Note as of 8:30 PM – Shortly after posting this, I realize I may have missed the bigger story. While Colombia does suffer an aid cut as a result of the reprogramming described below, the majority of the money – at least $10 million – is to be transferred away from Evo Morales’s Bolivia. This would mean a major decrease in military and police aid to Bolivia, which totaled about $33 million in 2007.
During the early 1990s, as Central America’s civil wars drew to a close, the U.S. government reduced its military aid to the region. At the same time, aid to the armed forces and police of Colombia and the Andes began to inch upward.
Could the opposite be happening now? Consider this State Department document that recently came our way (PDF). It is dated September 28, 2007 – the last business day of the U.S. government’s 2007 budget year.
It informs Congress that the State Department decided to take away $16 million in unspent counter-drug military and police aid that had been “in the pipeline,” appropriated and obligated for aviation support programs in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Instead, this money would be redirected to Central America, where it would pay for:
- Four Huey helicopters for Guatemala ($10 million, originally intended for Bolivia), for interdiction and opium-poppy eradication.
- $800,000 for a Guatemalan Police anti-drug Special Investigative Unit (SIU) to work closely with DEA.
- $650,000 for a “vetted unit” and police aid in Honduras.
- $1.3 million for ballistics analysis capabilities in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
- $850,000 in assistance to prevent young people from joining gangs.
- $600,000 for prison improvements.
- $175,000 for laser tattoo removal machines for ex-gang members.
- $1 million for an OAS program for at-risk youth.
- $175,000 for the DARE (drug education) program in Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast.
- $200,000 for CADCA community drug abuse-prevention programs in Honduras.
- $100,000 for drug-abuse prevention in Guatemala.
- $150,000 for methamphetamine precursor chemical control training in El Salvador or Guatemala.
This is the third reduction in Colombia’s military and police assistance during the past nine months. The first came in April, when Congress rescinded $13 million in funding for maritime interdiction aircraft that the previous Republican-majority Congress had inserted in the 2006 supplemental appropriations bill. The second came at the end of the year, as Congress appropriated $141 million less military and police aid for Colombia than the Bush administration had requested for 2008.
The $16 million cut announced September 28, however, is the first one coming from the Bush administration itself, instead of Congress.
The resulting transfer would mean a huge increase in counter-drug aid to Central America, which we estimate as having totaled only about $10 million in 2007.