Bill Would Tell Honduras’ Leftist Leader: Don’t Even Think of Expropriating US Investments

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In recent years, we’ve found ourselves disagreeing from time to time with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., but his Protect U.S. Investments Act could not be more timely.

In Honduras, just as in Venezuela years ago, violent political mobs known as “colectivos” have been organized by radical elements of the “democratic socialist” administration of President Xiomara Castro to threaten opposition parties in the Honduran National Congress, which was set to convene Wednesday.

Castro, who took office a year ago tomorrow, is Honduras’ first female president and was first lady under then-President Manuel Zelaya from 2006 to 2009. She is no relation to the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The “colectivos” hope to coerce the Honduran National Congress to ratify the repeal of an investment framework relied upon for nearly $100 million in U.S. investment and to pack the Honduran Supreme Court with hard-left ideologues to bless any resulting expropriations.

So, why should we care about what happens in Honduras?

Because, while all eyes have been focused on Eastern Europe, neo-Marxists have risen to power in nearly every country south of the border. They call it “democratic socialism,” but socialism is never truly democratic when it is premised on the violation of personal liberty and property rights.

If U.S. lawmakers do not make a stand for the security and stability of U.S. investment in Honduras now, the most durable basis for U.S. soft power will crumble, and we should expect similar anti-American, anti-investment actions throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Not only will Americans be hurt by the seizure or destruction of their investments, the resulting disastrous economic effects will drive multitudes more illegal immigrants to the U.S. seeking to escape those effects. The void in U.S. soft power will undoubtedly be filled by China, which already is planning a naval base in Argentina, and Beijing’s ally, Iran, steamed a warship through the Panama Canal just a few weeks ago.

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The situation in Honduras properly inspired action by farsighted and principled U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. investors raised and invested nearly $100 million in reliance upon an investment framework in Honduras that created “Zones of Employment and Economic Development” (“ZEDEs”) that were guaranteed 50 years of legal stability and policy autonomy under “CAFTA-DR,” the main Central American investment treaty with the U.S.

The investment was used to organize a special economic zone, “Prospera ZEDE,” where rule of law best practices could be deployed to encourage billions of dollars of additional investment.

The goal was to bring the best of Arizona or Texas to Honduras, so that there would be no reason for Hondurans to escape to Phoenix or Houston. American companies, such as Arkansas’ Walmart and Tyson Foods, would also become more comfortable investing and doing business in Honduras safely operating within those zones.

Naturally, radical elements of the Honduran Castro administration have been attacking U.S. investment in the zone, but they can’t allow a visible East Berlin vs. West Berlin dynamic to arise as they advocate nationalizing most of the Honduran economy.

Power is what matters to them, not prosperity for the Honduran people.

Other lawmakers should join Gosar in showing leadership on the issue of protecting U.S. investment in Honduras and the Western Hemisphere. The Protect U.S. Investments Act is a necessary and measured stick to add to the bunch of carrots on offer to the Honduran Castro administration.

Building on the Fidel Castro-era Hickenlooper Amendment, 22 U.S.C. §2370(e), advanced by then-Sen. Bourke Hickenlooper, R-Iowa, in 1962, the Protect U.S. Investments Act would expand sanctions for expropriative conduct by foreign public officials, including the denial of visas.

With passage of the Protect U.S. Investments Act, a needed message would be heard loud and clear throughout the Western Hemisphere: U.S. lawmakers will not let foreign government officials expropriate U.S. investments without consequences.

Equally important, recently installed radical governments south of the border will better understand that there is no void of U.S. leadership for China to fill.

No foreign government official should be allowed to chill in their Miami condos while expropriating U.S. investment and undermining U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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The post Bill Would Tell Honduras’ Leftist Leader: Don’t Even Think of Expropriating US Investments appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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