Honduran President Xiomara Castro signed a decree on April 25 that repealed the law creating the country’s nefarious Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs).
These zones — introduced by the previous National Party of Honduras government in 2012 and consolidated by right wing former President Juan Orlando Hernández — were established to attract foreign investment to Honduras. Beth Geglia and Andrea Nuila writing in NACLA in February last year, explained that the National Party “proposed the zones shortly after the 2009 military coup, which made the country a ripe location for experimentation with extreme neoliberal policies”.
Within ZEDEs, private companies are able to establish their own judiciary, police and education systems, outside of government control.
According to Peace Brigades International, three main ZEDEs operate in the country: Ciudad Morazán, a manufacturing and industrial zone located in the Cortés Department; Orquídea, an agricultural zone in the Colón Department; and Próspera, a technology and services zone in the Bay Islands Department.
These zones are sites of widespread human rights abuses and environmental destruction, largely due to the displacement of Indigenous communities and farmers.
Honduran National Congress President Luis Redondo, who presented the repeal motion, said the zones “violate our constitution, they violate the human rights of Hondurans. In defence of our sovereignty, our republic, I have presented this law.”
Environmental activists, particularly the Indigenous Garífuna people, have fought for a decade against the ZEDEs.
Legal critics argue that the zones violate articles of the Honduran Constitution pertaining to sovereignty and civil rights.
The Congress also passed a constitutional reform, which must be ratified next year, abolishing the existing ZEDEs.
The Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras, a coalition dedicated to fighting for Indigenous Garífuna rights, said: “The ZEDEs are nothing more than a tool of colonisation in a country afflicted by the interventions of foreign companies.”
Repealing the ZEDEs was one of Castro’s campaign promises in the lead up to her electoral victory in November last year.
The repeal vote passed the Congress on April 21 with all 128 congresspeople in favour.
Many Hondurans and community organisations welcomed the decision.
Venessa Cárdenas Woods, who lives in a community fighting against the nearby ZEDE Próspera, told Criterio: “I feel excited, happy and proud of all the Hondurans who have been in this struggle to not give up the sovereignty of our country. I would like to tell them that, for your courage, your perseverance, I can say today that my home … and our beautiful country are safe.”
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), Honduras’ biggest coalition of Indigenous rights and environmental activist organisations, tweeted: “This action is just one step of many we have to follow to free the country. COPINH will continue building and fighting for the sovereignty of the people.”