Adam looks at the foreign aid bill that's moving through Congress, the state of the gang truce in El Salvador, and Venezuela's latest effort to fight crime by sending soldiers into the streets.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
(The table used to make these charts, which lists every country in the region, is here.)
Here is all $17.3 billion in military and police aid that the United States has given to Latin America between 1996 and the 2014 request. The trend since 2010 has been downward.
2 spikes on this graph:
And here is all $23.6 billion in economic and civilian institution-building aid that the United States has given to Latin America between 1996 and the 2014 request. The trend since 2012 has been downward.
2 spikes on this graph:
Finally, putting those two charts together, here is all $40.9 billion in total aid that the United States has given to Latin America, both military and non-military, between 1996 and the 2014 request. The trend since 2010 has been downward.
2 spikes on this graph:
These charts use new data that were included in the Obama administration's 2014 foreign aid request to Congress, which was released on Tuesday. However, some important aid accounts have not yet been reported -- especially those in the Defense budget -- so we have had to estimate some 2012-2014 amounts by repeating the last available year.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Marine Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command since November, gave his first testimonies last week in the U.S. Congress. Before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, he presented the annual “Posture Statement” for Southcom the “regional combatant command” that manages all U.S. military activity in the Western Hemisphere (excluding Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas).
Gen. Kelly took command just in time for “sequestration,” the deep cuts in federal spending, including Defense spending, that went into effect on March 1. As Latin America is clearly a lower U.S. national security priority than other regions of the world (Middle East, Pacific Rim, Europe), these cuts are hitting Southern Command disproportionately. Its Miami headquarters is trimming 26 percent from its budget, Gen. Kelly testified. These cuts’ effect, in fact, was the central theme of his testimonies last week.
As a result, Gen. Kelly foresees a drop in the number of tons of cocaine that Southcom will seize in Central America and the Caribbean, from 152 last year to 90 this year. (See the chart below, which is also interesting because it contends that U.S. interdiction dropped after Ecuador refused to renew a U.S. presence at its Manta airbase in 2009.). The cuts will spell the end of “Operation Martillo” (“Hammer”), a surge of U.S. interdiction boats and planes that began last year along Central America’s coastlines. Two Navy frigates currently participating in the operation will return to port soon. The 90 tons of expected seizures this year, however, represent only a modest drop from the non-Martillo level of 117 tons measured in 2011.
The “balloon effect,” it would appear, continues to illustrate illicit trafficking activity in the region.
The Posture Statement also says that the National Guard’s “State Partnership Program,” a series of smaller deployments, has canceled more than 90 events. In 2012, this program alone carried out 223.
Exercises that appear to have survived the cut include the “Beyond the Horizon” series of humanitarian exercises, UNITAS, the Southern Partnership Station series of naval events, and the Caribbean exercise Tradewinds.
Southcom nonetheless remains vigilant, Gen. Kelly says, even though its “limited intelligence capabilities may prevent our full awareness of all Iranian and Hezbollah activities in the region.”
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
In its public statements about Colombia lately, the Obama administration has praised the South American country as a “security exporter.” As a June 2012 Defense Department release put it, “Colombia now serves as a regional training base to help other nations in their counterdrug efforts.”
Colombia is now not only the Western Hemisphere’s largest recipient of U.S. military and police assistance. Its security forces are also training, advising and otherwise assisting those of third countries. “Colombia, for example, offers capacity-building assistance in 16 countries inside and outside the region, including Africa,” according to an April 2012 Defense Department news release. Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón told the Miami Herald recently that his forces have trained more than 13,000 individuals from 40 countries since 2005.
This trend is accelerating. As part of an ongoing “High Level Strategic Security Dialogue,” in early 2012 the U.S. and Colombian governments developed an “Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation,” through which they intend to coordinate aid to third countries. According to a joint press release:
We don’t know the extent of these “defense and security support activities,” or what portion of them are funded by the United States (probably the majority). However, a combination of primary and secondary sources yields the following examples of what has been happening.
