This section of “Just the Facts” details U.S. training of military, police and a small number of civilian personnel from Latin America and the Caribbean. The database covers 1999 to the present.
Browse data about trainees from Latin America and the Caribbean.
U.S. military and police trainees by country | Country or region (trainees since 1999)
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Below is a list of private companies contracted by the U.S. State and Defense Departments in 2009 to carry out activities related to U.S. military and police aid to Colombia. The source is an annual report (4.78MB PDF file) required by section 694(b) of the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act.
The report is worth a read. Colombia is the only country in the world for which Congress requires the U.S. government to list its military and police assistance contractors, the amounts each receives for its services, the nature of those services, and the risks to contract personnel. In our view, the report offers a degree of transparency – providing important information without jeopardizing personnel security – that should be applied to aid to other countries.
The total amount of funds contracted out in 2009 was US$216.7 million, significantly less than the US$309.6 million total in 2006, documented in the last version of this report that we obtained. This reflects an overall decline in military assistance to Colombia since that year, when such aid was near all-time highs.
|1. Dyncorp International||$96,800,000|
|2. Lockheed-Martin and subsidiaries||$67,634,058|
|3. Telford Aviation||$13,235,416|
|5. DRS TAMSCO||$5,783,455|
|9. PAE Government Services||$2,139,575|
|10. Raytheon Technical Services||$2,100,729|
|11. Northrop-Grumman Mission Systems||$1,830,291|
|14. J&J Maintenance Colombia||$451,852|
The US government is spending million of dollars for military operations and police securities. They are one of the most powerful and advanced team in terms of facilities, training and intelligence all over the continent and worldwide. They must ensure that these funds will go through legal operations and not on the illegal ones. There are lots of threats of terrorism that the military force has to answer so they better move fast and act wise.
I’m very happy to present a report that George Withers, Lucila Santos and I have been working on since the summer. “Preach What You Practice” looks at how the United States separates military and police roles at home, and questions why U.S. aid programs so frequently encourage a completely different model in the Americas.
Here is the press release announcing the report and explaining what it’s about.
U.S. Aid Programs Should Stop Trying to Get Latin America’s Militaries To Act Like Police
Report urges U.S. to “Preach what you Practice” at Upcoming Regional Defense Summit
As Defense Secretary Robert Gates prepares to head to Bolivia for next week’s regional summit of defense ministers, a report released today calls on the United States to “preach what you practice” in terms of the separation of military and police roles in Latin America.
The report, Preach What You Practice: The Separation of Military and Police Roles in Latin America(PDF), from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), provides a background briefing on key distinctions between military and police functions. It calls on the Obama Administration to change direction, and stop encouraging the military forces of other countries to take on roles that would be illegal for the U.S. Armed Forces to carry out at home. The authors, a team of WOLA’s regional security experts, set out specific steps to be taken by both United States and countries in the region.
“The United States has a clear separation between the uses of its military and the uses of its law enforcement agencies,” according to the report. In Latin America, “our policies often do just the opposite: encourage Latin American governments to use their militaries against their own people.”
“U.S. citizens can barely imagine being arrested, searched or interrogated by members of the U.S. military,” says WOLA Senior Fellow George Withers, one of the report’s three principal authors. This is because of an 1870s law, the Posse Comitatus Act, that prohibits using soldiers as police. “Keeping the military out of internal security has strengthened and preserved our democracy,” adds Withers.
Latin America’s history is different, notes WOLA Fellow Lucila Santos. “Since independence from Spain, militaries have played a huge role in politics and internal security, which led to dictatorships and serious human rights abuses. Latin America is still coping with the legacies from the brutal regimes that ran many countries in the 20th century.”
Despite dismal human rights records in the region and the Posse Comitatus model’s success at home, “U.S. aid programs actively encouraged Latin America’s armed forces to fight internal ‘enemies,’ and they continue to do so today,” says WOLA Senior Associate Adam Isacson. During the Cold War, billions of dollars went to help militaries root out suspected communists amid the population. The drug war — still the purpose of most of the nearly $1 billion per year in U.S. aid to Latin America’s militaries today — puts soldiers to work fighting citizens involved in narcotrafficking.
