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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just the Facts Podcast: Citizen security in Medellín

Adam talks about the rising crime rate in Medellín, Colombia, the reasons why violence continues to fluctuate, and a controversial effort to negotiate a "non-aggression pact" between criminal gangs.

You can now subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Just the Facts Podcast: The week

Abigail and Adam review news from the week: Costa Rica's elections, the Colombian defense minister's visit, re-election in Colombia, and the UNASUR summit in Quito.

You can now subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday News Highlights

Entire Region

  • Delegations from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) member countries met in Quito, Ecuador on Tuesday to develop a collaborative approach for helping Haiti rebuild after last month's devastating earthquake. The UNASUR member countries reached an agreement to provide $300 million in aid to Haiti - creating a $100 million fund for recovery and reconstruction and offering $200 million in credit through the Inter-American Development Bank.

    Haitian President Rene Preval also attended the meeting in Quito. He thanked the countries for their support, but also advised that Haiti really needs immediate emergency assistance to help the thousands of Haitians who are still sleeping without a roof (or tent) over their head.

  • In 2009 Russia became the primary exporter of weapons to Latin America, surpassing the United States. This increase is mainly attributed to the large purchases made by Venezuela. However, Russia also signed military contracts with Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, with sales totaling over $5.4 billion.

Bolivia

  • The BBC reports on the role of women in President Evo Morales' government, writing that "Today women are involved in running the country as never before." Not only is Morales' new cabinet made up of 10 men and 10 women, but women now occupy 30% of the seats in Bolivia's new legislative branch.

Costa Rica

  • Over the weekend, Costa Rica elected Laura Chinchilla to be the country's first female president with 47% of the vote. Read news coverage on her victory, and her platform, here.

Colombia

  • While in Washington earlier this week, Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said that a high ranking State Department official assured him that the decrease in U.S. aid to Colombia reflected in Obama's FY2011 request was merely part of the across-the-board belt tightening of the president's new budget. Later in the week, however, President Uribe noted he was worried about the reduction in aid and said it was fortunate that Colombia had signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States this year, since it "guarantees the prolongation of the same actions of Plan Colombia."
  • In the latest news on President Uribe's potential bid for a third term, a new poll was released in Colombia in which 54% of respondents said they were against the potential third term. Though not speaking directly about reelection, Uribe told the press that "eight years is little time [to govern] a country that in 200 years has only had 47 years of peace."

Colombia, Panama

  • In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, President Obama said he would press for the passage of pending free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia in 2010. Though he did say that "different glitches" must be negotiated with each country first. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) told Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva this week, however, that "this is a complex electoral year with a very heavy domestic agenda," according to Defense Minister Silva, so it could still be hard to pass the controversial agreements, despite the President's agenda.

Ecuador

  • A large protest against Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was held in the port city of Guayaquil yesterday. The city's mayor, Jaime Nebot, spoke to the protesters, calling President Correa's government "a dictatorship" and "a repulsive copy of that failed scheme that Chávez has imposed for the misfortune of Venezuelans."

Honduras

  • On Wednesday, the World Bank announced it is restoring development aid to Honduras that had been frozen after the coup d'etat in June. In addition to restoring a planned loan of $270 million, the World Bank said it will add $120 million in new credit to the country, which recently announced it only had $50 million left in government coffers.
  • Former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein announced that the truth commission to investigate the events that led to the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will be officially formed on February 25th. The findings of the truth commission will then be released sometime this summer - the Associated Press says June and Honduras' Tiempo says no later than August.

Mexico

  • President Felipe Calderón appears to have spent the week trying to assuage anger that surfaced after 15 teens were killed at a birthday party in the violent border city of Ciudad Juárez. Though he said he would not pull the army and federal police out of Ciudad Juarez, President Calderón did say it was time to launch an overdue expansion of the drug war to include efforts aimed at tackling social issues. This new initiative would include sports centers for youths, more schools and day care centers and financial aid for 25,000 families living in poverty in Ciudad Juárez. Many people, including family members of the teens killed last week, protested Calderón's visit to Ciudad Juárez yesterday, calling for both his apology for linking the dead youth to organized crime and his resignation.

