WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could cut off most U.S. aid to Honduras if it formally determined that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup.
Simply brandishing the threat of an aid cutoff would be one way to pressure the Honduran authorities to restore Zelaya, although the Obama administration has not done so in public and may wish to avoid threats for now.
Under U.S. legislation, no aid — other than for the promotion of democracy — may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup.
The key provision of U.S. law governing most funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress reads as follows:
“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available ... shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”
The law says this does not apply to aid “to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes.”
HAS THE UNITED STATES MADE A FORMAL, LEGAL DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER A MILITARY COUP TOOK PLACE?
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said the United States regards Zelaya’s ouster as a coup but said it was holding off, for now, on making a formal legal determination.
A U.S. official who spoke on condition that he not be named said that the United States was withholding such a decision for now to provide room for political actors in Honduras to try to achieve a negotiated settlement.
The State Department said it could not immediately provide a figure for total U.S. government aid.
The State Department has requested $68.2 million in aid for fiscal year 2010, which begins on October1, up from $43.2 million in the current fiscal year and $40.5 million a year earlier.
This covers development aid, funds to purchase U.S. arms as well as military training, counter-narcotics and health funding but does not include Defense Department aid, a U.S. official said. Most of the increase for 2010 is for development aid.
HOW LONG DOES IT TYPICALLY TAKE THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO DETERMINE LEGALLY WHETHER A COUP HAS TAKEN PLACE?
It typically takes at least several days.
Under U.S. law, the president would have certify to congressional appropriations committees that “a democratically elected government has taken office.”
Editing by David Storey