The United States is terminating all non-humanitarian aid to the de facto Honduran government to pressure it to return its ousted president to power, the State Department announced Thursday.
The State Department also will revoke visas for a number of members and supporters of the de facto government. The move to cut $30 million came as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met for one hour Thursday with ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya, who was seized by the military in his pajamas and sent into exile on June 28. The newly announced cuts are designed to ramp up pressure on Honduras’ interim government to accept the terms of an agreement to end the political turmoil known as the San Jose Accord. The decision was made “recognizing the need for strong measures in light of the continued resistance to the adoption of the San Jose Accord by the de facto regime and continuing failure to restore democratic, constitutional rule to Honduras,” the State Department said in a statement. The political crisis stemmed from Zelaya’s plan to hold a referendum that could have changed the constitution and allowed longer term limits. The country’s congress had outlawed the vote and the supreme court had ruled it illegal. De facto President Roberto Micheletti and his supporters say Zelaya’s removal was a constitutional transfer of power and not a coup. The move by Washington expands a near $20 million freeze in assistance to Honduras immediately after Zelaya was removed from office. The State Department also stopped issuing most visas in the Central American country last week.
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Although the United States has called Zelaya’s ouster a coup, it has not formally designated it a “military coup,” which, under U.S. law, would mandate a cutoff of all nonhumanitarian aid. Thursday’s move does that, for all practical purposes, despite the formal distinction. A presidential campaign in Honduras kicked off this week, but doubt has been cast on the recognition of the outcome if the election takes place before an accord is reached between Micheletti and Zelaya. “At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections,” the State Department statement said. Also Thursday, the Brazilian government announced the temporary suspension of a diplomatic agreement with Honduras that allowed travelers from that country to visit Brazil without a visas.