According to the rightwing Honduran daily La Prensa, the US embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday announced a suspension of aid that could amount to nearly $200 million. La Prensa quotes heavily from what they say is a communiqué from the embassy, which I can't find on the embassy's website. Here's a back translation from La Prensa's reporting:
The Government of the United States is conducting a complete review of all of its foreign assistance programs in order to determine how much of this assistance it could be legally obligated to suspend due to the events of June 28, the coup d'etat and the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya. This is a careful and deliberate process.
In other news, the racist Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez Colindres, forced to apologize yesterday for having called Barack Obama a "plantation n...," has been removed from his post.
More on the flip...
The foreign aid cuts announced in yesterday's communiqué are substantial and directly linked to the mediation efforts by Oscar Arias that begin today. The cuts include $16.5 million in military assistance plus unspecified additional amounts in development aid, all of which has already been suspended. The cuts announced yesterday include assistance in the areas of education, the environment, and family planning, and could amount to some $50 million.
In addition, the US is reviewing its commitments to Honduras under the Millennium Challenge Account, which currently add up to another $130 million.
Assistance in public health, specifically food assistance, HIV/AIDS support, and other infectious diseases, will continue.
The communiqué ends with a call for dialogue, a return to the constitutional order, and the desire that the talks in Costa Rica allow Hondurans to reach a national consensus.
While I haven't seen any press reporting directly linking the hardening US line with the antics of the racist buffoon Enrique Ortez, I can't help but think his utterly undiplomatic statements -- and ambassador Llorens's very harsh but very formal response to them -- contributed to Washington's decision to crack down on the de facto regime. Clearly, the detonating event was the murder of Isis Murillo by soldiers at the Tegucigalpa airport on Sunday, but Ortez's intemperate comments, it seems to me, were also a contributing factor in delegitimizing the regime.
First, let's remember exactly how ugly his comments were (from cadejo4's excellent diary yesterday):
"He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos."
"I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States."
Here's how ambassador Llorens responded:
As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama.
Statements like this are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally. I am shocked by these comments, which I condemn in the strongest terms.
And here's what happened to Ortez yesterday:
President [sic] Roberto Micheletti yesterday named ambassador Roberto Flores Bermúdez as the new minister of Foreign Relations, in substitution of Enrique Ortez Colindres.
According to radio reports yesterday from the Presidential Palace, Ortez will take over as Minister of Government and Justice.
Flores Bermudez had been Zelaya's ambassador to the United States, but joined with the coup plotters after Zelaya was overthrown. We could assume that his appointment to FM shows the coup government realizes they need to patch up relations with Washington.
The head scratcher here, though, is the appointment of Ortez to Government and Justice. The guy is a troglodyte, criticized even by La Prensa for his "racist comments directed at the President of the United States."
The coup group must be a lot smaller than they would have us believe if they can't find a qualified lawyer -- one without this jerk's baggage -- to take over a key cabinet ministry...
Press Releases 2009
U.S. Aid to Honduras and Negotiations in San Jose, Costa Rica
July 8, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA - The United States Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of all its foreign assistance programs to determine how much of this assistance could be legally required to be suspended in light of the June 28 coup directed against and expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya. This is a careful and deliberative process.
However, as a matter of policy, the USG has suspended military assistance programs (totaling US$16.5 million) and development assistance programs that provide support to the Government of Honduras (GOH). In addition to military assistance, we are halting activities related to USG support to the GOH ministries in basic education, environment and family planning. Letters of suspension have been or are being sent to the implementing agencies. The timely release of new assistance funding for Honduran in 2009, totaling over US$50 million, could be in jeopardy, as well as the approximately US$130 million remaining in the Millennium Challenge Compact.
Programs that directly benefit the Honduran people are continuing. All assistance supporting the provision of food aid, HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention, child survival, and disaster assistance, as well as election assistance to facilitate free and fair elections, is still being provided to the Honduran people.
At the same time, the U.S. Embassy is gratified by the announcement yesterday of negotiations to be held in Costa Rica facilitated by Costa Rican President and President of the Central American Association Oscar Arias, whose standing as a mediator and peace-maker is of the highest level. The Embassy encourages the pursuit of this regional dialogue to seek a return of the legitimate Honduran government and a restoration of the constitutional and democratic order. Secretary of State Clinton and OAS Secretary General Insulza both worked very hard to promote this dialogue and to seek a consensual way of addressing the serious problems of political polarization in Honduras. The Embassy calls upon the people of Honduras to continue the open, peaceful pursuit of consensus and dialogue.