« Charter cities »: new corporate jargon… for same old colonization

Charter Cities in Honduras: A Proposal to Expand Canadian Colonialism

from Dawn, at Vancouver Mediacoop

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.

An example of "dysfunctional systems of rules and enforcement that keep people from reaching their true potential", amiright, MLI?

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.

From the same source article:

(…) the biggest obstacle to growth and development in the world is not a shortage of money, but rather poorly functioning institutions, such as the police, the courts and public administration, or what the authors call “the dysfunctional systems of rules and enforcement that keep people from reaching their true potential.”

The charter city concept circumvents dysfunctional systems of rules by allowing a city to operate independently under a new system of rules in a reform zone.

How « charter cities » could transform the developping world

Interview with Honduras Indigenous leader Salvador Zuniga

Honduras is burning: an eyewitness report

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