Álvaro Uribe vs. El Nuevo Herald A measure of outrage, a glimmer of hope
Dec 172007

The 2008 foreign aid bill has emerged from a House-Senate Conference Committee as part of a huge consolidated budget bill made public this morning.

Here is our best estimate of what Colombia aid will look like next year. Recall that (1) the Bush administration requested that 76% of Colombia aid in the Foreign Operations funding bill be military and police aid; (2) the House reduced that proportion to 55% in June; and (3) the Senate reduced it to 63% in September.

The final bill calls for $545.6 million in aid to Colombia next year, $44 million less than the Bush administration requested. This outlay would be 56.6% military and police aid, a proportion that more closely resembles the House bill.

Military and police aid would be reduced by $141.5 million below the Bush administration’s request, a 31 percent cut. Economic and social aid, including large increases for Colombia’s justice system, would be increased by $97.4 million above the Bush administration’s request, a 70 percent increase.

Foreign Operations Aid Only

2007, estimate

2008, White House request

2008, House version

2008, Senate version

2008, Conference

Military and Police Assistance






Andean Programs / Andean Counterdrug Initiative






Foreign Military Financing






NADR – Anti-Terrorism Assistance






International Military Education and Training






NADR – Humanitarian Demining






NADR – Small Arms and Light Weapons






International Narcotics Control and Law Enf.






Economic and Social Assistance 132,250,000





Andean Programs / Andean Counterdrug Initiative






International Narcotics Control and Law Enf.






Economic Support Fund






Total Foreign Operations Aid 594,920,000 589,710,000 530,642,000 570,748,000 545,608,000

However, there is more military aid than appears here. The above table includes only aid within the Foreign Operations budget bill. We know that in 2006, Colombia received about $133 million in additional military aid through the Defense Department budget bill. Were Colombia to receive a similar amount in 2007 and 2008, the proportions would be much more lopsided toward military aid.

Nonetheless, all aid to Colombia in 2008 would be 65 percent military under the new legislation, where it would have been 81 percent military had the Bush administration’s request gone through unchanged.

Foreign Operations and Defense Aid

2007, estimate

2008, White House request

2008, House version

2008, Senate version

2008, Conference

Military and Police Assistance






Economic and Social Assistance 132,250,000





Total Aid, All Sources 727,900,000 722,690,000 663,622,000 703,728,000 678,588,000

Human rights conditions, which applied to 25 percent of military aid in the past, now apply to 30 percent, though their language is largely unchanged.

The conference committee’s report mandates the following earmarks for Colombia aid:

  • $196 million in Economic Support Funds must pay for USAID programs in Colombia.
  • At least $20 million in International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) funds must go to the Office of the Prosecutor-General (Fiscalía):
    • $5,000,000 for the Human Rights Unit
    • $5,000,000 for the Justice and Peace Unit
    • $7,000,000 to develop a witness protection program for victims of armed groups
    • $3,000,000 for investigations of mass graves and identification of remains
  • $8 million in INL funds must go for human rights activities
  • $5.5 million in INL funds must go for judicial reform
  • $3 million in INL funds must go to the Procuraduría
  • $2 million in INL funds must go to the Defensoria del Pueblo
  • $750,000 in INL funds must go to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia
  • $5 million in Foreign Military Financing funds must go to medical and rehabilitation assistance, removal of landmines, and communications capabilities.

30 Responses to “A look at the “final” 2008 aid bill”

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    I am not too good with numbers. But just at a bird’s eye, how many less death people by gunfire are there going to be?

  2. Camilla Says:

    What is all the nonmilitary aid going to? Look how vague those programs are! Will it just pay for gringo NGOs to set up shop and meddle, unelected, in Colombian affairs, spreading anti-Uribe propaganda and making the FARC happy? Does the stepped-up civilian aid portend anything good for Colombia’s free trade situation? Was there any tradeoff? Normally, an improving country needs less social-programs aid, not more. Why should Colombia accept this higher civilian aid if it’ll never get free trade? If I were Colombia, I’d turn down this package. Less military aid means less help for Ingrid and more help for ‘do-gooders’ who only meddle in Colombian internal affairs, imposing their foreign vision.

