A deep cut in aid to Nicaragua

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a U.S. government economic-aid program begun during the first years of the Bush administration. It offers several-year “contracts” of aid to countries that meet a list of good governance criteria, then submit and receive approval for aid proposals. (See our MCC aid data here.)

In Latin America, only Honduras ($215 million [PDF]), Nicaragua ($175 million [PDF]), and El Salvador ($461 million [PDF]) have received MCC aid under several-year contracts. Paraguay and Guyana have received smaller amounts through single-year grants via what the MCC calls its “Threshold” program. The three countries that received MCC contract aid have seen a general decline in U.S. assistance through other, “traditional” U.S. economic-aid programs.Although these aids can benefit the people of these countries financially, nothing like encouraging them to find a suitable source of income to uplift their financial situation forever, for which the automated investment systems like the Orion Code is suitable, as anybody can follow it, without having to worry about the experience or the knowledge and yet, can gain profits abundantly!

According to its contract, Nicaragua was scheduled to receive $47.5 million in MCC aid in 2009. On Thursday, however, the MCC announced that it was suspending Nicaragua’s participation in the program due to concerns about the validity of recent local elections.

The Board also voted to suspend assistance for new activities under the $175 million MCC compact in Nicaragua because of actions taken by the Nicaraguan government that are inconsistent with MCC’s eligibility criteria. MCC will therefore not approve disbursements for activities not already contracted by MCA-Nicaragua. The political conditions leading up to, during, and following recent elections in Nicaragua were not consistent with MCC requirements that include a commitment to policies that promote political freedom and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.

The Board called on Nicaragua to develop and implement a comprehensive set of measures to address concerns regarding the government’s commitment to democratic principles. The Board will review the response of the Nicaraguan government and determine subsequent actions at its next quarterly Board meeting in March 2009.

“The MCC model is based on aid with accountability and good governance. The Board determined that recent actions by the Nicaraguan government were inconsistent with MCC’s core principles and therefore had to take this difficult decision,” said Ambassador Danilovich. “Nicaragua’s compact with MCC benefits hundreds of thousands of poor Nicaraguans by providing better roads, property titles, and agricultural business support. For the sake of the poor of the country, we sincerely hope that the Nicaraguan government recommits to the principles of democracy and the rule of law so that MCC can reestablish what has been an effective partnership. It should be remembered that our partnership with Nicaragua is dedicated to both poverty reduction and good government policies.”

As a result of the MCC aid suspension, we estimate that U.S. assistance to the hemisphere’s second-poorest country will plummet in 2009 to its lowest level, in nominal dollars, since 2001.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Compass for Colombia Policy

Download:(PDF, 3.78 MB) A Compass for Colombia Policy(PDF, 3.95 MB) Un nuevo rumbo para la política estadounidense hacia Colombia

October 22, 2008

New Report Outlines a Just and Effective Foreign Policy toward Colombia

(English PDF, 3.78 MB) | (PDF en español, 3.95 MB).

During their final presidential debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain expressed markedly different opinions on U.S. policy toward Colombia, an important partner in Latin America. Yet the next U.S. president won’t just be debating policy, he will be making it—and in the case of Colombia, he will need more than minor changes along the margins. He will need a new approach.

The Compass for Colombia Policy, written by some of Washington’s top Colombia experts, offers a better way forward for one of the main foreign policy challenges that the next administration will face. This report makes a detailed, persuasive case for a new U.S. strategy that would achieve our current policy goals while ending impunity and strengthening respect for human rights. Instead of risking all by placing too much faith in a single, charismatic leader, the United States must appeal to the aspirations and needs of all Colombians by strengthening democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. In particular, the United States must stand by and empower the human rights advocates, victims, judges, prosecutors, union leaders, journalists and others who are the driving forces towards a more just and peaceful Colombia.

The Compass details seven sensible steps policymakers can take to create a just and effective Colombia policy.

1. Use U.S. Aid and Leverage for Human Rights and the Rule of Law

To address a human rights crisis that continues unabated and a chronic lack of political will to deal with it, the United States must use tougher diplomacy to encourage the Colombian government to strengthen human rights guarantees, protect human rights defenders, and bolster institutions needed to break with a history of impunity for abuses. Colombia’s judicial system is central to the rule of law and must receive strong support.

2. Actively Support Overtures for Peace

The United States cannot continue to bankroll a war without end and, as the civilian population in the countryside continues to endure immense suffering, should make peace a priority.

3. Support Expansion of the Government’s Civilian Presence in the Countryside

Militarily occupying territory is not the solution to Colombia’s problems. The United States should help Colombia strengthen its civilian government presence in rural zones to address lawlessness, poverty and inequality, the roots of the conflict.

4. Protect the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

The United States can help resolve Colombia’s massive humanitarian crisis by insisting on the dismantlement of paramilitary structures, supporting Colombia’s Constitutional Court rulings on IDPs, and increasing and improving aid to IDPs and refugees.

5. Protect the Rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities

The United States must pay special attention to promoting ethnic minorities’ land rights and guarantee that U.S. aid projects are not carried out on land obtained by violence.

6. Ensure that Trade Policy Supports, Not Undermines, Policy Goals towards Colombia

The United States should insist upon labor rights advances, especially in reducing and prosecuting violence against trade unionists, prior to further consideration of the trade agreement. The United States must ensure that any trade agreement will not undermine U.S. policy goals, such as reducing farmers’ dependence on coca and ending the conflict.

7. Get Serious—and Smart—about Drug Policy

The United States is overdue for a major course correction in its drug control strategy, which has failed spectacularly in Colombia and the Andean region. The United States should end the inhumane and counterproductive aerial spraying program and invest seriously in rural development, including alternative development designed with affected communities. Drug enforcement should focus higher up on the distribution chain, disrupt money laundering schemes and apprehend violent traffickers. Access to high-quality drug treatment in the United States, which will cut demand, must be the centerpiece of U.S. drug policy.

“The next administration should use diplomatic pressure to hold Colombia to much higher standards on human rights, labor rights, and protection of the rule of law.”–Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund

“The United States must recognize the magnitude of the human rights crisis for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lands and livelihoods to violence. –Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America

“Nine years after the launch of Plan Colombia, the production of cocaine remains virtually unchanged. The United States simply cannot afford to continue to pursue this costly and failed counternarcotics policy. The next President must change course.” –Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy

“In the last decade, Colombia’s conflict has taken 20,000 more lives and displaced more than 2 million citizens. Now is the time to make renewed efforts for peace.” –Kelly Nicholls, U.S. Office on Colombia

For more information:
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, (202) 546-7010; lisah [at] lawg.org
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America, (202) 797-2171; gsanchez [at] wola.org
Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy, (202) 232-3317; isacson [at] ciponline.org
Kelly Nicholls, US Office on Colombia, (202) 232-8090; kelly [at] usofficeoncolombia.org

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Senate committee approves the 2009 foreign aid bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee finished work last Thursday on its version of the 2009 State / Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the U.S. government budget legislation that supplies most U.S. aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • Excerpts from the Senate’s bill are here.
  • Excerpts from the Appropriations Committee’s non-binding narrative report are here.
  • The Bush Administration’s 2009 foreign aid budget request, issued in February, is here.

The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee has also finished its version of the bill; that language is not available yet, though a brief summary press release is here [PDF].

Don’t expect this bill to become law anytime soon. The U.S. Congress is only in session for six more weeks between now and the November elections. The Democratic majorities that control both houses are unlikely to hurry and send a bill for a Republican president’s signature when they stand at least a 50-50 chance of being able to send a much different bill to a Democratic president in January. Still, this bill is a useful measure of the Senate’s view of how foreign assistance programs should evolve.

The bill does not recommend specific aid levels for most countries. In the case of Colombia, however, there are enough recommendations to draw a pretty accurate picture of how the Senate appropriators would assign aid. As the table below indicates, aid to Colombia would remain similar to 2008, which involved a significant cut in military aid and increase in economic aid over 2007 levels. The Bush administration’s 2009 aid request sought to undo those 2008 changes; the Senate bill refuses to do so.

Military and Police Assistance
Aid Program
2007
2008 estimate
2009, administration request
2009, Senate Appropriations
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement 386,869,000 247,097,704 329,557,000 241,800,000
Foreign Military Financing 85,500,000 55,050,000 66,390,000 53,000,000
NADR – Anti-Terrorism Assistance 3,395,000 3,288,000 2,750,000 2,750,000
International Military Education and Training 1,646,000 1,428,000 1,400,000 1,400,000
NADR – Humanitarian Demining 691,000
NADR – Small Arms and Light Weapons 427,000
TOTAL 478,101,000 307,290,704 400,097,000 298,950,000
Economic and Social Assistance
Aid Program
2007
2008 estimate
2009, administration request
2009, Senate Appropriations
Economic Support Fund 194,412,000 142,366,000 199,000,000
International Narcotics Control Economic Aid 139,166,000 39,427,296 45,000,000
Transition Initiatives 1,699,970 2,000,000
TOTAL 140,865,970 235,839,296 142,366,000 244,000,000
Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Total 618,966,970 543,130,000 542,463,000 542,950,000
Military-Police Aid
Economic-Social Aid
Other military-police appropriations (est) 126,638,053 126,374,053 126,347,053 126,347,053
Other economic-social appropriations (est) 4,858,000 0 0 0
Total aid to Colombia 750,463,023 669,504,053 668,810,053 669,297,053

(Recall that the Foreign Operations funding bill provides most, but not all, aid to Colombia. Visit the Colombia aid page for the full picture.)

The bill also repeats conditions on the Colombia aid regarding impunity for human rights violations, and the environmental and health impacts of aerial herbicide fumigation.

The Senate bill meanwhile slices deeply into the Bush administration’s $500 million request for counter-narcotics aid to Mexico under the “Mérida Initiative,” granting $300 million instead. The committee’s report recalls that Mexico got $400 million through the special Iraq-Afghanistan war appropriation passed last month, and that this aid will only begin to get spent when the 2009 budget year begins.

Here are some excerpts from the committee’s narrative report. (Click to continue)