US Suspends Visa Services in Honduras

US Embassy Honduras
(Photo from Website)

This is all over the wires now. Ian Kelly, the State Department Spokesman has released a statement on the temporary suspension of non-immigrant visa services in Honduras. The statement dated August 25, 2009 is reprinted below:

WASHINGTON, DC – The OAS Foreign Ministers mission is in Honduras seeking support for the San Jose Accord, which would restore the democratic and constitutional order and resolve the political crisis in Honduras. In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime’s reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the U.S. Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras. As part of that review, we are suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras, effective August 26. We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution.

Whether what occurred in Honduras was a coup or not is no longer the question. It was. The question that still needs to be resolved is whether this was a military coup or not. A Senior State Department Official on background briefing says: “We have said from the very beginning, what we do know is that the legitimate government, the legitimate president, was taken out of office in a way that was not prescribed, in a way that was unexpected and forced. And we call that a coup, a coup to the head of the government. There are specific – we have laws – there’s a – I forget the exact section of the law that deals with our – the way we can handle assistance and the way we can handle our relationship with a country if there is a military coup, if the person in charge of, leading, and then taking over the government after the coup are the military. And we are examining to determine whether or not that’s the case here.”

I’m not sure there is a win part in this scenario for the USG. As one writer puts it, “the dirty little secret known to all Latin American nations is that only Washington possesses the exercisable clout necessary to force outcome on its terms.” It has already been been accused of not doing enough, and if it does more, it will be promptly be accused of doing too much. Can’t blame them, given the United States history in the hemisphere.

How about we let them sort out their affairs on this one?

See some Honduras links below: Go here, if you want to read the Honduran Constitution (in Spanish via Georgetown’s Political Database of the Americas). You can also check The world law guide. See Codigo Procesal Penal 2002 (Decreto 9-99-E).

During the background briefing the Senior U.S. official also told reporters that the visa decision was “a signal of how seriously we are watching the situation” and said Washington was considering other steps though it was premature to disclose these.

I’m not sure how long this “watching” is going to take. I understand that the Honduran election is not going to take place until late November. So this suspension can last several days, a week, to several weeks, months. Months? The official did say “The United States will not think that this thing will go on forever.”

Okay — in the meantime no visas except for emergency ones. In case you’re worried that folks there won’t have anything to do — don’t. The visa officers in Tegucigalpa will not be sitting around doing nothing. They will most probably be tasked to put live training into their schedule, take online training, go on R&R, get sent on TDY in WHA posts that are still working through their visa peak demands, do a “Chuck It in the Bin” day for days on (that is, clean up their files from top to bottom), write reports, revise SOPs, read the FAM, etc. etc.

And for the moment I hope, they will actually have time for coffee breaks, enjoy their drink and not chug it down in a roomful of expectant applicants.