Micah and Erin/Flickr

The controversial plan appears to have reached a dead end.

Over the last year, Paul Romer's ambitious and controversial vision for Charter Cities —  foreign-run economic colonies designed to bring wealth and stability to poor countries — has been moving quickly towards reality in the Honduran jungle. But a rapid series of setbacks may have brought the project to a halt.

Last month, the project's Transparency Commission, an oversight committee featuring Romer and several other prominent economists, was excluded from agreements between the Honduran government and international development companies, prompting fears about corruption. (One of those companies, the Future Cities Development Corporation — slogan: "Creating Humanity's Future" — was founded by Patri Friedman, grandson of Milton, who wrote in 2009 that "democracy is not the answer.")

Later that month, a prominent Honduras human rights lawyer who had filed one of dozens of legal challenges to the "model cities" decree, was murdered, inspiring further speculation.

Last Wednesday, the Honduran Supreme Court ruled that last October's alterations to the Honduran constitution removing national territory from government control were unconstitutional. A branch of the court had come to that conclusion earlier this month, but because the decision (4-1) was not unanimous, the full court convened to vote. It struck down the legislative decree 13 to 2.

President Porfirio Lobo, one the project's biggest supporters, was upset by the decision, insinuating that the court was influenced by external economic and political interests. He encouraged Hondurans to go to the Supreme Court to look for the jobs that the body's ruling had denied them. "I'm sure they're not thinking about the harm they're doing to the Honduran people," he said.

But the Court sided with those who had opposed the cities as neo-colonial and undemocratic. Ramón Custodio, head of the Honduran Human Rights Commission, praised the decision: "Honduras will continue to exist as a country that does not permit the fragmentation of its territory like fabric being sold for scraps."

Top image: Flickr user Micah and Erin

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  2. photo: Dominque Walker, founder of Moms 4 Housing, n the kitchen of the vacant house in West Oakland that the group occupied to draw attention to fair housing issues.
    Equity

    A Group of Mothers, a Vacant Home, and a Win for Fair Housing

    The activist group Moms 4 Housing occupied a vacant home in Oakland to draw attention to the city’s affordability crisis. They ended up launching a movement.

  3. photo: A Lyft scooter on the streets of Oakland in July.
    Transportation

    4 Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry

    Dockless e-scooters swept cities worldwide in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, expect the battery-powered micromobility revolution to take a new direction.

  4. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  5. photo: Toxic lead paint peels from a window frame on a rowhouse in Baltimore, Maryland.
    Environment

    The Unequal Burden of Urban Lead

    Decades after federal regulations banned the use of the deadly metal in paint, gasoline, and plumbing, the effects of lead continue to be felt across America’s cities.

×