. Thanks for letting us know that issue. @ Felix Investment