US suspends assistance to Madagascar after shift
WASHINGTON - The United States yesterday suspended millions of dollars in aid to the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar, saying the change of government there this week was unconstitutional.
The State Department said the Obama administration would cut all non-humanitarian assistance to the country because the ouster of President Marc Ravalomanana, who resigned after weeks of protests and handed power to the military, was "tantamount to a coup d'etat."
"The United States will not maintain our current assistance partnership with Madagascar," department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.
The State Department and the US Agency for International Development could not provide the exact amount of aid to be suspended, but Madagascar participates in several US programs with several different agencies under which it receives significant development assistance.
One of those agencies, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said later it was putting a hold on a five-year, $110 million poverty reduction grant program with Madagascar. More than half of that grant had already been disbursed.
Under federal law, the United States must suspend non-humanitarian assistance to countries in which a democratically elected government is toppled by unconstitutional means, and Wood urged the restoration of legitimate leadership.
"The United States has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the people of Madagascar and we call on them to immediately undertake a democratic, consensual process to restore constitutional governance culminating in free, fair and peaceful elections," Wood said.
Ravalomanana resigned on Tuesday and gave power to the military, which then named his political rival Andry Rajoelina as president.
Rajoelina has accused his ousted rival of misspending public funds and undermining democracy.