With funding from the State Department-managed Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), Colombia’s National Police participate in a Central America Regional Police Reform Project. “[T]he Colombian National Police provides training and assistance in such topics as community policing, police academy instructor training, and curriculum development in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama,” reads an April 2012 joint press release. “To complement this police training by Colombia, the United States trains prosecutors in these countries.”
“Colombia sends mobile training teams to El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica,” the commander of U.S. Army South, a component of U.S. Southern Command, noted in June 2012. Colombia trains police in Honduras and Guatemala, a senior U.S. defense official said in April 2012.
That month, members of the Colombian Navy’s new Coast Guard Mobile Training Group traveled to Honduras for its first foreign training mission, with 47 Honduran military students. In July 2012, this unit gave an 11-day course to 37 members of Panama’s National Police, National Border Service, and Institutional Protection Service. According to a July 2012 release from Colombia’s armed forces, the Navy Training Group planned to offer similar courses to the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and again Honduras during the second half of 2012.
In November 2012, 12 enlisted men from Panama’s security forces were receiving training alongside fifty counterparts from Colombia’s army in Tolemaida, Tolima, the Bogotá daily El Tiempo reported. The Panamanian government paid the training costs for some, while others received grants, El Tiempo indicated, without indicating these grants’ origin. “The militaries of Ecuador, Argentina, and Central American nations have requested spaces [in this course],” the director of the Colombian Army’s Non-Commissioned Officers School (Escuela Militar de Suboficiales), Col. Juan Felipe Yepes, said. “We’ve now had more than 100 [students] from other countries, and more requests keep coming.”
In May 2012, the Tolemaida army base graduated 22 members of Panama’s National Border Service who took part in “International 81-Millimeter Mortars Course No. 02.”
Colombia is also offering training to some neighbors in South America. In August 2012, Peru sent two naval officers to Coveñas, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, for an explosives technician course. “The Navy of Colombia has invited the Navy of Peru to send Navy personnel to participate in several courses, among them the Marines course, during the 2012 academic year,” reads a Peruvian government resolution [PDF]. That month, seven Colombian Special Forces and Army helicopter pilots paid a visit to Junín, Peru for a 15-day “exchange of experiences” with about 90 representatives of that country’s security forces. In October 2012, the commander of Peru’s army paid a visit to the Colombian Army’s Tolemaida base, where he “highlighted the training, capacities and skills that his men acquire” there, according to a Colombian Army release.
The U.S. government has encouraged Peru to work more closely with Colombia. “The United States stands ready to work with Peru on joint planning, on information sharing, trilateral cooperation with Colombia to address our shared security concerns,” said outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during an October 2012 visit to Lima.
In January 2013, the director of Ecuador’s military academy paid a visit to the Colombian Army’s Tolemaida base “to learn about the academic procedures the Colombian Military uses to educate and train its own soldiers.” In October 2012, the commanding officers of the Marine Corps of Ecuador visited Colombia’s Marine Training Base, where they viewed a demonstration of some of the training that the facility offers. The release from Colombia’s Navy did not indicate whether Ecuadorian personnel have received, or will receive, training at this base.
Training of forces from the Caribbean has included the Colombian Naval Academy’s December 2012 graduation of two cadets from the Dominican Republic.
Colombia’s training relationship with Mexico is quite extensive. It has included the instruction of “thousands of Mexican policemen,” as the Washington Post reported back in January 2011.
“Colombian service members have trained more than two dozen Mexican helicopter pilots” as of April 2012, a U.S. Defense official said in a Pentagon news release.
Sixteen Mexican students — 15 federal police and one army soldier — participated in the grueling 19-week course given by the Colombian National Police’s (CNP) elite Jungla commando unit between July and December 2011. Also taking part in the course, at the Jungla base in Tolima department, were about 58 students from ten other Latin American countries: Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay. (Not all of them graduated.) “This Colombian initiative is supported by the U.S. Embassy through its Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) and the DEA,” reads a U.S. embassy press release. “Since 2007, the NAS-financed CNP National Training Center in Pijaos has trained nearly 300 international students. NAS has allotted nearly 8 million dollars in the construction of the training center’s initial phase, inaugurated in 2008.”
Sources reveal several other multi-country training events. The Colombian Army’s Lancero Special Forces unit, similar to the U.S. Army’s Rangers, now offers an international course at the Tolemaida base. Colombia’s armed forces report that 581 trainees from 18 countries have taken the Lancero course including, in December 2012, 15 graduates from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, and Peru.
The Colombian Armed Forces’ Superior War College hosted the April 2012 Inter-American Naval War Games, in which representatives from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic participated in threat simulations to coordinate joint action.
In June 2012, Colombia hosted Fuerzas Comando, an annual competition between Latin America’s Special Forces sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. Those competing at the Colombian National Training Center in Tolemaida included the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay.
Another multi-nation event took place in Cartagena in June-August 2012, where Colombia’s Navy trained officers from Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States. They received coast guard instruction, according to a Notimex article: “maritime interdiction procedures, maneuvers, exercises with interceptor craft, defense and survival techniques.” Since this course’s inauguration in 2012, Notimex notes, Colombia has given it to 114 students from 24 Western Hemisphere countries. A new session of this two-month Coast Guard course began in September 2012 with the participation of 14 trainees from Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and Peru.
In October 2012, Colombia’s Army hosted a “First International Doctrine Symposium” in Bogotá, with the presence of representatives from Brazil, Chile, China, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Colombia is also training some personnel from outside Latin America. “People’s Republic of China Colonel Deng Yubo said that [Chinese personnel] have been in Tolemaida for a month receiving marksmanship training,” reported Colombia’s Colprensa wire service in August 2012. The ten-week course took place at the Colombian Army’s Lancero School.
Police from ten African countries were in Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, in January 2013 to take part in a Colombian National Police-hosted port and airport security seminar. According to an April 2012 Pentagon news release, “[T]he Defense Department is looking to Colombia and Brazil, both of which already have deep ties to Africa and now provide assistance there, to help U.S. Africa Command with peacekeeping and other efforts there.”
Even as they face their country’s own unresolved armed conflict and organized crime challenges, Colombia’s security forces will be increasing their training of other countries’ militaries and police. This will often happen with U.S. support. This was a chief topic when top officials from both countries met in Bogotá last November to continue the U.S.-Colombia “High Level Strategic Security Dialogue.” An unnamed Defense Department official said in October, “we’re building a detailed action plan where we and the Colombians will coordinate who does what … so we leverage … the resources and capabilities we have to effectively do capacity building and training and other things in Central America and in other places.”
While Colombia has a lot of experience with the type of operations that police around Latin America must carry out today — organized crime investigations, drug interdiction, efforts to arrest kingpins — the expansion of its training raises concerns, especially when the U.S. government is paying the bill.
(WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman contributed much research to this post.)
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Here are the countries of origin of U.S. military and police trainees from Latin America and the Caribbean since 1999, according to the past 13 years’ State-Defense Department Foreign Military Training Reports.
As is evident, Colombia continues to contribute the most trainees. Training appears to have declined somewhat lately; this may be due to reduced U.S. resources, but it may just be the result of incomplete reporting of the training that occurs. The recently released 2011 Foreign Military Training Report, for instance, comprises three volumes, two of which are classified.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. government had decided to withhold some aid to Honduras’s National Police. The partial freeze owed to concerns about the force’s chief, Juan Carlos Bonilla, who stands accused of involvement in death-squad activity during the 1990s.
That report is here [PDF]. The State Department produced it in order to comply with a requirement in the 2012 foreign aid budget law. Section 7045(d) of that law freezes 20 percent of aid to Honduras’s military and police until the State Department certifies that its human rights record is improving (more specifically, that it is supporting freedom of expression and prosecuting abuses in civilian courts).
