PBI-Honduras accompanies ARCAH as it files complaint with the Public Ministry in the framework of the ZEDEs

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On November 24, PBI-Honduras tweeted: “PBI accompanies @Arcah_hn [the Honduran Alternative for Community and Environmental Vindication] in filing a complaint with the Public Ministry in the framework of the ZEDE [Economic Development and Employment Zones]. We are concerned about the constant pressure and risk situations that the organization is going through due to its advocacy work.”

Radio Zapatista has reported:

Christopher Castillo, general coordinator of ARCAH, has denounced threats against him made by the police, as well as by members of the directors and executives of different ZEDES projects.

According to a statement from the Peoples’ Human Rights Observatory, the attacks occur in the context of the fight against the ZEDES, particularly those known as Ciudad Morazán and Próspera, which “ignore the popular decision to repeal the law, which it was achieved by the popular struggle of communities and organizations. Therefore, the ZEDES do not want to recognize it, instead they threaten with violent actions seeking to settle in the territories”.

One of the recent attacks occurred at the end of October when ARCAH members were peacefully protesting against Ciudad Morazán, since it is one of the ZEDES projects that have remained in operation despite the repeal of the law that supported them. Added to this are the threats against the ARCAH coordinator by the founder of Ciudad Morazán, Massimo Mazzone, and other members Jorge Colindres and Carlos Fortín.

Given these facts, Christopher Castillo demanded that the Honduran authorities effectively repeal the ZEDES and, before local media, stated that “we cannot allow these businessmen to come only to impose projects that are not development, that are alien to the will of the people and that They also come to threaten people.”

The Prospera and Morazán ZEDEs

The Prospera’s website says: “Prospera’s first hub is on the island of Roatan, Honduras. We’ve partnered with the Honduran government under the 2014 ZEDE act to create an innovative economic jurisdiction that is already creating transformative change for Honduran workers, technology entrepreneurs and international investors.”

Last week Miriam Miranda from the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) commented on the Próspera ZEDE that is still being constructed on Garífuna territory. She stated: “They’re building their famous towers there and they already have a tower that I think is twelve stories high, in an area where there is supposed to be no construction of that kind, because it’s an island. But they’re still constructing them. And they’ve stated on social media that they’re going to sue Honduras for billions of dollars.”

And the Ciudad Morazán website notes: “Ciudad Morazán is a complete community located at the outskirts of Choloma, Honduras, the third largest city and the center of its vibrant manufacturing region. It offers residential solutions, an industrial area, commercial spaces, parks, churches, schools and all the other civic meeting points and infrastructure works. The community is a “Zona de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico”, enjoying a certain degree of fiscal and regulatory autonomy. It develops over 24 enclosed hectares and when completed it will house up to 10,000 residents. All the buildings are offered for rent to any Honduran or foreigner legally residing in the country.”

Background and timeline

Last month, the American Prospect reported:

Honduran President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January [2022], promised on the campaign trail to abolish special economic zones known as ZEDEs (“Economic Development and Employment Zones” in English), where private investors have outsized power to shape labor laws, judicial systems, and local governance.

In April, she achieved a major win when the Congress of Honduras unanimously voted to repeal the law that allows for ZEDEs, and to abolish the current ones, though the latter has to be ratified next year.

In July, the [US] State Department issued its own condemnation of Castro’s move to eliminate ZEDEs, and intimated that the government could be violating two trade agreements, the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and a U.S.-Honduras bilateral investment treaty (BIT).

On September 29, the U.S. embassy in Honduras tweeted that its deputy chief of mission, Roy Perrin, “met today with Honduras Próspera to talk about the climate for investment in Honduras, the legal guarantees that will permit those businesses to create jobs, and how sustainable development can create economic opportunities for all Hondurans.”

Global Arbitration Review further notes: “A US investor has formally notified Honduras of its intent to bring a treaty claim potentially worth nearly US$11 billion over plans to repeal special economic zones… Delaware-registered company Honduras Próspera and two subsidiaries served a notice of intent on 16 September under the Dominican Republic-Central America free trade agreement, triggering a 90-day cooling-off period.”

Canadian ZEDEs?

There may be two other ZEDEs – Mariposa (health sanctuary) and “Little Canada” (a 500-unit housing development) – that involve Canadian capital. It has been previously reported that the Mariposa ZEDE is being led by Daniel and Katerina Morin, while “Little Canada” in the Trujillo region is being developed by Randy Jorgensen.

PBI-Honduras has been accompanying the Honduran Alternative for Community and Environmental Vindication (ARCAH) since September 2022.

We continue to follow this situation.

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