WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering action against Honduras in the wake of its military takeover, a move that could lead to suspension of millions in U.S. development aid, a senior State Department official said Thursday.
Her staff has recommended that she sign a determination that the ouster and forced exile of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 meets the legal definition of a coup d'etat, the official said.
That would trigger suspension of $215 million in U.S. aid under an anti-poverty program run by the Millennium Challenge Corp.
The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because a decision on the recommended action is still pending.
The presidential crisis in Honduras has put the Obama administration in a tricky position as it works with regional leaders to reinstate Zelaya, who is opposed by all branches of the Honduran government as well as the military, which removed him and flew him out of the country.
The Organization of American States sent a high-level delegation to Honduras this week to try to arrange the reinstatement of Zelaya but failed. U.S. officials have grown frustrated with the de facto Honduran government's refusal thus far to accept a compromise solution proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has acted as a mediator in the dispute.
Zelaya was deposed amid suspicions among his opponents that he wanted to overturn the constitutional provision limiting Honduran presidents to a single term. He denies that was his intention.
The Obama administration initially suspended military relations with Honduras and suspended some aid, but it has withheld legal judgment that would determine the fate of the Millennium Challenge assistance.
On Tuesday, Honduras' interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, acknowledged that the country would suffer consequences for refusing to reinstate Zelaya, but he suggested that nothing short of armed intervention could change the situation.