A five-member panel of Honduras’ Supreme Court of Justice ruled in a 4-1 decision Oct. 3 that legislation creating Special Development Regions (RED), autonomous regions also known as “Model Cities,” is unconstitutional. The only opposing vote came from Justice Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, who failed to recuse himself despite an apparent conflict of interest: he is a close friend of National Congress president Juan Orlando Hernández, a promoter of the project, and has visited Korean economic development zones in Southeast Asia with Hernández. Because the decision was not unanimous, the full court of 15 justices must make the final determination. Chief Justice Jorge Rivera Avilés has set Oct. 17 as the date for the session.
The “Model Cities” project has sparked dozens of legal challenges. Although much of the opposition comes from the left, the plan is unpopular across the political spectrum. In September Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, a conservative, announced his opposition to the project, which proponents claim will spur economic development. “[If] you want to have a developed country, it should be the whole country, not privileged zones,” he wrote in a communiqué, adding that “the national territory can’t be divided because that would be finishing off the country and putting an end to the nation.”
Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa said on Oct. 6 that he would push ahead with the project. “[I]f Honduran society today is afraid to make the leap, we’ve talked with the Supreme Court of Justice about sitting down to dialogue and about what changes would have to be made for [the RED] to be compliant with the law.” (Honduras Culture and Politics, Oct. 3; El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, Oct. 5; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Oct. 6)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 7.