    O/T: Bad news for the anti-free trade crowd trying to crush Colombia’s private sector: CPJ reports that NO Colombian journalists were killed in 2007 for the first time in 15 years. That gives them one less excuse to insist that Colombia be shut out. For the rest of us, it’s good news, it’s proof that President Uribe’s leadership means fewer deaths and greater freedom of the press. It follows the ILO’s glowing report on Colombia. I bet the anti-free trade crowd is weeping.


  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Who on earth are you Mr Camilo? Were it not for the educated English you use in your comments I would guess you are Mr Uribe hisself! 8O

  4. Alejandro Pelaez Says:

    It´s is not Camilo is camilla, a female. And she is right, a huge percent of the “social” aid will end up in the hands of wealthy NGO´s probably with goog ties with the democrats.

  5. Camilla Says:

    I am just wondering if this heightened NGO aid might just be a sign of a tradeoff between Colombia getting free trade and Democrats getting sops for their natural constituents, to ease the pain of having to give free trade in return. Maybe I am reading it wrong, but I wonder.

    Thanks for the compliment Miss Jaime, I love being flattered, but I am not President Uribe, who, by the way, speaks Harvard-educated English. But nice of you to say.

  6. jcg Says:

    Jaime: “I am not too good with numbers. But just at a bird’s eye, how many less death people by gunfire are there going to be?”

    If you really think such a thing can be seriously determined through aid amounts alone…there’s little I can say.

    Though, in case some people here have forgotten, please remember that Colombia’s own defense budget is about $7 billion this year. Adam has pointed this out on CIP before as well.

    And even that doesn’t tell us much about how many deaths there are going to be, unless someone here owns a crystal ball.

    Camilla: Uribe’s English isn’t too good though, but he does get his points across.

    As for the aid changes, I think they’re interesting enough and worth a try.

    While you may question the fact that some of the aid is going towards NGOs, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    In case you haven’t noticed, many of those NGOs also criticize FARC, not just Uribe or the government as a whole. Some of them may not do so that often, but one should still listen to their criticism and debate it on its own merits.

