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Tuesday, June 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Hey 19!

365.181. Today was our 19th wedding anniversary. There was some fine Colombian at some point today, but it was coffee (of course).

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By Steven L. Taylor



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By Steven L. Taylor

Via ABC News: Minnesota Supreme Court Backs Franken.

While the ruling does not automatically mean that Franken is the US Senator from Minnesota, as I suppose Coleman could try to go to the US Supreme Court, it strikes me that this should be the end of the line. There is no reasonable evidence to suggest that Coleman has a pray of prevailing. All that a continuation of the process would do, it would seem, is postpone the inevitable and extend the period of time that Minnesota is underrepresented in the Senate.

Update: Norm Coleman concedes Minnesota Senate race to Al Franken.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Some news from yesterday that I failed to blog (via the BBC): Iran confirms Ahmadinejad victory

Iran’s top electoral body, the Guardian Council, has confirmed the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential election after a partial recount.


Mr Ahmadinejad was officially re-elected with 63% of the vote on 12 June.

His main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has said the whole election should be annulled and held again.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I now have the exact text of the plebiscite that President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya wanted to put to the voters. It is pretty close to what I discussed last night.

Today’s La Prensa (Si regresa Mel irá a prisión)1 has the exact question:

¿Está de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de 2024 se instale una cuarta urna en la cual el pueblo decida la convocatoria a una asamblea nacional constituyente? = Sí…….ó………..No.


Do you agree with the installation of a fourth ballot box during the 2024 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.

Here (via a tip in a comment from Miguel Madeira-thanks!), is a picture of the ballot:

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.

This point is rather important, as it undercuts the argument of those in the US who support the coup (or whatever they want to call it) because Zelaya was “trying to pull a Chavez” i.e., the whole thing was about staying in power past his current constitutionally mandated term). Perhaps he was trying to extend his personal power, but not by directly using the plebiscite to extend his term. It may well be that the ultimate goal for Zelaya was personal power, but this is a more circuitous route than many are suggesting.

3. The fact that the president was initiating the process appears to be a clear violation of the constitution. Article 5 dictates that referenda are governed by a legislative process. Although I will note, there are a number of articles of the constitution that have been reformed via decree, the procedure for such actions is not clear to me at the moment (if you go here and search on “Decreto” you will see what I mean).2

As such, I continue to understand that there were grounds for legal action to be taken against Zelaya. However, I also continue to see no legal justification for the actual actions taken.

  1. BTW, the headline reads “If Mel returns he will go to jail” []
  2. Article 187 discussed decree powers in the cases of emergency, but I do not see how constitutional articles could be affected by decrees. []
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Monday, June 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I have not been able to find the exact text for the plebiscite that Zelaya wanted to hold this past weekend. I am curious because while it is widely assumed it was specifically about re-election, I have read references to the fact that it was about holding another vote in November (to coincide with the presidential elections) to select a constituent assembly to reform the constitution.

A colleague pointed me to this story in La Tribuna (a Honduran daily), which noted the following, (Inicia distribución del material para la encuesta.):

La consulta consiste en preguntar a la población si está de acuerdo o no en que en las elecciones del 29 de noviembre próximo se instale una cuarta urna para nombrar una Asamblea Constituyente y redactar una nueva Constitución.


The consultation consists of a question to see if the populace agrees or does not agree to install a fourth ballot box during the 29th of November election to name a Constituent Assembly to reform the constitution.

This is interesting for two reasons. 1) It does not advocate (or even mention re-election-which is a constitutional no-no) and 2) since the proposal constituent assembly would be elected concurrently with the next president (Zelaya’s term was to end in January), then even if a new constitution was created as a result of this constituent assembly, Zelaya would already be out of the presidency.

As such, the narrative that Zelaya was specifically trying to extend his current term via the plebiscite doesn’t hold water.

Now, the plebiscite was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court of Justice because the constitution only grants the power to initiate constitutional reform to the congress. And yes, Zelaya was defying a court order, but if the La Tribuna description of the plebiscite’s question is correct, the situation is a lot more subtle than “Zalaya was trying to be Chávez by extending his current term.”

If anyone knows a source with the exact language in the plebiscite, please let me know.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Handing out ballots in 1968

(I am organizing some archival materials).

