U.S. slashes $30 million in aid to Honduras

The State Department's decision Thursday to cut $30 million in aid to Honduras swiftly drew reaction from lawmakers who have been split on the issue since the June ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who met for an hour with Zelaya on Thursday, announced the termination of the aid that had been suspended after Zelaya was removed from office.

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"Restoration of the terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic constitutional government in Honduras," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said at Thursday's press briefing. "The Department of State further announces that we have identified individual members and supporters of the de facto regime whose visas are in the process of being revoked."

The U.S. has already suspended military aid to the de facto government and revoked the diplomatic visas of officials including the supreme court judge who signed the order to arrest Zelaya.

The State Department killed the aid without addressing the hot-button issue of whether the ouster should be called a coup.

"I'm not going to parse, you know, complex facts and judgments here," Crowley said. "The secretary did not have to make that determination to take the action that she's taken. Our action today is to send a very clear message to the de facto regime. Their strategy will not work."

Crowley insisted that U.S. was not sending mixed messages in its actions.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), in a statement Thursday, supported the U.S. actions as being loud and clear.

“Today, Secretary of State Clinton announced that the United States is suspending financial aid to the Honduran government and revoking the U.S. visas of supporters of the coup. I applaud the Administration’s decision," Kerry said.

"The events of June 28 were indeed a coup d’etat – as the Secretary determined -- and I strongly support Costa Rican President Arias’s efforts to restore democracy with the conditioned return of President Zelaya," Kerry continued. "The coup regime has engaged in undemocratic practices that cast a dark shadow over elections scheduled for November. Those elections will lack legitimacy unless the regime embraces and faithfully implements the San Jose Accord proposed by President Arias.

"The termination of aid to the government and the suspension of regime supporters’ visas are unfortunate but necessary results of the regime’s intransigence.”

But Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, who has been critical of the White House's support of Zelaya, lashed out at the adminstration's actions in a statement.

"Today’s decision by the State Department to cut aid to Honduras is an outrage," Mack said. “For nearly two months, the Honduran people have been punished by the United States merely for following their constitution and the rule of law. Today’s drastic cuts, however, are simply over the top."

Mack said the administration should restore the aid and the suspended visas, and recognize the results of the Nov. 29 elections. Interim President Roberto Micheletti is not a candidate.

“By attempting to alter the Honduran Constitution to repeal term limits, Manuel Zelaya broke the law. Now he is in Washington angling to return to power with the willing assistance of the Obama Administration and the Democratic Leadership in Congress," Mack said.

“The Obama Administration, instead of standing on the side of freedom and democracy, has opted to stand with the likes of Hugo Chavez and other leftist leaders by cutting aid to Honduras and ignoring Honduran rule of law."

A senior administration official on a background State Department call Thursday evening called the measures a "practical message and precedent that is being set for anyone who participates in a coup."