Venezuela

  • Earlier this week, Venezuelan President Chávez announced his new radio show, "Suddenly Chávez." The name is appropriate for the new show, as it will not have a scheduled time slot, and can come on air anytime, day or night. As President Chávez put it, " When you hear the pluck of a harp on the radio, maybe Chávez is coming. It's suddenly, at any time, maybe midnight, maybe early morning."
  • On the first airing of "Suddenly Chávez", the president declared an electricity emergency in Venezuela. The new declaration included the announcement of penalties for over-consumption of electricity and incentives for those that cut consumption. The recent electricity emergency also forced Chávez to cancel his plan to attend the UNASUR meeting in Quito, thereby losing the opportunity for a face-to-face between the two dueling presidents - Chávez and Colombia's Uribe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just the Facts Podcast: Civil-military relations in the region

In this second podcast, Adam discusses recent developments in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela that indicate the current state of civilian control over the armed forces.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toward a Fresh Start? Obama’s Response to Haiti & the Budget for Latin America

This is cross-posted from the Latin America Working Group's blog, the LAWG Blog. It was written by Lisa Haugaard.

We charitably termed the Obama Administration’s first year of Latin America policy a “false start.”  After the year was kicked off with a promising beginning with a rousing speech at the Summit of the Americas, a promise to close Guantanamo, the lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans, and some principled words on human rights to Colombian President Uribe, we had some hope for a new, less ideological, more people-centered approach to the region. As the year progressed, those hopes were dashed. But now we dare to hope again.

We hoped for the United States to stand up for human rights and democratic principles, but in a fair-minded way, not based on whether or not a government was considered a close ally. We hoped for our country to uphold the same human rights standards we asked of others. We hoped for a reshaping of U.S. aid to focus generously on human needs, like health care and small-scale development for the poorest communities and humanitarian aid for those displaced by war and natural disaster—rather than military aid. We presented these ideas to the administration in letters, petitions, reports and meetings (and we give this administration credit for its open door for meetings). But our hopes were dashed by the administration’s failure to take a strong enough stance towards the coup in Honduras, the roll out of a major base agreement with Colombia, an aid budget that mirrored the Bush Administration’s, and the decision to give a free pass to Mexico and Colombia on the human rights requirements attached to military aid.

Now we are looking for signs that the Obama Administration—with its top officials finally in place for Latin America and human rights—is ready for a fresh start to the region.

The administration’s response to the Haitian earthquake and, to a lesser extent, its fiscal year 2011 budget may be signs of steps in the right direction. 

Haiti. The U.S. government responded in a committed fashion to the Haitian tragedy, mobilizing emergency aid, extending Temporary Protected Status to Haitians currently in the United States, and announcing that the U.S. Treasury will work to encourage cancellation of all of Haiti’s multilateral debts. There are and will be problems, but the effort so far has been swift and generous. Now the question is what next. We are calling for at least $3 billion in U.S. relief and reconstruction aid, for a Haitian-led recovery. The White House has not yet announced how much it will ask Congress to commit to Haitian reconstruction, and since it is not included in the budget, will have to ask for a “supplemental” bill to be approved. We expect the White House will do this soon.

Budget. In the FY2011 foreign operations budget the White House unveiled, we’re beginning to see the faint outline of the administration’s own stamp on a U.S. approach to the region. (The foreign operations budget funds most foreign aid, both military and economic, though increasing amounts of military aid now are included in the defense budget.) We’re not seeing a real departure, but there are certain glimmers of hope.


Glimmers of hope:

  • U.S. military aid to the region declines. The administration has requested $742 million in military aid to the region in the foreign operations budget, compared to $1.1 billion the previous year. Watch out, though: We don’t yet know what’s in the defense budget for Latin America. We need to see if that increases.
  • U.S. aid to Mexico no longer includes helicopters and planes for the army. Military aid to Mexico has declined as the big-ticket items promised as a part of the Merida Initiative have already been appropriated—the main reason for the overall decline in military spending for the region. Aid for the justice sector and police reform and oversight continues. Watch out, though: We need to know what’s in the defense budget, we need to be sure there’s not more helicopters in a supplemental bill, and we need to know how the $8 million in foreign military financing for Mexico included in the budget will be spent.
  • There’s a sizeable cut for hard-side counternarcotics assistance to Colombia. The budget cuts this by $44 million, saying it’s time for Colombia to finance these programs by itself. We hope what is being cut is the controversial, inhumane, ineffective and environmentally damaging aerial spraying program.
  • Economic assistance stays level and will increase with Haiti. The budget slightly increases economic aid for the region by $20 million, from $1.415 billion in the 2010 request to $1.435 billion in 2011. However, this total will go way up if a supplemental bill for Haiti is passed, changing dramatically, in numbers, the overall balance of military vs. economic aid to the region. We will need to see the more detailed documents that are released weeks after the sketchy overall budget to know more about how this is spent, but some positive developments in U.S. aid worldwide are a greater focus on programs for food security and climate change, and continued high priority for global health programs. Watch out, though:  We need to make sure that the already limited U.S. development and humanitarian aid for Latin America is not cut to make room for aid to Haiti.

Reasons not to be cheerful:

  • Militarization of economic assistance, the Pentagon as the face of the United States in Latin America. The cuts in military aid mentioned above are not enough to change these trends. We’re also worried about the movement towards military-led economic assistance, most notably in Colombia (and a factor to watch in Haiti, though there is an appropriate role for the military in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster).
  • Military aid to Colombia remains high despite human rights abuses. We were disappointed to see that the administration cut military aid to Colombia by only 3.5 million, to a still-massive $51.5 million in the foreign operations budget alone.
  • The defense budget contains more military aid. We can’t judge the overall trends until we get more information about what’s in the defense budget, not just the foreign operations budget. And military aid in the defense budget is always far too untransparent and unaccountable to the public.
  • The migration and refugee spending for Latin America declined. Why, oh why, did the Obama Administration do this? Spending for the refugee crisis from the Colombian conflict is never anywhere near adequate, and the administration has inexplicably cut the Western Hemisphere budget from $48.5 million to $37 million. Congress must fix this.

Check out Adam Isacson’s slideshow on the budget & Latin America on the joint CIP/LAWGEF/WOLA “Just the Facts” website which monitors trends on U.S. military aid & policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. See also his blog noting that the main change in the budget is Mexico and Colombia. “We need not lament that the tempo of helicopter-buying for Mexico and Colombia has slowed, and we note that economic and social assistance is holding remarkably steady despite the Millennium Challenge program’s decline in the region,” he concludes.

Let’s hope that these glimmers of change in the budget and the immediate, generous response to Haitian relief mean that we will see some real movement towards a more caring, just, and people-centered approach towards our neighbors. We are waiting!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Minus Colombia and Mexico, a much different picture

The drop in aid to Latin America foreseen in the Obama administration's 2011 aid request to Congress, issued a week ago, has caused a minor stir in the region's media. Typical is this opening sentence in Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer's Sunday column.

If President Barack Obama's foreign aid budget request for 2011 is a reflection of his priorities in world affairs, it looks like the president is saying "adios" to Latin America.

A look at the region as a whole does reveal U.S. aid declining sharply in the hemisphere, by 15 percent from 2010 to 2011. A region-wide view also makes 2011 appear to be the least militarized aid package since 2001; the ratio of economic and military aid would approach 2:1 for the first time in ten years.

(As always, do keep in mind that we're looking only at assistance in the foreign aid budget here. The U.S. defense budget also provides military aid to the region, much of it for counter-narcotics programs, which normally increases the military-aid total by about one-quarter to one-third. The Defense Department does not have to report its aid expenditures, however, until the year after it spends the money.)

The picture changes dramatically, however, if you remove just two countries: Mexico and Colombia. These two countries:

  • are the number-one and number-two recipients of U.S. aid;
  • account for more than two-thirds of all military and police aid to the region;
  • have been the recipients of mostly military U.S. aid packages big enough to get their own "brand names:" the Mérida Initiative in Mexico, and Plan Colombia in Colombia; and
  • both would see aid cuts — with almost all of the reductions coming from military aid — as both "brand-name" aid programs exit their "delivery of big expensive helicopters and other military equipment" phase.

Here is the same chart as above, leaving out Mexico and Colombia. The difference is striking.

When Mexico and Colombia are removed from the equation, aid to the rest of the region follows a different trend.

  • Total aid actually increases from 2010 to 2011. The only reason 2009 is higher than 2011 is that it included the Millennium Challenge program, which provided much aid to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras that year (despite cutoffs to the latter two) and has not gone on to aid other Latin American countries.
  • The aid is far less military in nature, with military and police aid making up less than one-sixth of all aid in the foreign aid bill. However, it becomes slightly more military from 2009 to 2011, with the economic-to-military aid ratio slipping from over 6:1 to just barely over 5:1. The main reason for this is the Obama administration's launch of a new Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, an anti-crime and anti-drug program in the Caribbean.
  • The 2010 bar on these graphs will grow taller. Economic aid — and, as a result, overall aid — will grow by hundreds of millions of dollars once the administration requests, and Congress approves, a special "supplemental" aid appropriation to help Haiti rebuild from the January 12 earthquake. The amount of this additional 2010 aid is not yet known, as the request has not yet been issued.

Look at the aid this way, and it's pretty clear that nobody is saying "adiós" to anybody. We need not lament that the tempo of helicopter-buying for Mexico and Colombia has slowed, and we note that economic and social assistance is holding remarkably steady despite the Millennium Challenge program's decline in the region.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Presenting the "Just the Facts Podcast"

We're pleased to present the first edition of the Just the Facts Podcast. We expect to make these audio submissions a regular feature.

While the podcast will have its own home page at www.justf.org/podcast, we will post to this blog every time we add an entry. It will soon be on iTunes' podcast directory, and its RSS feed can be found at www.justf.org/podcast/feed.xml.

In our inaugural February 5 post, Adam Isacson of CIP talks about the debate in Colombia over President Álvaro Uribe's apparent desire to run for a third term in office, which just suffered a setback in the justice system.

Download or listen to the 12-and-a-half-minute .mp3 file here or at our podcast page.


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Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday News Highlights

ENTIRE REGION

  • The Obama administration released its 2011 budget request to Congress this week, which includes its request for next year's foreign assistance. The new aid numbers for 2011 have been added to the "Just the Facts" database, and so far it looks like there will be a sharp decrease in military and police assistance to the region, especially for Mexico and Colombia, the region's two largest aid recipients. The FY2011 request also reflects the official launch of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, a new counternarcotics and citizen security program focusing on the fifteen countries of the Caribbean Basin.

ARGENTINA

  • President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner formally dismissed Central Bank president Martin Perez Redrado this week, after he resigned last Friday. Mercedes Marcó del Pont was named to replace Redrado as the new head of the Central Bank.

COLOMBIA

  • Constitutional Court Judge Humberto Sierra has recommended that the country's highest court reject a proposal to allow President Alvaro Uribe to seek re-election due to legal irregularities.
  • Human Rights Watch released its new report on Colombia this week, "Paramilitaries' Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia." The report documents the rise of "emerging" paramilitary groups throughout the country and is critical of the Colombian government's "weak and ineffective" response to this increasing phenomenon.
  • More details on the mass grave in the town of La Macarena were released this week. Initial reports indicated that the gravesite contains as many as 2,000 bodies, though the mayor of La Macarena says the cemetery contains 1,000 human remains, of which 346 are unidentified combat dead buried since 2004. The Center for International Policy's Plan Colombia and Beyond blog has more details.

COSTA RICA

  • Presidential elections will be held on Sunday in Costa Rica. A recent poll by Demoscopía places Laura Chinchilla, of the governing Liberal National Party, as the frontrunner, with 45.1%. Otto Guevara, of the Libertarian Movement, follows with 30.1% of the vote. If none of the candidates win more than 40% of the vote on Sunday, a run-off election will be held.

ECUADOR

  • Ecuador's growing importance as a hub for narcotrafficking and organized crime operations made several news stories this week, after a Washington think tank, the International Assessment and Strategy Center, released a new report titled "Ecuador at Risk: Drugs, Thugs, Guerrillas and the Citizens Revolution". The country seized 63 tons of cocaine last year, twice as much as in 2008, though some experts estimate that as much as 200 tons of cocaine may be transiting through Ecuador, "four times the estimated percentage a decade ago."

HAITI

  • Once again, this week's news on Haiti focused on bottlenecks affecting the distribution of aid. A new food distribution system that focuses on distributing food to women has proven successful, though Reuters reports that bags of rice from the United States are already appearing on the black market.
  • Ten American missionaries who tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country last week have been charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy by the Haitian government.

HONDURAS

  • A representative from the Organization of American States arrived in Honduras on Wednesday to help set up a truth commission. This is the final step from the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord that must be completed before the OAS will consider the country's reinsertion into the international organization. Principal deputy assistant secretary of state Craig Kelly noted that the "country has taken steps to move ahead, and that is gratifying." However, former President Manuel Zelaya said, from his place of exile in the Dominican Republic, that President Lobo has done nothing to remove those who carried out the coup and an In These Times article reports that the human rights crisis is deepening under Lobo. "Despite Lobo's rhetoric, there seems to be little peace or freedom in Honduras these days."

MEXICO

  • Sixteen teenagers were killed at a birthday party earlier this week in the country's most violent city, Ciudad Juárez. In response to public outcry, Mexican President Felipe Calderón admitted that the deployment of the army and federal police to Ciudad Juárez has not been sufficient in stopping crime and violence. President Calderón promised to put in place new social initiatives that will help prevent crime and decrease violence.
  • Miguel Angel Caro Quintero, who led the Sonora Cartel in Mexico for over a decade, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for trafficking drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border by a U.S. court.

PERU

  • South Korea announced it will donate eight A-37 light attack planes to Peru that will be used to conduct counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations.
  • The Christian Science Monitor reports on a story about some Peruvian farmers' decision to replace their coca crops with cacao.

VENEZUELA

  • On his eleventh anniversary as President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez suggested that he hopes to lead the country for at least 11 more years: "I am 55 years old and have been president for 11 years. In the next 11 years, I promise to take care of myself a little more and if you all want it, within 11 years I will be 66 years, God willing, and have been president for 22."
  • On Tuesday, the U.S. National Director of Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, presented the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community (PDF) before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The title of the report's Latin America section is "Latin America Stable, but Challenged by Crime and Populism," and a large chunk of this section is dedicated to Venezuela. The report classifies President Chávez as an "anti-U.S. leader," notes that Chávez continues "his covert support to the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)," and states that he continues to "impose an authoritarian populist political model in Venezuela that undermines democratic institutions."

    The Venezuelan government responded to the United States, denouncing that again the country "attempts to criminalize our government and encourage sectors of the Venezuelan opposition who look for antidemocratic ways to take control."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: What is it?

The Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2011 foreign aid request, submitted to Congress earlier this week, includes a new counternarcotics and security initiative: the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

Here is what we know about the CBSI so far:

  • It is a "multiyear, multifaceted effort by the U.S. Government and Caribbean partners to develop a joint regional citizen safety strategy to tackle the full range of security and criminal threats to the Caribbean Basin," according to the Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request. The International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL) Program and Budget Guide for FY2010 says the initiative will be a 5-year program. (Download the Program and Budget Guide here)
  • Developing the CBSI "became a priority as the Mérida Initiative began yielding positive results in Mexico and Central America, making the Caribbean an increasingly attractive transit zone for transnational organized criminals, terrorists and illicit traffickers."
  • The CBSI was first announced by President Obama at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009.
  • Fifteen countries of the Caribbean Basin are included in the CBSI: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Funding for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will come out of the Development Assistance, Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Foreign Military Financing accounts. So far, the CBSI budget for FY2010 and FY2011 looks like this:
      • In the FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, Congress appropriated "not less than $37 million" for the initiative "to provide equipment and training to combat drug trafficking and related violence and organized crime, and for judicial reform, institution building, education, anti-corruption, rule of law activities, and maritime security." Congress specifies that at least $21.1 million of that amount should be used for social justice and education programs.
      • For FY2010, the INL Program and Budget Guide allocates $6,365,000 for the initiative, which comes from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement accounts. The FY2010 allocation is described as "an investment" in anticipation of the program's official launch in FY2011. This INL funding is broken down into $715,000 for "Caribbean Training and Logistical Team Support," $2,325,000 for combating money laundering, and $3,325,000 for legislative function and process programs. (More details about the program from the Program and Budget Guide can be found here.)
      • The Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request allocates just under $73 million in both military and economic aid to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: $37,463,000 for INL, $18,160,000 for Foreign Military Financing, and $17,000,000 for the Economic Support Fund.
  • The FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill requires the Secretary of State to submit a spending plan for the initiative to the Committees on Appropriations by January 29, 2010. The report includes a "detailed plan for funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the countries of the Caribbean Basin by this Act, with concrete goals, actions to be taken, budget proposals, and anticipated results."
  • The CBSI will eventually include a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, deployed to the region. The INL Program and Budget Guide reads:

    Caribbean Training and Logistical Support Teams will provide a platform for leading U.S. engagement and support for maritime interdiction in the Caribbean. Teams will deploy to the region to provide training, logistical and maintenance support. The primary goal for these teams is to provide onsite support until a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, can be deployed to provide those services. That vessel will foster international cooperation by offering the opportunity for a diverse, international and joint/interagency crew to work together and support all of the cooperating countries in the Caribbean. The Caribbean support vessel will deliver a total support package including a mobile professional training program and maintenance team with potential for shops, tools, technicians, and limited onboard classroom/berthing/messing for students. Additionally, it may provide a centralized supply source for standard spare parts, turn-in items, etc., and will have the capability to deliver cargo.

  • The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the CBSI in early December 2009. The transcript of the hearing can be downloaded as a PDF here. Written testimonies by each of the witnesses and a webcast are also available online.

    During his opening remarks, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said:

    I also believe that we need to take a holistic view of the entire region when we begin implementing CBSI. I am very concerned that if we do not act quickly to bolster our friends in the Caribbean, the positive impact of the Merida Initiative in Mexico and Central America will push the drug trade further into the Caribbean and increase the already alarming rates of violence.
    ...
    CBSI was announced at the Summit last April, there have been three meetings held on this initiative. Initial U.S.-Caribbean meetings were held in Suriname, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic in 2009, and a ministerial meeting is expected to take place in Washington in early 2010 at which a political declaration, action plan, and framework for the CBSI will be adopted.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The 2011 foreign aid request

Lea una versión de este artículo en español.

This afternoon, the Obama administration made public its 2011 budget request to Congress, including its proposal for next year's foreign assistance. This is the first "real" foreign aid request for an administration that had barely arrived in power a year ago.

Congress will use this request as the guideline for its State and Foreign Operations budget funding bill, which provides about three-quarters of all military and police assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. (The Defense budget bill provides nearly all of the rest.)

The Obama administration's foreign aid request differs significantly, if not radically, from what came before. For Latin America, the difference is notable, as this slideshow indicates.

2011 Foreign Ops

Here are a few things we've observed after entering the new aid numbers into the "Just the Facts" database (notice that most tables now include the year 2011).

  • A sharp decrease in military and police assistance, while economic aid levels hold steady. Two-thirds of this request is non-military aid. (Keep in mind, though, that additional military aid comes through the Defense budget.)
  • Reductions for the region's two largest aid recipients, Mexico (-30%) and Colombia (-11%). With most equipment deliveries already funded, the "Mérida Initiative" is winding down. Similarly, "Plan Colombia" programs are increasingly being turned over to Colombia. Most of Colombia's aid cut comes from the State Department-managed International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account, which funds the aerial fumigation program and the maintenance of aircraft belonging to the Colombian security forces.
  • Notable increases in assistance, both military and economic, to Central America.
  • No major increase yet in aid to earthquake-battered Haiti; after donors' conferences conclude, more Haiti aid will likely be included in a supplemental request for 2010.