It seems churlish not to be appreciative. After all, "terminating" $22 million of aid is a big sanction, compared to what has gone on for more than two months. The fact that it is the same aid that was suspended already, and thus is not really added sanction (just a change in status of the sanction) doesn't deny that it will send a loud and clear message of repudiation to the de facto regime. This $22 million is the so-called "non-humanitarian aid", identified by the de facto regime as funding for the canal seco, the express roadway from Pacific to Atlantic Honduran ports.
The added message is being heard. In the pro-coup La Tribuna, Oscar Raúl Matute says "we're not scared; we'll pay any price". Rafael Pineda Ponce, minister to Micheletti, is quoted as saying "too bad the US has taken the decision to come down on the side of Hugo Chavez and condemn a country that is fighting against the Marxist expansion in Central America and America". (Again, Honduras is keeping the communists out of Iowa...). La Prensa couldn't even bear to mention any of the facts in its headline, which reads "US Admits of the crisis "its complicated"".
For more reasonable Honduran press coverage, we need to consult Tiempo, whose headline reads "US announces suspension of aid, revocation of visas, and that it will not recognize the elections".
It is that last sanction that is probably the real news here, since this economic aid already was suspended, and since there is no mention of the much larger amount of funding that is pending from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Gabriela Nuñez, the de facto government's secretary of the treasury, sets that at $122 million. Maybe we can treat the conversion of $22 million from suspended to terminated as a warning shot across the bow about what more is at risk economically; the same US State Department sources said the MCC funding was "as much as $200 million".
But it is the promise not to recognize the upcoming election as legitimate that is critical. As the NYT describes it:
The State Department also announced that it was revoking the visas of several people who had been identified as members or supporters of the current Honduran government. And officials said that, as matters stand, the Obama administration would not recognize the upcoming Honduran presidential elections.Now let's hope that someone in the de facto regime is less intemperate than the people speaking for it publicly today.
Update 4:29pm PDT: The Honduran congress has read the State Department press release and reacted. Ramón Velásquez Nazar, Vice President of Congress, said "We're proud, we have dignity, we won't let them run over us". He continued, "when the United States decides to take away my visa, I'm not going to hide, I'm going to wear it on the lapel of my suit coat with pride". About the elections he said "telling us that the elections need to be fair, just, and transparent is ridiculous, that's a decision to be made by us, not because it was recommended by the Department of State".
The comments on news articles in Honduran papers are interesting here. First let me note that they by and large do not publish comments at all critical of the de facto government in 3 of the 4 daily papers. Nearly all of the comments (over 400 so far in El Heraldo) put all of the blame on Zelaya for the sanctions. However I note they are publishing the same comments over and over, which leads me to believe someone is stuffing the comments there, perhaps even the paper itself.
Update 9:07 PDT: In updated reporting, the New York Times adjusted their estimate of the amount of aid terminated to $30 million, matching other reporting.
Even more interesting, Ginger Thompson writes that State Department officials said the failure to formally designate this a military coup
would not have obligated the United States to cut aid further.A legal determination would have required certification by Congress, where some Republicans support Honduras’s de facto government.
So do we now have an admission that the whole delay in formally determining this was a military coup was because the Obama administration doesn't want to risk the wrath of Connie Mack?