The planned plebiscite in Honduras, which was the precipitating event for the military coup that overthrew the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was as follows:
¿Está de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna en la cual el pueblo decida la convocatoria a una asamblea nacional constituyente? = Sí…….ó………..No.
I am going to pick up now on Steven Taylor’s translation and comments:
Do you agree with the installation of a fourth ballot box during the 2009 general elections so that the people can decide on the calling of a national constituent assembly? Yes or no.
In other words: do you want there to be a ballot and a ballot box (Latin American elections often have one ballot per office and one ballot box per ballot) for the purpose of a referendum in November (alongside the presidential and congressional elections) to decide whether or not to call a constituent assembly to reform the constitution.
[…] This is important for a variety of reasons.
1. This language was not about re-election.
2. Even if the plebiscite was allowed to go forward, the answer was “yes,” and the results were allowed to stand, Zelaya would not have been in a position to be re-elected in November.
Steven has more on the theme, including a photo of the ballot,* at PoliBlog.
Perhaps Zelaya was going to find a way to extend his term, unconstitutionally, but I never understood how. Unless he had totally suspended the constitution, which it is doubtful he expected to be able to do, he was not going to get the right to run for immediate reelection in November, when his successor was due to be elected. The constitution has language that makes it impossible to amend for reelection, which would explain the need for a constituent assembly. (A constituent assembly could declare itself the “sovereign voice of the people” and therefore not bound by restrictions in the existing constitution.) However, if the assembly could not be elected, convened, and complete its work before the November election, it would be too late for Zelaya to extend his term.
If the planned vote this past Sunday had been one to call a constituent assembly for this summer, there might have been more urgency to the situation. I would still not see even the slightest justification for the coup, but the urgency to deal with an unconstitutional act by the president would have been, well, urgent. But there was plenty of time for constitutional processes to play out.
And, yes, this was a military coup. It does not matter that there is no military junta, or that the arrest of the president was allegedly approved by other state institutions (Supreme Court and congress). I heard a news item today that the US government has not officially branded the act a military coup, because to do so would force the cutoff of aid. If that is true, shame on the Obama administration. If it is actually governed by a democratic administration, the US must cut off military aid and diplomatic relations until the coup is reversed and the proper constitutional order is restored in Honduras. This must not be allowed to stand, and mere words of condemnation are not enough. The military needs to feel some economic pain for its actions.
Update: See Two Weeks Notice on the question of aid and military coups. Which is, of course, what this coup was, except in the Obama administration’s hairsplitting terminology. How very Clintonian of the US government.
* I had seen the ballot on TV Once (Mexico) last night, but even freezing the frame on my brand new, and unbelievably clear, plasma TV, I could not quite read the entire thing. So I thank Steven for posting it–and also thank Miguel Madeira (who pointed Steven to the source).