  7. Kyle Says:

    A few things here are worth attention. “Look how vague those programs are!” IF this were a critique, and it is almost not worth mentioning, there are two problems at least. First, you could say the same thing about the military aid. Secondly, just because it is not specifically listed here or in the bill, does not mean a specific program does not exist. Camilla, you clearly do not know what NGOs run this thing. The NGOs that you speak are not the kind that run these programs. Alternative development programs are run more by contracted businesses/NGOs, not the one’s that critique the situation in Colombia (and as jcg points out correctly, the FARC and Uribe).
    “Normally, an improving country needs less social-programs aid, not more.” I do not know where you came up with this theory of development, but if you can find me a solid case. I will give you everything I own. Literally, any “improving” (which means…what exactly?) or developing country, no matter how undeveloped or developed, needs MORE social aid. I cannot think of one successfully developed country that did it on a majority military aid. In fact, the main reason why numerous undeveloped nations stay that way are (1) corruption and (2) the money that is spent well is spent on the military. This leaves social systems ragged and ineffective at best, leaving the population is poverty.
    Colombia also needs higher social investment, whether it gets a free trade agreement or not. Colombia should learn to invest in their rural sector before they free trade anyways. Investing in the rural economy will allow domestic producers or various products to be exported to profit even more or even partake in the FTA. Think about it, a fruit farmer who wants to export now but has such a bad road (if he has one) that all of his fruits get damaged on the way to market. Pave that road and what happens. A coca farmer who grows coca because of the lack of infrastructure (roads, electricity, water) and does not send his kids to school because there is not one nearby. Give him some infrastructure and a school, and it would be hard for him not to benefit. The point is, any FTA for Colombia would be better only after the rural sector is developed greatly.
    Less military aid means less help for Ingrid? That almost does not deserve a response, but here is a quick one. JCG’s point of military aid being very little is important. Secondly, Camilla, you speak as if the military rescue was the only option to be carried out; as if all of this talk, even Uribe giving a zona de encuentro, a despeje, is going to lead to nowhere or is all just a sham. Either one does not necessitate a military rescue even if new negotiations led to nothing. As far as the ‘do-gooders’ who only meddle in internal affairs, promoting their foreign vision. I do not know if you knew, but the US has been meddling in Colombian affairs for over a century. Throughout the World Wars, throughout the Cold War and up until now. Colombia has even asked for aid and some internal meddling. If you are worried about sovereignty now, Colombia has given a lot of it away in the last 20 or so years; it is a little late to be complaining about it now; and that is just be the US. While your at it, why do not you cancel your membership to the UN. Colombia clearly wants it as well, so, meddling in internal affairs, yes. Imposing a foreign vision, partially. Colombia wanting its sovereignty encroached? Yes.
    As for the O/T: I read that yesterday with much glee. I am quite happy to see that no journalists have been killed this year. Whether or not it is directly a result of Uribe’s policies is open for debate. Certainly his policies have helped the situation, without a doubt. But sometimes he himself worsens it, as has been published on this blog at least twice in the last month or six weeks. He personally has much to learn. It also does not mean greater freedom of the press. Countless journalists gave up on reporting subjects that could get them in trouble. That is a cause of the drop. Those that do have faced threats and fled Colombia. At least two, maybe three, have fled Colombia in the last month or two as well. While it is great to see none killed this year, your conclusions are partial and substantiated only in your mind. Looking for the true answer leads us elsewhere as well. Lastly, not sure how this connects to the FTA. Most critiques focus on environmental issues and the murder of unionists. This point should be kept under the microscope when it comes to human rights and aid in general; like the topic of this blog.

  8. Kyle Says:

    Jaime, again, you really have said nothing. My critique of jcg’s critique of your comments is that there was a response. You may think Camilla is not bright, but at least she has points that she argues, spurring some discussion. I tend to agree with you, at least more than Camilla, when you do say something good on occasion. I probably would agree more than I think; if you had a point every now and again I would know.

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Kyle if I had not made a point I would have not triggered this thread. As for my first comment, nobody has understood, so far.

    jcg, ist’s not how many, it’s how many less.

  10. jcg Says:

    Jaime: Doesn’t make it any better, since the number of “less” or “more” deaths is not directly related to the amount of military aid alone, even if you ignore the total military budget which dwarfs said aid.

  11. Kyle Says:

    Jaime, it is your lack of point that has gotten my response. As for the rest of the comments, Camilla really started any debate. If you are arguing that your lack of point is a point, then, what is the point the lack of point makes? Your first comment, your best hope is that it is quite misunderstood, because what you have written shows an embarrassing level of ignorance and poor analysis.
    Thus, because we have midunderstood it, allegedly, then tell us what you wanted to say and/or trying to say. That would at least be constructive.

  12. Mo Says:

    It is a real shame that not enough funds were put under UNHCHR and UNHCR supervision.

  13. SJH Says:

    Jaime was obviously making a joke. Equally, Camilla knows little about the appropriations process and ESF.

    Look, I work at one of those for-profit companies that implements USAID Economic Support Funds in Colombia. The vast majority of the money in the ESF category will go for things like small business development, agricultural development, and sustainable forestry. That’s not for waste. One of the key reasons that the FARC maintains control in certain areas and coca is dominant is the lack of real economic possibilities for the rural poor. While I can’t say USAID has always done a good job at designing or implementing programs under this rubric, they are getting better AND, importantly, they are not just lining the coffers of “rich” NGOs (whatever those are). They’re allocating money into programs they think can help alleviate rural poverty. Denouncing that approach off hand is clearly callous or ignorant or both.

