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Tuesday, June 30, 2024
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.

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  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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12 Responses to “The Exact Text of the Zelaya Plebiscite”

  • el
  • pt
    1. More on the Honduran Crisis Says:

      [...] I was able to find the exact text of the plebiscite that Manuel “Mel” Zelaya wanted to proffer to the citizens of Honduras this past Sunday. The text and a photo of the ballot that was to be used can be found here. [...]

    2. Fruits and Votes » Prof. Shugart's Blog » Text of aborted Honduran plebiscite Says:

      [...] Steven has more on the theme, including a photo of the ballot,* at PoliBlog. [...]

    3. ts Says:

      I think it is hard to interpret intent absent a better understanding of context. After reading this article - I must admit that I found it much more difficult to ascribe noble motives to Zelaya’s actions.

    4. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      Perhaps you aren’t suggesting that I am doing so, but I haven’t ascribed noble motives to Zelaya’s actions. I have little doubt that he acted illegally and deserved legal sanction.

    5. ts Says:

      I didn’t mean to imply anything at all with respect to your views, you have been quite clear that some sanction was in order. It was more a reflection of my own lack of understanding of the political environment in Honduras, and our need for an “immediate reaction” to a situation that most Americans likely know little about.

      If I have any issue with what you have written, it is that you contend that there is no legal justification for his removal. But it is my (albeit limited)understanding that he had acted in direct violation of no less than two Supreme Court orders. At what point are his acts necessary and sufficient to warrant removal, and under Honduran law who gets to make that decision?

      I am not sufficiently studied in Latin American politics to answer that, but I get concerned when the State Department response is so closely aligned with those from Cuba and Venezuela.

    6. The Red Pill Says:

      Professor Taylor (I hope you don’t mind me using that title. I’m a student, and I mean it with every ounce of respect it deserves), I am curious as to what has led you to the assessment that Zelaya’s actions were not sanctionable to the extent that was taken.

      Thank you.

    7. walt moffett Says:

      Out of curiosity, what steps does the Honduran constitution provide for impeachment?

    8. litho Says:

      Zelaya argues the canceled plebiscite was a non-binding referendum as provided for in Article 5.1 of the 2024 Ley de Participacion Ciudadana.

    9. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      Thanks for the tip-I will give it a look.

    10. Jules Siegel Says:

      I don’t know where the term referendum came from. It’s not a plebiscite either. In Spanish, it is described as an encuesta, which is a survey.

    11. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      Actually, the Spanish term being used was “consulta” and “consulta popular.”

      Both referendum and plebiscite can be the properly translated terms, depending on a few issues. Both are terms of art referring to asking the voters a question, usually in regards to some legal issue. A referendum usually means such a question that is asked by the legislature and plebiscite is usually used to describe such a question asked by the executive (a power that the French president has, for example). I have used the term plebiscite because the question originated with Zelaya.

      Whether it was a consulta popular, or an encuesta or something else in terms of legality is part of the issue, of course.

    12. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Getting Down to Basics in Honduras Says:

      [...] in lieu of transparent due process made this a coup. Indeed, as I (and others) have noted, it is legitimately debatable that what Zelaya was attempted did, in fact, violate article 239 (see [...]

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