Congress voted 67 to 61 over the weekend to not change the Honduran constitution to include Policia Militar de Orden Público (PMOP). So much for Oscar Alvarez's claim that he had 80 solid votes in favor, made on the 18th of January. The opposition in Congress held together and won.
Those that wanted the constitutional change included the entire National party bench (48 members) plus all of the Christian Democrats (2), the only UD party member, and 10 members of the Liberal party. Those opposed to making the constitutional change included the entire Libre party bench ( 37 members) plus the 13 members of PAC, the only PINU party member, and 17 members of the Liberal party.
Only the Liberal party members split their vote on this motion, and today there was talk of making those Liberal party members who voted in favor of the constitutional change face party disciplinary hearings for breaking with the party leadership.
So what changes does this mean for the Militarized Police? Nothing. As things stand, they continue to function as they do today under the law that created them (decreto 168-2013) until Congress votes not to fund them further using the security tax.
This, however, is the first significant defeat the National party has received since becoming the majority in Congress under this President. In the face of this defeat, Juan Orlando Hernandez vowed to hold a public referendum asking the question "Are you in favor of giving the Militarized Police of Public Order a permanent place in the constitution of the Republic?". He has submitted a law to Congress to submit the question to the Honduran electorate in the 2017 general election, and the bill would have the effect of changing the Honduran constitution in the way the National party could not through Congress.
However, the bill introduced contains some additions to the language that were not in the bill submitted to Congress for approval.
In Article 274, the proposed constitutional changes include language letting towns, villages, and ZEDEs request that the PMOP, or other parts of the Armed Forces [emphasis added], provide them with a public security service. The proposed changes to Article 329 include granting the Executive branch the ability to declare ZEDEs as "special security zones", and gives the Executive branch the right to declare regions, populated or not, as "special security zones", whose security is provided by the PMOP.
This is overreaching by Hernandez, contemplated neither in the ZEDE authorization law nor previous proposals about making the Militarized Police mandated in the constitution.