The constitution of Honduras, established in 1982, did not provide structures for popular democratic participation. In June 2009, President Manuel Zelaya called for a referendum on whether a constituent assembly should look to rewrite the constitution or not. He had been elected in 2005 as a cattle-rancher conservative but moved to the left and allied himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He maintained that he wanted to guarantee wider and fairer representation to all Hondurans.
During the 1950s, Honduras was characterized by a large gap between the few rich citizens and the many poor laborers. In 1952, Honduras held its first ever agrarian census. The wealthy landowners, who only consisted of 4.2 percent of the total population, owned an astonishing 56.8 percent of the arable land in Honduras. Meanwhile, the poor farmers of Honduras, who made up 65.1 percent of the population, only owned 15.7 percent of the arable land. To make matters worse, the wealthy landowners who possessed the majority of the land did not use it effectively.