The State Department said Tuesday it has revoked U.S. diplomatic visas held by four members of the interim government in Honduras, and is reviewing visas of other members of the administration of Roberto Micheletti. The move is seen as an effort to increase pressure for the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
The Obama administration has frozen military and some other U.S. aid programs for Honduras because of the June 28 coup that ousted President Zelaya, and it is now targeting members of the interim administration who hold U.S. visas.
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said diplomatic visas of four officials in the interim government of Roberto Micheletti had been revoked and that similar visas held by other members of that government, and their family members, are under review.
Kelly did not identify the Honduran officials affected by the move but said they had obtained U.S. diplomatic visas before the ouster of President Zelaya and are serving in the interim government.
The United States and all other member countries of the Organization of American States have refused to recognize the Micheletti government and have demanded the restoration of democratic order in Tegucigalpa, including the reinstatement of Mr. Zelaya.
Spokesman Kelly indicated under questioning the visa action is another incremental step to show U.S. displeasure with the current state of affairs in Honduras.
"It is part of overall policy towards the de facto regime down there. You know that we have a policy of not recognizing the administration of Roberto Micheletti. And it's a step that we've taken to be consistent with our policy," Kelly said.
Despite the visa action, the United States has not severed diplomatic relations with Honduras. The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa remains open to, among other things, servicing the needs of Americans living in or visiting that country.
The embassy has shunned meetings with Mr. Micheletti and others in his administration.
But Kelly says it has remained in contact with members of the Honduran congress on efforts to restore President Zelaya to office through mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
The mediation effort of Mr. Arias, a Nobel peace laureate, has stalled in recent days with Mr. Micheletti and supporters calling the return of Mr. Zelaya illegal and impossible.
Mr. Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was removed from office and deported by the Honduran military as he sought a referendum that could have extended his term in office, which ends in January.
Micheletti supporters say his installation was approved by the country's congress and supreme court and is lawful.
Spokesman Kelly Tuesday again urged Mr. Zelaya, who briefly entered Honduran territory at a Nicaraguan border post last week, to avoid precipitous actions that could undermine the Arias mediation effort.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Mr. Zelaya in Washington earlier this month though the ousted leader has since complained of insufficient U.S. political support.