The Defense Ministerial Summit of the Americas, which is to be held from November 22 to 26 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is the ninth such gathering since 1995. It offers Latin America and the Caribbean a chance to reflect on what its militaries are meant to do, two decades into some difficult transitions to civilian democratic rule, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
The war on terror, internal development projects, military conferences to discuss approaching internal threats like gangs, big programs like Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative — all help give militaries big new jobs to do within their borders, in a region with very few “traditional” external defense threats.
Preach What You Practice (PDF) recommends that U.S. interactions with Latin America’s militaries adhere to the principle that has benefited democracy in the United States so greatly for 130 years: the clear separation of military and police roles. This means zeroing out military assistance that encourages the use of soldiers against citizens. It also means devoting more assistance to build strong justice systems, police, local governments, oversight bodies and other civilian security institutions that democratic governments need to be able to contend with rising violence and organized crime.
“Officials argue that they bring in the military to do police work because police forces are not up to the challenge,” said Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director. “But if governments continue to invest in the military to do policing, instead of reforming the police, they never will be ready.”
Gen. Henry Rangel Silva (image source).
Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, written during President Hugo Chávez’s first year in office, is pretty clear about prohibiting military involvement in politics. “The National Armed Forces are an essentially professional institution, without political militancy,” reads Article 328. Article 330 prohibits military personnel from participating in “acts of political propaganda, militancy or proselytization [i.e., campaigning].”
It is very hard to square this with the statements of Major General Henry Rangel Silva, head of the Venezuelan Armed Forces’ Opertional Strategic Command, made in an interview publishedMonday in the Caracas newspaper Últimas Noticias.
In the interview Gen. Rangel, who coordinates “Plan República,” the Venezuelan armed forces’ election security and protection operation, lashed out at President Chávez’s political opponents.
For many [opposition figures], there are some military leaders who aren’t suitable, and they say, ‘we have to get them out of the way.’ … They [the opposition] act with the support of third governments, and that affects nationalism. The hypothesis [of an elected government led by today’s opposition] is hard to swallow, it would mean selling the country, and that is not going to be accepted, not by the armed forces and much less by the people.
This is not a left-right issue. In a region where many countries are still emerging from decades of authoritarian military rule, the idea of a high-ranking military officer going on record to imply that the armed forces would not accept an election result demands universal condemnation.
Control Ciudadano, the Venezuelan NGO most engaged with civil-military affairs, called Gen. Rangel’s comments “inadmissible, particularly coming from the second-in-command of the national armed forces, which puts the institution on the wrong side of the Constitution.”
It would be simple enough for the Chavez government to put this behind it by having the President or another top official say clearly, on the record, that Gen. Rangel’s words do not represent the government’s view. So far, though, top pro-government officials have gone the other way.
In the National Assembly, which until the end of the year has a near-unanimous pro-Chávez majority, the body’s first vice president, Darío Vivas, voiced his support for the General’s statement, characterizing it as an expression of military loyalty to President Chávez, their commander in chief.
Leaders of the tiny opposition bloc in the Assembly (whose numbers will grow to over a third of the body once the legislature elected on September 29 is seated) sought to schedule a debate over Gen. Rangel’s words, but the Assembly’s leadership denied their request.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), the likely new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, poses with Carolina Barco and Jaime Bermúdez, who served as Colombia’s U.S. ambassador and foreign minister during the government of Álvaro Uribe.
Following an overwhelming victory in the November 2 elections, the Republican Party will be taking majority control over the U.S. House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January. The Republicans gained seats in the Senate as well, but that body will remain under the Democratic Party’s majority control. For the first time since 2002, control of the U.S. Congress will be split between the two main parties.
What this means
Having majority control of a chamber of Congress means having overwhelming control of that chamber’s agenda. In the House, the Republican Party leadership will decide what legislation gets debated and voted on the floor (in plenary). It gets to write the first draft of every budget bill, starting next year with those for 2012. And they get the chairmanships of all committees, which hold hearings, draft and approve legislation.
