July 2nd, 2009
04:42 PM ET

U.S. “hits the pause button” on aid to Honduras

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/06/30/honduras.political.turmoil/art.honduras.unrest.afp.gi.jpg" caption="Zelaya's supporters burn tires Monday near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa."]

Charley Keyes
CNN Senior Producer

The United States put some teeth in its diplomatic signals to Honduras Thursday, stopping some aid programs temporarily to the Latin American country as it grapples with its two-president crisis.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. already had “hit the pause button” on some aid programs, even before lawyers make a final ruling on whether to halt assistance.

The United States continues to hope the Organization of American States quickly will hammer out a compromise between ousted President Manuel Zelaya, forced out of Honduras last weekend, and the man who took his job, Provisional President Roberto Micheletti.

Mr. Zelaya earlier had said he would defy the new government and return to the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa Thursday. He later postponed that to Saturday to allow the OAS negotiations to proceed.

The United States Thursday warned that Mr Zelaya could become “an obstacle” to resolving the crisis if he returned too early and now some observers are saying the crisis could slide into next week. This would allow OAS leaders to go to Honduras, and return for consultations at OAS headquarters in Washington after the July Fourth weekend.

“Our goal is the restoration of constitutional order in Tegucigalpa which means the restoration of President Zelaya. There is a process led by the OAS which is in place,” Kelly said at the State Department at his afternoon briefing. “We think that this process should be allowed to play out and we would discourage any actions that would prove to be an obstacle to this process reaching its desired outcome which is of course the restoration of Manuel Zelaya in power.”

Asked if a premature return of Zelaya could be an obstacle, Kelly said, “It could be. What everybody needs to focus on now is the OAS mission, mandated by the OAS special assembly.”

Zelaya appeared to signal his willingness to compromise when he told the United Nations General Assembly earlier in the week that he would agree to step aside when his term ends in November. His interest in overturning a one-term limit under Honduran law had led to the present crisis and his ouster, despite efforts by the U.S. and others to avoid a showdown.

And Kelly said despite the U.S. government holiday Friday, and the closure of State Department offices in Washington, that U.S.officials would be monitoring the Honduras crisis. “Absolutely, very much so,” Kelly said.

Kelly said State Department lawyers were evaluating events in Sunday’s coup in Honduras to see if they trigger a formal halt to aid, under the Foreign Assistance Act. “The legal review is ongoing,” Kelly said. Although the Honduran military seized President Zelaya and sent him to neighboring Costa Rica there is difficulty in determining whether civilian political leaders were in charge and whether to define this as a military or political coup.

“In the meantime we have taken some actions to hit the ‘pause button,’ let’s say, on assistance programs that we would be legally required to terminate,” Kelly said, if the events were determined to be a military coup.

It is unclear how much U.S. might formally be suspended or ended outright. Earlier the State Department said the U.S. gave Honduras more than $40-million in assistance last year, for a variety of purposes, including development, health assistance, anti-drug work and global peacekeeping operations.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    I hope they can pull this together so those people who need aid can get it.

    July 2, 2009 at 10:38 pm |
  2. Dont Worry About it!

    It’s unfortunate how a respectable (at least that’s what I thought until now) news channel like CNN can irresponsibly and ignorantly misinform the world about the reality of the Honduran political crisis. All CNN news reporters are doing is repeating all the lies the Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya is telling them instead of responsibly investigating/listening what the other side, Roberto Micheletti (the new Honduran president) has to say. It’s a shame what these reporters are doing! Please, just take a look at who Manuel Zelaya’s allies are…. anti-American Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, Evo Morales from Bolivia, Correa from Ecuador, Ortega from Nicaragua…. all pro-communist leaders. All Zelaya wants to do is to turn Honduras into a second Venezuela, which we will not allow. We do not want a communist regime in our country.

    July 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  3. Tim Gibson

    First off, why have we helped a government that walks hand in hand with Chavez. Have we, or will we ever learn that when we help people like this, those who are against us, it only bites us in the butt.

    And as stated here, we need to resolve our own economic troubles and bring aid to our own people first. A crippled nation cannot help others, or are we simply giving up our chance in the life boat so others may succeed.

    July 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  4. Juan Pueblo

    I wish that CNN will look into more details about what is hapenning in Honduras, from far I could see that their comments are on Chavez side, is they don't even mention Chavez had a hand on this, Mel Zelaya is Hugo Chavez pupet on his expansion plans on CA, mark my words the next country that follow in 2012-2013 is El Salvador, were Chavez new puppy -Mauricio Funez will try to do the same that Zelaya wanted to do-change the constitution to be reelected.
    The bold guy that you have reporting from Honduras is not even telling the truth, one of the events today was a march of people wearing white T-shirts-sign of peace and he said that it was people who work at private company's that they were forced to do so, please send someone who speak the language and could melt with the people to see what's happening. Is it because Banco de Venezuela is one of CNN sponsors that you guys go to the left? Chavez is getting in following Fidel Castro plan to take over CA using the system flaws, in Honduras Mel Zelaya brother was in charge to receiving all the coca that Chavez is sending from the south, 10-12 planes a week, since Zelaya left no more planes have been found, all these planes had Venezuela tags/license........... weird?
    I hope that you start getting more balance news instead of one side news, too bad, here CNN stand for Chavez news network., but you could change that have more objective people in the ground reporting.

    Have a good day.

    July 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  5. Teresa Corso

    I am 5 days older than Michael Jackson and a singer/dancer. My weight is only 7 pounds more than I was at 20 and I am not rehearsing for a tour. M.J. weight in video looks like a dancer. Vocally a singer reaches maturity at 45 or 50 - ask any opera singer. He looks & sounds good in the video.

    July 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    Glad we aren't supporting a military coup with aid but I never have understood why we send aid to so many other countries when we have such a large deficit. Aid to those who are worse off is good but I wish we would get our own house in order first.

    July 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Gerri Allen

    I have seen that idiot Judge Larry Schliner (or whatever) twice discussing Michael Jackson on CNN and FOX. Please do not let this embarrassment to the legal system become on the regular "talking heads". I will have to change the channel and I am sure many other people feel the same way. He acted like a fool during Anna Nicole Smith's hearing – what should have taken a day or two took a week or two only because he wanted to stretch his moment in the spotlight. He is truly an embarrassment to the legal system and to the general American public.

    July 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm |