In a sit-down last week with reporters, the outgoing head of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John Craddock, said that reductions in aid to Colombia were on their way. Added the Associated Press, "Craddock said Colombia’s defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, is in agreement with reductions in U.S. military funding."
This was the latest repetition of the idea that reductions in aid to Colombia – the first reductions in about fifteen years – would be forthcoming in the administration’s 2008 budget request to Congress (which comes out next February). We have been told to expect less aid in the 2008 request during recent meetings with U.S. officials, and we have read it in recent press coverage, including a piece in Saturday’s edition of El Tiempo:
An initial cut of a bit more than 50 million dollars is being discussed, which would go against accounts for the Police Carabineros program, the demobilizations and others. And while this is a small amount, compared to the annual total that is delivered (some 700 million dollars), it will increase with each passing year. In other words, from here to 2010 – the year in which Uribe will finish his second term – the country will be receiving a bit more than half of what it gets today.
And these are not speculations. The director of Narcotics Affairs at the Department of State, Anne Patterson, and the "drug czar," John Walters, said it in an interview with this newspaper. And the head of the Southern Command, John Craddock, repeated it this week.
The theory is that Colombia has begun "to turn the page," and that it is time for it to take on more responsibilities. "We have sustained aid levels for six years. It is logical to suppose, and this was the plan from the beginning, that we would arrive at a point where there would be reductions," says a source at the State Department.
Well, maybe not. It appears that plans to begin reducing U.S. aid next year have been shelved for now. That, at least, was the message of Nicholas Burns, the acting number-two official at the State Department, who is leading a seventeen-member delegation to Bogotá that arrived yesterday and leaves tomorrow. "’We intend to ask our Congress to maintain the current level of funding’ for 2007 and 2008," Burns told reporters yesterday.
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