Last week’s report is this certification, which frees up the 20 percent of aid that had been “on hold” all year. Its text makes clear that no aid to the Honduran National Police is in fact being frozen. It is being redirected.
We are not yet clear how police units can be within a National Police commanded by Bonilla without being under his direct supervision, but will post an explanation when we get one.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the 2013 foreign aid bill on May 17. The Republican-majority committee would impose deep cuts on many assistance programs, and would strip out human rights conditions or limitations on military and police aid to Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
The bill is likely to change significantly after it is reconciled with the very different version that will emerge from the Democratic-majority Senate. In fact, the bill’s passage into law is very unlikely until after the November 6 U.S. presidential and legislative elections.
As is the norm, the Committee included a narrative report [PDF] along with the bill, making a number of non-binding recommendations. Among these are a series of reports that executive-branch agencies must produce next year. These reports must be produced, on pain of angering the committee that funds these agencies.
The committee report contains no less than ten reports with relevance for aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Department of State must “determine and report that providing assistance” to Bolivia “is in the national security interest.” Aid may not be made available to the Bolivian military and police until the report is received.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the activities that were conducted with previous appropriations” under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), a package of aid through several programs, “and the achievements associated with those funds, as well as activities that will be funded in fiscal year 2013 and the goals that are expected to be reached.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the activities that were conducted with previous appropriations” under the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CBSI), a package of aid through several programs, “and the achievements associated with those funds, as well as activities that will be funded in fiscal year 2013 and the goals that are expected to be reached.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must report “on the proposed uses of funding for Colombia’s judicial agencies. The report should include how assistance is designed to reduce impunity and protect due process, and include any associated benchmarks that have been established for the offices of the Colombian Attorney General, Inspector General, and Ombudsman.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must report “on the efforts the Colombian Armed Forces are taking to address human rights. The report shall include steps taken to: 1) suspend members who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights, or to have aided, abetted or benefitted from paramilitary organizations or other illegal armed groups; 2) promptly refer these cases to civilian jurisdiction; 3) cooperate fully with civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities; 4) sever links with and dismantle paramilitary organizations or other illegal armed groups; 5) respect the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and other social activists, and the rights and territory of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities; and 6) implement procedures to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their operations.” the report is due within 60 days after the bill’s eventual passage, and the Department of State must “consult with Colombian and international human rights organizations not less than 30 days prior to submitting this report.” (The House committee’s bill includes this report in lieu of conditions holding up some military aid until the Department of State can certify in writing that Colombia is making these improvements. For the second year in a row, the House is seeking to strip out this longstanding provision, which is likely to remain in the Senate’s version of the bill.)
USAID must submit a report on how its programs address the root causes of violence and instability in Mexico. The report is due within 90 days after the bill’s eventual passage. The committee report notes that a similar report, due in March 2012, had not yet been submitted as of mid-May.
The Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, must submit a report “describing the implementation of assistance for Mexico since fiscal year 2008,” along with “an assessment of the transnational criminal organizations operating in Mexico, including an assessment of the income-generating activities of these organizations and recommendations on how to combat the operations, financial networks, and money laundering techniques of such organizations. This report, or a portion thereof, may be submitted in classified form if necessary.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the efforts of the Government of Mexico to investigate and prosecute in the civilian justice system, in accordance with Mexican and international law, military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights; to enforce prohibitions on the use of testimony obtained through torture; and the efforts of the Mexican military and police to cooperate with civilian judicial authorities in such cases.” The report is due within 60 days after the bill’s eventual passage. (The House committee’s bill includes this report in lieu of conditions holding up some military aid until the Department of State can certify in writing that Mexico is making these improvements. For the second year in a row, the House is seeking to strip out this longstanding provision, which is likely to remain in the Senate’s version of the bill.)
