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United States to restore aid to Honduras in step toward normalized ties

In Guatemala Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved to restore aid to Honduras six months after it was cut in response to the country's refusal to reinstate ousted former president Manuel Zelaya.

By Chrissie LongCorrespondent / March 5, 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands with other Latin American leaders at a meeting in Guatemala City Friday. She announced that the United States will restore aid to Honduras. From left the leaders are: Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, Secretary Clinton, Guatemala's President Alvaro Colom, Belize's Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow, El Salvador's President Carlos Mauricio Funes, and Alberto Vallarino Minister of Economy and Finance of Panama.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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San José, Costa Rica

Six months after the US cut aid to Honduras following its refusal to reinstate ousted leader Manuel Zelaya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a first step toward normalizing relations with Honduras this week when she announced the United States would be restoring $37 million in aid.

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“We think it’s time to move forward and ensure that such disruptions of democracy do not and cannot happen in the future,” Secretary Clinton said at a meeting of foreign ministers in Costa Rica on Thursday. “Honduras has taken important and necessary steps and they deserve the recognition and normalization of relations.”

The announcement comes at a time when most of Latin America continues to reject the legitimacy of the current government. Honduras was not invited to a recent gathering of heads of state at the Rio summit in Mexico and its membership in the Organization of American States (OAS) has yet to be restored.

“The decision made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is something very positive,” says Jaime Daremblum, a Latin American expert at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. “It’s the first step in something that is long overdue.

The US had cut off a portion of economic assistance to the interim Honduras government in September and threatened to slash more if there wasn’t a return to democratic, constitutional governance. It also limited visas for Honduran citizens.

The biggest loser in the Honduras crisis? The economy.

When the US and a handful of other international organizations first announced the aid suspensions as a way to pressure Honduras into a peace accord, they came under heavy criticism and were accused of injuring a population that was already among the poorest in the hemisphere.

“This is a country that has paid a big price,” says Michael Shifter, a political analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue, a center for policy analysis in Washington. “One shouldn’t underestimate the cost of diplomatic isolation. This was a blow, not only financially, but also psychologically.”

“The country has been set back and now they’ll have to play catch-up,” he adds.

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