Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations

Updated April 21, 2021
Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations
Events over the past year in Burma and Mali have brought
 Funds administered by the State Department and U.S.
attention to a provision that has appeared in annual State,
Agency for International Development (USAID).
Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS)
 Generally, military training and equipment authorized
appropriations legislation since 1986 that restricts U.S.
to be provided by the Department of Defense under 10
foreign assistance following a coup d’état.
U.S.C. 333, as that authority prohibits assistance “that
What Is Section 7008?
is otherwise prohibited by any provision of law.”
In its current form (P.L. 116-260, Division K), Section
Section 7008 explicitly exempts aid to promote democracy.
7008 states that:
The restriction also has generally not applied to
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made
available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act
 aid fully implemented by nongovernmental
shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any
organizations rather than the government,
assistance to the government of any country whose duly
 aid authorized or appropriated “notwithstanding” any
elected head of government is deposed by military coup
other provision of law, which in FY2021 includes most
d'etat or decree or, after the date of enactment of this
humanitarian assistance; funds provided through the
Act, a coup d'etat or decree in which the military plays
Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia
a decisive role: Provided, That assistance may be
(AEECA) account; aid to some specific countries (e.g.,
resumed to such government if the Secretary of State
Egypt and Pakistan); and aid for some specific purposes
certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional
(e.g., counter-narcotics, counter-crime, and anti-
committees that subsequent to the termination of
terrorism), or
assistance a democratically elected government has

taken office: Provided further, That the provisions of
aid that the President has authority to provide in certain
conditions notwithstanding restrictions in law, subject to
this section shall not apply to assistance to promote
congressional notification.
democratic elections or public participation in
democratic processes: Provided further, That funds
Section 7008 does not include waiver authority, and does
made available pursuant to the previous provisos shall
not set a time parameter for certifying that a coup has taken
be subject to the regular notification procedures of the
place, or subsequently that a “democratically elected
Committees on Appropriations.
government has taken office.”
Key elements in determining whether Section 7008
Legislative History
restrictions apply to a situation are
Legislation restricting foreign assistance after coups was

first considered in the context of congressional concern
whether a country’s military has overthrown, or played a
about a possible coup in El Salvador. The Foreign
decisive role in overthrowing, the government, and
Assistance and Related Programs Appropriations Act,
 whether the deposed leader was “duly elected,” a term
FY1985 (P.L. 98-473), prohibited any appropriation from
not defined in statute.
being obligated to El Salvador if the elected President of
that country was deposed by military coup (§537). The
The titles that Section 7008 references encompass Bilateral
following year, the enacted foreign aid appropriation, P.L.
Economic Assistance (III), International Security
99-190, expanded the provision to prohibit funds “to any
Assistance (IV), Multilateral Assistance (V), and Export
country whose duly elected Head of Government is deposed
and Investment Assistance (VI). The restriction is not a
by military coup or decree” (§513). Some version of the
general one; it applies to selected types of aid, including:
“coup provision” has been included in every foreign aid
 Foreign assistance provided to the government, i.e.,
appropriations measure since FY1986. Congress has made
implemented through or in cooperation with host
several changes to the section over time, the most
significant of which are depicted in Figure 1.

Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations
Figure 1. Section 7008: Key Changes

Source: Created by CRS using information from annual Foreign Operations appropriations legislation.
Interpretation and Application of Section 7008
next day. U.S. officials did not publicly comment on
U.S. executive branch interpretations and application of the
whether these events constituted a coup d’état.
provision have varied across situations. Most recently, the
In two of these cases (Honduras and Niger), U.S. officials
Trump and Biden Administrations, respectively, invoked
chose, as a matter of policy, to suspend aid consistent with
Section 7008 with regard to Mali (2020) and Burma
the provisions of Section 7008. While producing a similar
(2021). During the past 12 years, the coup provision also
result, this allowed flexibility for the executive branch to
has been in effect, at least temporarily, for the following
restart some aid prior to democratic elections. In the case of
countries, according to public documents (e.g., Millennium
Zimbabwe, aid that could have been restricted under
Challenge Corporation annual country eligibility reports
Section 7008 was already prohibited under other legislation.
and State Department press statements and fact sheets):

