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Forget Impeachment, Brazil Needs ZEDEs

By: Monique Brown - Feb 12, 2015, 11:13 am
Frustration among Brazilians boiled over into protests in 2013, but with minimal results. ZEDEs would change the rules of the game, for the better.  (Wikimedia)
Frustration among Brazilians boiled over into protests in 2013, but with minimal results. ZEDEs would change the rules of the game, for the better. (Wikimedia)

EspañolPortuguês During September 1992, young people in Brazil’s major cities took their democratic voices out to the streets. The so-called caras pintadas or painted faces filled the streets with hope in their eyes and a desire for a much greater future. What my fellow young Brazilians were asking for was the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor de Melo, and they got their way.

I was not in Brazil at this time, but I remember watching the news on French television at my grandmother’s house, while on holiday in Europe. I remember the feeling of great satisfaction, and my desire to be there and part of the historic change in my country.

A wave of optimism filled our generation. Democracy had won over corruption, and together, as one voice, we could change our future and write a new history in Brazilian politics. Or so we thought.

Now, thinking back, I ask myself, are radical steps such as impeachment really the lasting solution we need? Because once again we see millions of Brazilians asking for the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff. And now we have social media, which is full of demands that Dilma leave office.

I wonder if some of these voices are the same as we heard in 1992, thinking that by impeaching and changing presidents we can successfully stop corruption. After we impeached one president because of corruption, now we want to impeach another president for the same reason 23 years later.

We want change, but the tool of change has proved ineffective; our democratic processes have not been successful in stopping corruption. Senior government officials can come and go, but if the underlying system does not change, there is no point in just another impeachment. History has shown us that.

When analyzing the Petrobras case, we get a sense that the lack of rule of law not only destabilizes the country economically and politically, but also encourages impunity. Each day, Brazilians hear of senior public officials participating in corruption scandals with impunity, to the extent that they have become inured to it. When we find that the same former impeached president now sits on the Senate, we really ought to question our political system, rather than call on it to fix itself.

Brazil is a giant that has never reached its full potential. The corruption structures have become highly sophisticated and entrenched in the bureaucracy. This has been holding back development and economic growth for many years now.

This lack of rule of law is something that haunts not only Brazil but also the whole of Latin America. One can argue that this is the legacy of exploitative European imperialism, which led to government being seen as the zero sum game to enrich and empower its players.

So, with this in mind we should ask ourselves, is there something new that can be tried to break the corruption legacy?

Hondurans believe there is. With the formulation of the organic law of the ZEDEs, allowed by constitutional changes, and the creation and development of small autonomous zones throughout the country, Hondurans want to set up a different future.

These special zones aim to bring strong rule of law, genuinely free markets, and government transparency within their areas. Such small areas can make a significant impact, even though they may be one third of 1 percent of the land area of the country.

The big picture is that these places will be vibrant economic zones that compete with each other, where citizens will vote with their feet. They will have economic freedom, and be able to attract international investors with rock-solid rule of law. As with the Special Economic Zones of China, they will drive economic growth and, in the ZEDE model, will encourage transparency in trade and government.

Political reform is very possible, but not immediately Brazil as a whole. In small parts, tiny fractions of this vast land, the creation of small autonomous zones will break up the intrinsic bureaucracy and encourage the change Brazil needs to see.

I believe this is a very significant time for Brazil, and the whole of Latin America. Citizens are realizing that we need more transparency when it comes to politics, and the region needs genuine innovation to do this. The old system has proved inefficient, open to corruption and abuse, and can’t be relied on to reform itself.

The creation of small autonomous zones is not only desirable but necessary for a more prosperous future, equality before the law, and as an effective way to stop corruption throughout Latin America.

Edited by Fergus Hodgson.