    Anyone who reads this site with frequency would have a hard time denying the logic of this approach or the logic of the reallocation by this Congress. You can quibble with the details, but the idea that Colombia “needs” that excessively high level of military assistance is bunk. They get the same amount of IMET, Anti-Terrorism, and Small Arms. What they lose out on is maintenance money to keep all those helicopters we gave them – and that’s, frankly, something they should be paying for themselves (and are entirely capable of paying for).

    I make no claims that the Colombian government didn’t need military aid in 2000. But after 7 years, it’s past time to beef up the economic/social side and see if rural economic development can make a difference in undercutting the motive for poor farmers to turn to coca, join the FARC or ELN, or both.

  14. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Hey Kayliman, why you feel so uncomfortable about a simple joke? jcf you could not see it either. SJH got it right! (In fact I am deep into math, lol) ;-)

  15. galactus Says:

    It is of course very great news that at least a little more money goes into social and justice programs instead of the millitary. Claimining otherwise, or using the expression “NGOs that make the FARC happy” is something that only a person who has never had the need to be helped by one of those NGO’s, or who has never been a victim of the colombian ties between the army and paramilitar groups, could say. This is really sad.

    I served in the army for a year, something that pretty much no one in the colombian wealthy or middle classes can say since after all it’s for the poor to risk their lives fighting the guerrillas , while those with some money can just go happyly asking in the internet for more war, away from all danger. (I could be wrong, but I’d bet that no one in Camilla’s circles has ever been a soldier). From my experience, the little I saw during my year in the army was one of the worst managed public institutions in Colombia. *sigh*

    Shameles plug: I invite readers of this blog to participate in our comunity of colombian news. Its a community site digg style (anyone can post articles or news, and vote for those they want to see on top of the page): http://colombia.gacetilla.org

  16. Sergio Méndez Says:


    Good point. Is unbelievable how many of our neoliberal thugs think the NGO´s, private asociations with humanitarian interests, will manage the money far worse than, ehem, our public and “uncorroupt” colombian army, who has not any ties with the paramilitaries nor massacred anybody, and is exemplary and good. But well, those are their double standards.

  17. Camilla Says:

    Galactus: You correctly speculated that you could be wrong, because you are. But I’m not here to talk about myself as you seem to be.

    SJH: You praise these handout programs as ‘alleviating poverty’ but what they primarily do is employ bureaucrats. What the poor need are broad-based opportunities, not narrow niche benefits. Nobody ever became a successful businessmen as a client of handouts, they become successful when they were able to get title deed, access to markets and are able to tap into the rest of the invisible architecture of opportunity. In short, they become the private sector, not wards of the state. Bureaucrats don’t do sustainable self-financing things, they constantly need clients on their string to retain their sense of usefulness. I doubt any of the USAID programs truly alleviate poverty, what they do is pay for poverty. The poor need opportunities, not some NGO lording it over them with Hugo-Chavez-style handouts. The minute any of these clients begins to get rich on his own, the NGOs will be the first to denounce him as ‘the rich’ and seek to separate him from his wealth. Real businesses flourish on opportunity available to all, rich and poor alike, not just institutionalized special interest groups with a permanent stake in always saying they are the poor and underprivileged.

    Kyle: Any improving economy needs FEWER do-gooder NGO bureaucrats, not more. Fewer NGOs means a bigger private sector. More NGOs creates more dependency on government largesse, and less on adding value and being productive. Social programs don’t create self-sustaining value, they create dependency. No nation ever got rich and prosperous based on handouts – in some rich states like Sweden, it’s possible to have lavish welfare programs, but it’s necessary to have created the wealth first before a welfare class can be formed. NGO programs are not the basis for wealth creation, they can at best deliver emergency stopgap aid, but they should be discouraged in favor of broad opportunities for the poor that apply to everyone. The more aid a place gets, the worse things are. Just ask Africa. As Thomas Sowell says, you can have all the poverty you’d like to pay for.

  18. Sergio Méndez Says:


    I am courious. You cry out loud against assistance for NGO´s cause they employ burocrats, yet you seem to have no problem with military assitance for a country with such an attrocious humans right records and a military, that certainly has goverment burocrats managing the money….funny way you decide wich burocrats are good and wich ones are bad…

  19. galactus Says:

    Right, you are not here to talk about yourself, only to spread your tim-oreilly-style insanity.

