Friday, October 1, 2010

Talking About Constitutional Conventions

Now that he has both a Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights, and a newly appointed Ana Pineda, as head of that executive branch post, Porfirio Lobo took time out from celebrating the 432nd anniversary of the founding of Tegucigalpa in 1578 on Wednesday, to answer a question from the press, (paraphrasing) "What about these rumblings about holding a constitutional convention?"

So what about a constitutional convention? Well, talking about asking the populace if they'd even like to hold a poll about the issue got Manuel Zelaya Rosales thrown out in a coup.

However, the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular has gathered 1.3 million signatures in favor of a holding a constitutional convention. Lets think about that number for a minute. 1.3 million signatures is more people that voted for Porfirio Lobo Sosa in the flawed November 2009 election. Lobo Sosa received 1.2 million votes!

Lobo Sosa's critics have repeated the charge that even talking about a constitutional convention is illegal over the last several days. Juan Ramon Martinez, that bastion of golpismo, was interviewed on Channel 12. It is his belief that "the constitution establishes as a crime all actions that as a result of calling a Constitutional Assembly have a goal of eliminating the "stony" articles and others". Spanish legal scholar Francisco Palacios (and others) demolished this argument more than a year ago. We wrote about that here.

Juan Ramon Martinez was joined in his condemnation by Jorge Illescas, pundit, who alleges that holding a Constitutional Convention violates the Tegucigalpa/San Jose accords. Those accords were violated by Micheletti and have no legal effect at this point. In any event, the language in it only embargoed Zelaya and Micheletti from advocating for a constitutional convention, not successor governments or third parties as is the case here.

Lobo Sosa replied to the reporters question. He said
"What's the problem with this? What's the problem? What I have to do, my moral duty, is to invite the sectors to dialogue; its a topic we have to discuss, its a mandate I have, from my people (country), its my frame of mind to discuss; I like to dialogue with all the sectors and hear them."

Today Lobo Sosa invited the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular and the Resistencia Liberal to meet with him on Monday, October 4, before meeting with a wider audience that includes the churches, the political parties, the Unión Cívica Democrática, and other civil society organizations. The invitation letter to the FNRP says Lobo Sosa wants to know the scope of their proposal for a constitutional convention.

Note that he said he liked to discuss/dialogue. He didn't make any promise to act to convene a convention as a result.

Acting has already been proscribed by his Presidential designate and Presidential Minister, María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn, who said that a Constitutional Convention is not in the vocabulary of this government. She instead noted that this government was committed to the National Plan (Plan de la Nación), a 28 year set of objectives for reforming Honduras.
"In the National Plan this word ("constituyente") does not exist."

She said that Lobo's dialogue proposal is to bring together all civil sectors in a grand national accord through the National Plan. Lobo Sosa echoed this goal in a statement released to the press today:
"I am sure I will have a chance to meet with everyone together and reach a grand accord for the good of the country."

A year ago supporting a constitutional convention could get you arrested; having actually worked for one could result in trumped up political corruption charges from the Public Prosecutor's office. It contributed to a coup in Honduras.

A recent posting on Quotha shows just how odd times are now. Coup supporting media star Wong Arevalo held a poll of his audience on who wanted a constitutional convention. Eighty seven percent (of a statistically unrepresentative sample) said "YES".


boz said...

Is there a picture of all these signatures? Have they shown the boxes of signed petitions to any authorities or shown them to the media? A link to a picture would be most helpful.

RNS said...

Not that I've seen. They're quite protective of them, probably because they don't want government officials to confiscate them, as some Police and Military have already done. The only photo I've seen is the one from El Tiempo here, of a few signed forms"

accompanying the article announcing the total is 1,342,876 signatures (and fingerprints).

boz said...

Appreciate the picture. Hadn't seen that. Thank you. The fact they took fingerprints is rather interesting as well.

Are they still collecting signatures or are they done now?

RNS said...

All done as far as I know. Their goal was 1.2 million signatures and they surpassed it.

Carlos Tower said...

"Well, talking about asking the populace if they'd even like to hold a poll about the issue got Manuel Zelaya Rosales thrown out in a coup.". Seriously, anyone remotely familiar with Honduran history knows quite well that the "talking" is not what led to much of anything; it was not "talk", but action, that led to the coup. Facts are not optional, and words are important. The difference between factual correctness and factual incorrectness is still relevant.

RAJ said...

Ah Carlos, thank you for your ever-helpful intervention. Sorry for not being "factually correct". Anyone who knows anything about the coup d'etat knows that what was scheduled for June 28 was a non-binding poll of public opinion about whether people thought it would be worthwhile to have a question on the November ballot about whether people wanted to convene a constitutional assembly.

So, if you want to emphasize that the cuarta urna campaign included more than talk, be our guest. But factually, the "action" involved was-- just talking. No consequential action would have been triggered by the June 28th encuesta.

And you do realize that you haven't done anything to address the core point here. Which is that what was unthinkable, and enough to allow people to claim that a coup d'etat was justified, in 2009, is open for debate this year.

Except that some of those pundits who opposed President Zelaya even talking about constitutional reform are not only threatening the current president for just talking; they are saying that no one is allowed to even talk about constitutional reform by the people.

So pardon us, but we think that this is about what can be spoken of, by whom, under what circumstances.

Tambopaxi said...

What happened regarding the meeting Lobo wanted? La Gringa says that the LR attended but not the FNRP, maintaining that Zelaya ordered the FNRP not to attend.
In any event, what results, if any, were reported on the meeting, have you heard?

RAJ said...

Some (but not all) Liberals in Resistance did attend a meeting with Lobo Sosa. The Liberals in Resistance who did not attend disowned those who did.

The Frente did not agree to a meeting. They do not recognize Lobo Sosa as legitimately elected. It is true that former President Zelaya urged them not to meet with Lobo Sosa, warning them it would be used as evidence of Lobo Sosa's legitimacy.

But to say the Frente was "ordered" by Zelaya not to meet is to ignore the way both Zelaya and the Frente present their relationship. It advances the storyline that the Frente is just Zelaya supporters, which is the story used to try to delegitimate the Frente.

In fact, the Frente said that they will hold a general meeting in two weeks to ask the members whether they should discuss anything with Lobo Sosa at all.

Quite a difference, we think.