The State Department has sent Congress its foreign aid request for 2009, along with updated 2007 and 2008 numbers. We have added all of this new data to the ever-growing aid database located at www.justf.org. Several links below point to pages on that site.
The State/Foreign Operations budget appropriation request provides about 75 percent of the military and police aid – and 85 percent of the total aid – that goes to Latin America and the Caribbean. The rest either goes through small programs that can give aid “on the fly” (Excess Defense Articles, “Food for Peace” and others) or, for some types of military aid, through the Defense budget.
The 2009 request calls for a sharp jump in aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. The hemisphere received a total of $1.75 billion from Foreign Operations budget programs in 2007; the request foresees that rising to $2.30 billion by 2009.
Combining this with estimates of aid from other sources, we calculate that total U.S. aid to Latin America and the Caribbean would rise from $2.12 billion in 2007 to $2.67 billion in 2009. Total military and police aid would rise from $943 million in 2007 (44.5%) to $1.226 billion in 2009 (45.9%).
Here is what that looks like graphically, since 1996.
(The economic-aid spike in 1999 was Hurricane Mitch aid. The military-aid spike in 2000 was Plan Colombia.)
Why would aid levels bump upward in 2008 and 2009? This chart makes it pretty clear:
See that big purple bulge in the middle in 2008 and 2009? That’s Mexico.
Along with the countries of Central America, Mexico would see a huge increase in aid – most of it military and police aid – under the proposed “MÃ©rida Plan” aid package. If the Bush administration were to get what it asked for – both as a “supplemental” addition to the 2008 budget, and as part of the 2009 budget – aid to Mexico and Central America would more than double.
Here is a breakdown of aid to Mexico and Central America, first by country and then by type of aid. Look at that increase.
To explain what you’re looking at here: while U.S. aid to Latin America would rise dramatically in the Bush administration’s 2009 request, nearly all of the increase owes to raises foreseen for Mexico and Central America. And the majority of that is military and police assistance.
While this would be a dramatic change, we still don’t know when (or even whether) it will actually happen. In this busy election year, there is little sense of when Congress might be disposed to approve a supplemental aid package for Mexico and Central America in 2008. A supplemental attached to Iraq war funding would be bogged down for months, while a supplemental exclusively for Mexico and Central America seems unlikely to find its way onto the crowded legislative calendar.
Meanwhile, despite the big foreseen Mesoamerican increase, the aid request would keep Colombia in first place as the region’s largest aid recipient. However, the Bush administration would not seek to give Colombia a raise.
Under the administration’s plan, total aid to Colombia would remain about where the U.S. Congress left it after dealing a modest cut in 2008 – we estimate a total of $683 million in 2009, compared to $757 million in 2007 and $681 million in 2008. (Counting only aid in the Foreign Operations budget bill gives $619 million in 2007, $543 million in 2008, and $545 million in 2009.)
If the Bush administration got its way, however, it would completely reverse the changes that the new Democratic-majority Congress made to Colombia aid last year. By cutting military aid and increasing economic aid, Congress managed to reduce the military-aid proportion in the Colombia aid package from 81 percent in 2007 to 65 percent in 2008. The administration’s request would bring that proportion back up to 79 percent in 2009 by dramatically increasing military aid and cutting economic-aid programs.
(Considering only Foreign Operations programs, the military-aid percentage would go from 78% in 2007, to 57% in 2008, back up to 74% in 2009.)
The Congress is extremely unlikely to honor the administration’s Colombia request. The very same people who began demilitarizing the 2008 aid package are still chairing the committees that fund foreign aid. They are not going to reverse direction just because the State Department is suggesting a move back to a mostly military approach.
Finally, though, this post has a bit of a punchline: there’s very little chance that the 2009 foreign aid bill will become law in the next 12 months.
Think about it – if you were a Democratic congressional leader, which would you rather do:
(1) Instead of spending time campaigning or fundraising, rush to finish a foreign-aid funding bill before the new fiscal year starts on October 1. This bill will not go as far as most Democrats would like, because it has to avoid being vetoed by President Bush.
(2) Pass a “continuing resolution” maintaining current funding levels until early 2009. Bet on the Congress remaining under Democratic control and on a Democratic candidate winning the presidency (the odds currently favor both). Next year, write a much different, Democrat-friendly bill and send it to the new Democratic president for signature.
The congressional appropriators will be working hard as ever this year, and indeed both houses of Congress may pass their own versions of the foreign aid bill by Election Day. Nonetheless, scenario (2) is still more likely. Ultimately, the Bush administration’s final aid request may bear little resemblance to what U.S. aid to Latin America and the Caribbean will actually end up looking like in 2009.