A scan from the Bogota daily El Tiempo from Monday, March 18, 1968, p. 10.

The caption reads "On 85th Street in front of Carulla [a Colombian grocery store chain] Conservative and Liberal youth get together to hand out authentic ballots to passersby and motorists."

Prior to the presidential elections of 1990 ballots were produced by the parties and distributed in a number of manners, including as seen in the picture above, as well as via newspapers and other methods.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The main problem, it would seem, with a lot of people’s assessment of the Honduran situation is that they insist on boiling down the whole thing (and, indeed, much of what happens in Latin America) to Hugo Chávez. Zelaya was an ally of Chávez? Well, then, do what you have to do!

A good example of this can be found in a piece in today’s WSJ by Mary Anastasia O’Grady: Honduras Defends Its Democracy which starts with the following sentence: “Hugo Chávez’s coalition-building efforts suffered a setback yesterday when the Honduran military sent its president packing for abusing the nation’s constitution.”

What if Chávez was an enemy of Zelaya’s? Or if he had been utterly uninvolved? Why is Chávez even relevant to determining whether or not the actions of the Honduran Supreme Court and military acted properly?

I understand: a lot of people in the US don’t like Hugo Chávez. I, myself, think that he is a detriment to the long-term democratic health of Venezuela, but I am continually amazed at the importance many ascribe to him. He talks a good game and has managed to obtain a modicum of influence in the region. However is not the hegemonic enemy who threatens US interests in the region that so many seem to think that he is. And even if he is, that doesn’t justify coups to oust someone because they are pro-Chávez.

O’Grady’s concludes as follows:

The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators. This crisis clearly delineates the problem. In failing to come to the aid of checks and balances, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Insulza expose their true colors.

First, it should be noted that by this definition of chavismo, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is a consummate chavista, as he has already managed to get the constitution amended once to allow re-election, and is poised to repeat the feat. Of course, given the antagonism between Uribe and Chávez, I expect both men would find it amusing/annoying to consider Uribe a chavista (not to mention other examples of presidents who managed extra terms and who had no connection whatsoever to Hugo Chávez-I am looking at you Carlos Menem).

Second, to argue that critiques of the coup are failures to “come to the aid of checks and balances” is a remarkable statement given that there is no constitutional authority given to the Supreme Court of Justice to order the pre-dawn arrest and exile of a sitting president.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment: why in the wee hours of the morning? If this was a normal process, why not show up at a more civilized hour and calmly tell the president that he is being exiled, and would he please come along-after all, it is legal and all that. Actions aren’t relegated to pre-dawn because they are orderly and normal.

Third, and this is in some ways the issue that bothers me the most by those (such as here, here and here) who see this move as the salvation of democracy: what about due process and rule of law? Yes, Zelaya was engaged in illegal actions, so find a legally appropriate way of dealing with it. Summary judgment and immediate exile aren’t exactly the hallmarks of democratic governance (petty criminals get more process than that). It seems that most of the defenders of the coup (or those who wish to dismiss the notion that it was a coup) assume that arrest and exile was not only legal, but it was basically the only option available.

It is possible, by the way, to believe that Zelaya was acting illegally and recklessly vis-à-vis his plebiscite idea and that the move against him was an unconstitutional coup that had nothing to do with democratic governance.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Argentine head set for poll blow

With more than two-thirds of votes counted, results suggest the governing Peronist party has lost its majority in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Ms Fernandez’ husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, also lost his high-profile race for a congressional seat.

The story did not have ant seat figures. It did note that half of the 256 seat lower house and one third of the 72 seat upper house were being contested.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Let’s say that the President of the United States was engaged in unconstitutional acts. Should the rest of the federal government of the US:

a) Use legal means to block the unconstitutional actions and then pursue the constitutionally mandated impeachment process to remove the rogue president from office?


b) Send in the army at 3am to roust the President from bed, load him in a plane and then deposit him in, say, Mexico City and then proceed to swear in a new President?

Which option would strike you as the legal, democratic process?

Which option would have the chance of doing long term damage to the democratic institutions of the United States?

What would you call option “b”?

If the Supreme Court ordered option “b” would that make it a legal act?

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