Legislation approved by the House must also pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. The two houses must then reconcile differences in the legislation, which may prove to be very difficult. Then, bills must ultimately be signed into law by Democratic President Barack Obama, who could refuse to do so if he objects strongly to provisions that come out of the Republican House’s version.
What this means for Latin America
In general, the new Republican House majority favors:
- A tougher stance toward leftist governments, especially Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. Legislative efforts to soften the Cuba trade embargo or travel ban will face huge obstacles. Expect more resolutions, legislative language and hearings criticizing human rights abuses, evidence of democratic weakening, ties to Iran and other non-democratic regimes, or increased narcotrafficking activity in Venezuela or Bolivia.
- Movement on “free trade.” Expect a push to approve the pending U.S. trade promotion agreements with Colombia and Panama, which the Obama administration says it also supports. This push could be delayed or weakened, however, if unemployment remains near 10 percent – U.S. public opinion tends to believe that free trade costs jobs – or if the new “Tea Party” Republican representatives turn out to be as protectionist as they are nationalist.
- Calls, from some quarters, to increase “Drug War” aid. Before losing their majority in 2006, House Republicans were among the most energetic advocates of “Plan Colombia” and similar mostly military-and-police aid programs in the hemisphere. Later, from the minority, they strongly supported the Bush administration’s mostly military-and-police “Mérida Initiative.”Key Republicans are likely to call loudly for more military and police aid to both countries to fight drug production and transshipment, and may perhaps seek to weaken human rights contitions applying to this aid. They will probably not succeed in increasing dollar amounts by much. The House leadership appears committed to shrinking the overall foreign aid budget substantially, leaving little room for “Drug War” aid increases. The Obama administration is seeking to orient such aid more toward civilian institutions. Combine these factors with some Republicans’ stated distrust of the Mexican government, and military and police aid may stay close to current levels.
The committee chairmanships will have the most impact over U.S. policy toward Latin America. While the Republican House leadership may choose different chairmen, these are the most likely heads of the committees with the most relevance for Latin America policy.
Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Mack are conservatives. Both enjoy strong support from elements in Florida’s Cuban exile community that want to maintain a hard line against Cuba, keeping the embargo and travel restrictions in place. Both are vocally critical of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Both voice strong suspicion of Iran’s influence in the region. Both supported the 2009 coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Both effusively praised Colombia’s ex-President, Álvaro Uribe, and call for approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Their committees hold most hearings covering U.S. policy toward Latin America, and write legislation, including periodic re-authorizations of foreign assistance programs. Their legislative output, at least where Latin America is concerned, has been quite modest in recent years.
Appropriations State / Foreign Operations Subcommittee: Kay Granger (R-Texas)
Rep. Granger, a moderate conservative and one-time mayor of Fort Worth, has little record on Latin America policy. Her subcommittee writes the “first draft” of the annual foreign aid budget bill, deciding which countries get what kind of aid, and under what conditions. The House foreign aid bill must be reconciled with the Senate’s bill, which is initially drafted by a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). Leahy has been a leading advocate for human rights and development assistance in the Americas.
This committee’s chief importance for Latin America is its role in initiating the House’s consideration of free trade agreements. Both Reps. Camp, a moderate conservative, and Brady, a “small government” conservative, have gone on record favoring ratification of the agreements that the Bush administration signed in 2006 with Colombia and Panama.
Armed Services Committee: Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-California)
This committee funds the U.S. Southern Command and a host of counter-drug programs carried out in the region. While these are important U.S. efforts in Latin America, they account for a microscopic portion of the US$750 billion defense budget. The conservative Rep. McKeon has little record on Latin America policy; we can expect from his committee little resistance to a growing Defense Department role in foreign assistance programs, and continued support for the deployment of National Guard personnel at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Oversight and Government Reform Domestic Policy Subcommittee: Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
This subcommittee oversees drug policy and drafts legislation authorizing the activities of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the “Drug Czar”). The deeply conservative Rep. Jordan is likely to favor continuing the emphasis on military and police assistance that has dominated U.S. overseas drug supply reduction strategy since the 1980s.