Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project.
An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as "a catastrophe."
The project's aim is to strengthen Honduras' weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.
The project "has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth," said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships. It can be "a development instrument typical of first world countries."
"Desperate." That certainly describes it. Rather than bringing prosperity to a nation bereft by poverty and corruption, it will likely create an "us vs. 'you people' " dynamic that we've seen played out in medieval Europe.
Serfdom. Peasantry. Landed gentry and nobility versus the "just up from the muck" indigenous people.
We can assume that this city-nation will keep its taxes as low as possible while plundering the surrounding villages and countryside for the resources it needs, just like the castled nobles of mid-second milennium England. And the advertisement to rich folk in the States will be simple: "Your money doesn't live there. Why should you?"
And it's true: in a day and age when money can fly around the world faster than a spaceship, nationality is meaningless. Transnational wealthy can live where they choose, and that they choose America is a dint more of opportunity to socialize than anything else. Now, they can avoid even that.
Which is fine, because my suspicion is Hondurans will be even less tolerant of them than we are.