[JURIST] Honduran President Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] announced Monday that the government will conduct a poll [decree, in Spanish] to determine whether voters are receptive to a November referendum that would establish a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. Zelaya's proposed constitutional referendum has created wide controversy, even among members of his own Liberal Party of Honduras (PLH) [party website]. Zelaya's term ends in 2010, and it is suspected that the proposed changes will include extending presidential term limits. President of Congress Roberto Micheletti, who is also from the PLH, has accused Zelaya with treason to the Constitution of Honduras [text, in Spanish] and has pointed out that article 374 expressly prohibits reform by referendum or plebescite to article 384 governing the structure of government, national territory, and presidential terms. Zelaya's announcement came after meeting with the Council of Ministers, which has approved the decree for Zelaya's referendum poll. The National Institute of Statistics (INE) will conduct the poll by the last Sunday in June, asking whether voters want the question on the November ballot. Zelaya has said that he has the support [UNIVISION report, in Spanish] of the armed forces and many of the mayors across the country. The chief of the armed forces Romeo Vasquez Velasquez has said that the armed forces are willing to provide security [Hondudiario report, in Spanish] for the 10,000 polling boxes to carry out Zelaya's decree, pending analysis of the legality of such an action.
Under Zelaya's leadership, Honduras has joined Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) [RIE bacgrounder] trade bloc, which was founded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In recent years, Chavez in Venezuela [JURIST report] and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [JURIST report] have succeeded in passing constitutional reforms extending presidential terms and enhancing presidential powers.