TEGUCIGALPA – Thousands of Hondurans marched Tuesday in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city, to protest President Manuel Zelaya’s plan to convene a Constitutional Assembly to reform the current charter.
The march, promoted by Protestant churches, lasted for several hours with the protesters, many wearing sombreros to keep off the sun and white shirts, carrying Honduran flags.
Participants also changed religious canticles and carried signs calling for peace, democracy and freedom in Honduras, which is going through a social polarization stemming from Zelaya’s apparent intention to revise the Constitution to allow him to remain in the presidency.
Since November 2008, Zelaya has been pushing for a popular referendum designed to set up a national Constitutional Assembly starting in 2010 to reform the Constitution, which dates from 1982.
Pastor Misael Argeñal, one of the marchers, told reporters that Honduras “doesn’t need a new constitution” because the current one “is fine.”
Zelaya has redoubled his efforts promoting the plebiscite in recent weeks using state resources and next Sunday Hondurans are scheduled to decide if they will vote or not in the Nov. 29 elections on the proposed constitutional assembly.
The initiative was rejected by Congress, the Public Ministry, the Supreme Electoral Court and the Supreme Court here, among other entities, all of whom believe that the measure is not lawful.
In addition, different sectors, including the governing Liberal Party, are saying that Zelaya is seeking the approval to be reelected, something that the current constitution does not allow.
Zelaya took office in January 2006 for a period of four years, but he has said that if the public asks him to remain in power after that point, he would do so.
Despite the legal rejection of his initiative, the president has fully dedicated himself over the past couple of weeks to seeking support for the plebiscite, but during that time the opposition of those who are against his plan has grown.
In his capacity as commander of the nation’s armed forces, Zelaya has asked the military for logistical support for the referendum next Sunday but they have not yet taken a stance on the matter, at least publicly.
Different sectors, including from the government, have declared that the military cannot obey an order from Zelaya that violates the Constitution, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Romeo Vazquez, told reporters Tuesday that the armed forces does not involve itself in political matters, but he did not specifically say whether they will support the president or not.