Military aid and other assistance to the governments of
Sudan (due to the 1989 coup; remains in place)
Côte d’Ivoire
Egypt, Burkina Faso, and Algeria was not restricted in
(1999 coup; lifted after 2011 elections)

connection with the events described. For Egypt, Congress
Fiji (2006 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)

enacted new language in SFOPS appropriations measures
Mauritania (2008 coup; lifted after 2009 elections)

from FY2014 onward, making funds available, subject to
Madagascar (2009 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)

certain other conditions, “notwithstanding” any other
Guinea-Bissau (2012 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)

provision of law restricting foreign assistance (currently,
Mali (2012 coup; lifted after 2013 elections)

Section 7041(a) of P.L. 116-260, Division K).
Thailand (2014 coup, lifted after 2019 elections)
Policy Questions
In other countries where the military has ousted or helped
As Congress considers SFOPS appropriations for FY2022
oust a civilian-led government, the executive branch has not
and beyond, and contemplates U.S. policy toward foreign
invoked Section 7008, on various grounds. For example:

governments that assume power by coup, it may revisit
Honduras 2009. The State Department referred to the
Section 7008 and consider whether the existing provisions
military’s arrest and forced exile of the sitting president
support congressional intent. Congress may consider:
as a “coup d’état,” but asserted that these events were
not, strictly speaking, a “military coup,” citing
Waiver. Should waiver authority be added to the provision,
“complexity” of actors involved, including the courts
or do existing workarounds—such as the notwithstanding
and legislature (which endorsed the military’s actions).
provisions for certain countries and certain types of
assistance, which may be created after the fact—provide
Congress subsequently changed the title of the provision
from “military coups” to “coups d’état”
sufficient policy flexibility?
(Figure 1).

Determination. Should a determination of the coup
Niger 2010. The State Department determined that
Niger’s president, who was ousted by the military, had
provision’s applicability be required within a specified time
ceased to be “duly elected” because he had overstayed
period? If so, should the determination remain fully
delegated to the Administration, including the interpretation
his original constitutional tenure.

of events and the role of the military? Is there a role for
Egypt 2013. Amid mass protests, the military deposed
Congress in such determinations?
an elected president, suspended the constitution, and
Intention. Is the current proviso on a resumption of aid
installed the defense minister as interim president. The
sufficient to adequately support a U.S. policy of objecting
State Department did not issue a determination as to
to a coup d’état? Should the overthrow of non-“duly
whether or not a coup occurred.

elected” leaders be punished as well? Should policymakers
Burkina Faso 2014. Military commanders pressured the
be granted the ability to lift the provision if the military
president to step down amid protests, and retained
transfers control to a civilian-led transitional government,
influence in a civilian-led transitional government. U.S.
even if that government is not elected?
officials referred to events as a “popular uprising.”

Policy and Program Implications. Should the resumption
Zimbabwe 2017. The army seized control of key
of aid following an election in a country where the
facilities and pressed President Robert Mugabe to
provision has been applied trigger other U.S. policy
resign. The ruling party then removed Mugabe as its
responses, such as an evaluation of the status of democracy
leader, after which he resigned. U.S. officials did not
in the country and whether governance or security sector
refer to these events as a coup d’état. The State
reform programs are merited? Should any additional actions
Department had earlier stated that Zimbabwe’s 2013
to deter future ousters of elected leaders be pursued?
elections, in which Mugabe was reelected, “did not
represent the will of the Zimbabwean people.”
Algeria 2019. The army chief of staff called on
parliament to impeach the president, who resigned the

Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations

Further Reading on Selected Countries
Algeria: CRS In Focus IF11116, Algeria
Alexis Arieff, Specialist in African Affairs
Burma: CRS Insight IN11594, Coup in Burma (Myanmar):
Marian L. Lawson, Specialist in Foreign Assistance Policy
Issues for U.S. Policy
Susan G. Chesser, Senior Research Librarian
Egypt: CRS Report RL33003, Egypt: Background and U.S.
Honduras Political Crisis: CRS Report R41064, Honduran
Political Crisis, June 2009-January 2010

Mali: CRS In Focus IF10116, Crisis in Mali
Sudan: CRS In Focus IF10182, Sudan
Thailand: CRS In Focus IF10253, Thailand: Background and
U.S. Relations

Zimbabwe 2017 Events: CRS Insight IN10819, Zimbabwe: A
Military-Compelled Transition?

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wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material. | IF11267 · VERSION 6 · UPDATED