    Do you really really really believe that NGO’s in Colombia prevent colombians from “being productive”??? good lord… the power of propaganda is truly awesome.

  20. galactus Says:

    oops, that would be bill oreilly :)

  21. Camilla Says:

    Galactus: Who is that?

    Sergio: I don’t like military any more than I like bureaucrats. But war is so horrible that the mission of war is necessarily self-limiting. You never find men in the midst of war seeking to extend it as you might find NGOs seeking to extend poverty as long as possible to extend the client list.

    Speaking of poverty, here’s a bit of bad news for NGOs who make their living on others’ dependency: El Tiempo is reporting that poverty is sharply down in Bogota, reducing the pool of clients for NGOs to service. Worse yet, it’s evidence of Uribe’s leadership in action. By leveling the playing field for everyone instead of just a few special interest groups and strengthening rule of law for all, as well as fostering a good investment climate, there are just coincidentally fewer poor people. No NGO did that. Uribe did it:

  22. jcg Says:

    Not going to discuss the other recent comments at this time, in part because I’ve already provided my opinion about some of them before….but Camilla, I think you should actually give far more credit to the local administration(s) of Bogotá, if you want to be fair.

  23. Randy Paul Says:

    but Camilla, I think you should actually give far more credit to the local administration(s) of Bogotá, if you want to be fair. [my emphasis]

    Therein lies the root of the problem.

  24. Camilla Says:

    JCG: As long as the local government is elected, that’s fine. I raise questions about unelected, unaccountable, and strictly leftist NGOs.

  25. Camilla Says:

    Randy Paul: Do you have any thoughts of your own on this post or are you just a lightless planet that revolves around my sun? You don’t seem to crop up much unless you are commenting on me. You have that fascination, don’t you? Maybe you can offer your own thoughts instead of continuously comment on mine in negative terms.

  26. Sergio Méndez Says:


    You are really so naive to think that polititians and the military are not trying to extend war for their own benefit just cause “it is horrible”? I mean, not only they extend them, they CREATE them (you know, like the war in Iraq, manufactured thru a long chain of lies and rationalizations). There are states that even LIVE around the idea of a permanent war (the US) or the need to sustain a heavy military aparatus and militarized society (North Corea, Nazi Germany). Please, come back to me with something less naive…

  27. Randy Paul Says:

    Do you have any thoughts of your own on this post or are you just a lightless planet that revolves around my sun? You don’t seem to crop up much unless you are commenting on me. You have that fascination, don’t you? Maybe you can offer your own thoughts instead of continuously comment on mine in negative terms.

    Rest assured I have plenty of thoughts and have been commenting on this blog long before you.

    What I find fascinating is your utter fealty to Alvaro Uribe and what appears to be your belief that all good in Colombia emanates from Uribe and his followers and all bad in Colombia emanates from those who disagree with him – and the FARC.

    What I find asinine is the way you continue to dumb down the discourse with statements such as this offered without a scintilla of proof:

    Worse yet, it’s evidence of Uribe’s leadership in action. By leveling the playing field for everyone instead of just a few special interest groups and strengthening rule of law for all, as well as fostering a good investment climate, there are just coincidentally fewer poor people. No NGO did that. Uribe did it:

    When I offered proof of the AUC’s land theft, you dismissed it as a three year old article, which it was and suggested that the government “had not been sitting on its hands,” again without proof. When I pointed out a report from the International Crisis Group that showed that as of last year they had simply been “[f]ocusing on dismantling the overt military structures of the paramilitaries, but not their powerful mafia-like criminal networks that continue to exist in many parts of Colombia,” your response was silence. Perhaps you should read this post by the author of this blog on Hernan Giraldo: http://www.ciponline.org/colombia/blog/archives/000213.htm

    So, yes I have beliefs (and I also have a job which limits my ability to comment as much as I like). Among these are the following:

    1.) My sympathies lie solely with the innocent victims of this conflict on both sides. Many years ago I dated a woman from Santa Marta whose brother was kidnapped and killed by the FARC. I live in a community in New York called Jackson Heights, which, as you may know, has a large Colombian emigre population. Over the years I have met people who have had family members who have been killed and/or threatened by the AUC.