International Military Education and Training (IMET program)
The Department of State must submit “a report on the proposed uses of all program funds under this heading on a country-by-country basis, including a detailed description of proposed activities.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) program
The Department of State must submit a report “on the proposed uses of all funds on a country-by-country basis for each proposed program, project, or activity,” adding that “this report should serve as a baseline spend plan for the fiscal year.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage, and 2013 INCLE funds may not be spent until the report is received.
Organization of American States (OAS)
The Department of State must issue a report on efforts the United States is taking to push the OAS to uphold all aspects of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The report is due within 90 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
On February 13, the Obama administration released its 2013 budget request to Congress, which includes its request for State Department and Foreign Operations assistance in FY2013.
Below are a few things we observed in the new foreign assistance budget for Latin America and the Caribbean. You can also download a printer-friendly PDF of this post here.
*** It is important to note, that these observations and graphs do not discuss or include all U.S. aid to Latin America. The U.S. Department of Defense also provides military aid to the region, which could increase the military aid amounts in this post by as much as one-third. Also, smaller economic and social aid programs are not included, as they are not reported by region in the preliminary aid request. As a result, economic aid numbers could be about one-seventh higher than they appear in this post.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The State Department yesterday released the first document outlining its foreign assistance request for 2013. Yesterday's "Executive Budget Summary" provides few details and lacks country-by-country totals for many programs.
Still, it allows us to provide a crude "snapshot" of how U.S. aid to the region looked in 2011, how it's looking this year, and what the Obama administration has in mind for next year.
Here is our best estimate of how U.S. military and police aid to Colombia, Mexico and Central America look between 2008 and 2013.
A few notes about these tables:
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
U.S.-supported Ecuadorian troops on a riverine counterdrug patrol. Photo from U.S. Southern Command.
The U.S. Congress is finishing work on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which is rightly controversial because of language making it legally possible for the U.S. government to arrest U.S. citizens on U.S. soil for “terrorism” and detain them in military custody indefinitely.
In addition, deep within the bill, whose conference report is being voted today in the House, are provisions that extend and expand the Defense Department’s ability to give counter-drug aid to foreign militaries and police forces. These authorities, which date back to 1991, are now the second-largest source of military and police aid to Latin America, accounting for about $455 million in assistance in 2011.
The Pentagon has two such aid-providing authorities. Neither are in permanent law; they expire and must be renewed periodically. The first, and largest, is the one that first appeared in Section 1004 of the National Defense Authorization act (and was extended in 1995, 1999, 2002, and 2006). It allows the massive Defense budget to pay for training, equipment upgrades and other specific types of aid, including construction of counter-drug bases (as has recently been reported in Honduras).
Section 1004 expired when the federal government’s fiscal year 2011 ended on September 30 of this year. Because the defense bill’s approval has been so delayed, aid to the region’s militaries through this funding source has actually stopped completely for 2 1/2 months. The 2012 Defense Authorization bill, however, not only restarts Section 1004 aid, Section 1005 of the bill extends the program for another three years, through 2014.
The other, smaller program is called Section 1033, after the part of the 1998 Defense Authorization bill that first created it. This authority was once called the “Riverine Program” because it was used only to give $20 million per year in counter-drug aid to two countries, Colombia and Peru, to give their security forces what they needed to interdict drugs trafficked on rivers.
Back in 1998, the congressional Armed Services committees were skeptical about the Pentagon’s request to launch the Riverine Program. They were unenthusiastic about starting another channel of funding that, in effect, duplicates exactly the sort of aid that the State Department’s International Narcotics Control program already provides.
Fourteen years later, this “temporary” authority has become a classic example of how hard it is to bring a military aid program to an end. Once the Defense Authorization bill passes, and renews Section 1033 through 2013, what began as a $20 million-per-year riverine counter-drug aid program for two countries will have become a $100 million-per-year general counter-drug aid program for 35 countries. (The 2012 bill alone would add 13 countries to the Section 1033 club.) Of these countries, 13 are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Once the foot is in the door of a Defense-budget aid program, the door not only becomes impossible to close. It opens wide.
Herewith, a brief history of the Defense Department’s “Section 1033” legal authorities.