Geert Wilders' American friends

Anthony Deutsch and Mark Hosenball suggest in a new article for Reuters that anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders' activities are being financially supported -- at least in part -- by anti-Islam groups in the United States:

The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders' legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred, its director Daniel Pipes said. The Middle East Forum has a stated goal, according to its website, of protecting the "freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, promoting American interests in the Middle East and protecting the constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats". It sent money directly to Wilders' lawyer via its Legal Project, Pipes said.

FrontPage magazine editor David Horowitz acknowledged paying Wilders "a good fee" for making speeches in the United States and helping to raise money to help him fight a controversial travel ban in Britain. He also co-hosted an auction of the Danish Mohammed cartoons with Wilders in Los Angeles but does not remember what happened to the proceeds. 

Horowitz and Pipes deny funding the Freedom Party's activities in Holland, which would be illegal under U.S. law. Unlike most Dutch parties, the Freedom Party does not accept government subsidies, which means it doesn't have to disclose its funding sources to the same extent. Its critics have alleged that much of its funding comes from outside the country. 

There isn't quite a smoking gun here. Paying Wilders speaking fees or helping raise money for his legal defense isn't quite the same thing as funding his political activities. But the article does underline the growing affinity between anti-Islam groups in the U.S. and their counterparts on the European far right which became apparent during the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy.

In 2009, I attended a speech Wilders gave in Washington hosted by Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. During that same trip, he was invited by U.S. Senator John Kyl to show his controversial documentary Fitna on Capitol Hill. 

The Netherlands is holding closely-watched parliamentary elections on Wednesday, during which Wilders' group, along with the far-left Socialist Party, are looking to take advantage of anti-EU sentiment. 



Some complications for Honduran Hong Kong

We've written a bit here before on Honduras's planned Región Especial de Desarrollo -- a planned free enterprise zone with its own legal and judicial institutions set up along the lines of economist Paul Romer's "charter cities" concept.

Last Tuesday, the Honduran government took a major step toward making the project a reality by signing a memorandum of agreement with an international group of investors:

The "model cities" will have their own judiciary, laws, governments and police forces. They also will be empowered to sign international agreements on trade and investment and set their own immigration policy.

Congress president Juan Hernandez said the investment group MGK will invest $15 million to begin building basic infrastructure for the first model city near Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast. That first city would create 5,000 jobs over the next six months and up to 200,000 jobs in the future, Hernandez said. South Korea has given Honduras $4 million to conduct a feasibility study, he said.

There seems to be some trouble behind the scenes on the project, however. Last Friday, Romer -- along with fellow members of a transparency commission appointed by the Honduran government -- sent the following letter to President Porfirio Lobo:

Since the report of our appointment as members of the Transparency Commission for the Special Development Regions (REDs) appeared in December 2011, we understand that a constitutional challenge to the legal framework for the REDs has made it difficult for you to publish the decree giving legal validity to our appointment. Thus the conditions have not existed to permit the Transparency Commission to play the role envisioned for this ambitious and important project.

As you continue to work to attract foreign investment under the RED framework in this period of uncertainty, we feel it would be wise to release you from any sense of obligation to proceed with publication of the decree and thus with our formal appointment.

You should know that we, as individuals, continue to believe strongly in the vision behind the Honduran RED initiative, and we stand ready to be of service when the impediments to the full establishment of the institutional framework of the REDs have been resolved.

Romer also told the Guardian that he had been surprised by the MKG investment deal and that the members of the transparency commission "do not have any information, or means to check or look into any aspect of the negotiation."

It was just last May, that Romer was working closely with the Honduran government to promote the idea, co-authoring an op-ed with Lobo's chief of staff to promote the project.