    2.) I appreciate the fact that Uribe has a tough job, but I also believe he has a bias towards the AUC, tacit at best, subtly supportive at worst. I cannot imagine a moment when fugitives from justice would address a nation’s congress with the aid of an elected representative (Rocio Arias).

    3.) I do not like to see my tax dollars expended on the Colombian military, especially given the strong ties some of its brass have with the AUC. I would prefer more be expended on humanitarian efforts, much as it may pain you.

    4.) The so-called left-wing NGO’s have done plenty to condemn the violence on both sides: Amnesty International and HRW have vigorously condemned attacks on civilians by the FARC, including the use of gas cylinder bombs by the FARC.

    So yes, I have beliefs. They are nuanced and carefully considered. I just don’t have much tolerance for a simple, cheerleading view of President Uribe as you certainly appear to have. Too many people are suffering for anyone to be cheering.

    Warm regards.

  28. coitado Says:

    Any questions about what programs are funded through U.S. foreign assistance to Colombia can easily be cleared up by examining the congressional budget justification. This is a public document offering details about USG programs in Colombia.

    If anything, by reducing military aid to Colombia in the coming year, the FY08 budget does an injustice to Colombia. Any security gains since Plan Colombia began are tenuous at best and if Uribe is unable to fill the gaps left by the USG there are real concerns that the security situation could deteriorate quickly. Just look at the facts – kidnappings are down by over 70%, murders are down by at least 50%, over 30,000 AUC have demobilized, the FARC has been reduced to less than 10,000 members (that’s right – anything you read in the press over 10,000 is wrong), the economy is cruising along at 6% growth and for the first time in over a decade you can actually drive between major cities without risking your life.

    The difference here has been USG “hard side” assistance. Before Plan Colombia, the Colombian govt. owned 20 helicopters. Through USG assistance, there are over 200 helicopters in Colombia today and they help the Colombian military project power in the hinterlands. This gave the Colombian military and police a tactical advantage over the FARC and has led to the improved security situation prevalent in Colombia today.

    A common criticism against Uribe has been his govt’s close ties with the paramilitaries. In fact, it is exactly his administration’s policies, especially in dealing with demobilized paramilitaries, that has led to the discovery of these ties. He’s actually empowering the govt. to root out any govt. complicity with paras and then prosecute. He deserves credit for going after govt. officials with murky pasts – it’s more than anybody else has done and has led to credibility among voters. His popular rating is currently at 78% and has never dipped below 70% among Colombians. That includes many of the poor and disenfranchised. The mood on the street in Colombia is upbeat. For the first time Colombians actually believe that the insurgents can be beat in their lifetime. Ten years ago most Colombians believed that the insurgents were going to topple the govt.

    Lets help the Colombian govt. finish what they’ve started. The former paramilitaries need to complete Peace and Justice Program, the govt. needs to strike a deal with the ELN and the FARC needs to be brought to its knees (actually now a reality) so that they have no option but to negotiate a peace agreement. We need to keep up the USG counternarcotics pressure since it’s actually working. Price of cocaine on the streets of America is up and purity is down. Narcos are making less money than they ever have from the drug trade because the increased govt. pressure has driven up their operation costs. Now that the security situation has improved, lets increase investment in social projects. In the past, violence made it impossible to carry out any sustainable development. Today though, communities are begging for help. Lets approve the free trade agreement as it will bring in much needed investment and provide jobs and opportunities for those who now rely on the drug trade.

    We’ll get there, but any misguided attempts to punish the Uribe administration for perceived complicity in wrongdoing is simply a mistake. I’ll grant you that the situation is Colombia isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than it has been in a long time and the future looks bright.

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