|Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), chairwoman of the subcommittee that drafted the new foreign aid bill.|
It now appears that the House of Representatives will be passing a foreign aid bill that changes U.S. aid to Colombia significantly for the better. As detailed yesterday, aid in the House version of the Foreign Operations bill (H.R. 2764) will be $160 million (36%) less military, and $101 million (73%) more economic.
Those in Congress who support the more militarized approach of the past have chosen not to offer any amendments. Instead, former Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) expressed his concerns about the military-aid cuts and the stronger human-rights conditions this afternoon while engaging in a “colloquy,” or pre-arranged discussion, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), who chairs the subcommittee that drafted the aid bill.
If U.S. support for Plan Colombia had looked more like this in 2000, we still would have had criticisms and concerns, of course. But we would have been much more encouraged by the greater emphasis on poverty-reduction and institution-building, and by the stronger conditions to keep the aid from having unintended consequences.
This is still a 65-percent military effort, when funding through the Defense-budget bill is added to the total. However, this is down from more than 80 percent over the past several years. The House has taken a big step today toward a policy that better reflects the kind of partner the United States should be, both for Colombia and for the region. A policy that, incidentally, shows far more promise of actually working.