U.S. Military and Police Aid
The State Department certified this week that the Colombian military’s human rights performance is improving. The decision frees up 25 percent of military aid in the foreign aid budget for 2007, and 15 percent of aid for 2008, that had been frozen pending this certification. The department’s memorandum justifying the certification decision [PDF] is 130 pages long, far more extensive than previous justification memos.
- On the new “Just the Facts” program blog, we note that for the first time in about a decade, Colombia is not getting the majority of U.S. military and police aid to Latin America. In late June, when the 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act green-lighted the “MÃ©rida Initiative” aid package for Mexico and Central America, Colombia’s share of total U.S. security assistance to the Western Hemisphere slipped to an estimated 39%, down from 62% in 2007 (and 73% in 2000, the year the Plan Colombia aid package was approved). Colombia remains in the number-one position ahead of Mexico (31% in 2008), but not by much.
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing yesterday about the military’s growing foreign policymaking role. Video of the proceedings will soon be posted to the C-SPAN website. (We arrived at the hearing room just before it was scheduled to begin, but the space was already full to overflowing. We look forward to hearing what was said.)
- The Uribe administration sent to the Colombian Congress this week a judicial-reform bill that would, among other things, strip the Supreme Court of its power to investigate congresspeople accused of wrongdoing. It is hard to view this as anything other than payback for the Court’s dogged persistence in investigating politicians’ ties to paramilitary groups.
- Over 100 displaced people, angered by a bureaucratic foul-up that prevented delivery of assistance, staged a sit-in near the manicured, cafe-lined 93rd Street Park in BogotÃ¡’s exclusive Chapinero district yesterday. Most spent the night there until BogotÃ¡ Mayor Samuel Moreno promised to resolve their situation.
- El Tiempo reports that Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” the powerful fugitive paramilitary leader whose name I heard often on an April 2008 trip to Guaviare department, has offered to turn himself in to the authorities. He cites several attempts on his life from other narco-paramilitary factions operating in and around Guaviare, Meta, and Vichada.
- Mexico City’s La Jornada newspaper reports that Barack Obama may visit Mexico in September.
- The New York Times published a letter from me in response to last week’s op-ed from Defense Secretary Gates and Colombian Defense Minister Santos calling for maintaining security assistance levels. The letter’s argument is nothing new to readers of this blog.
- Everyone from The Economist to the Andean Information Network is praising “Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road,” an analysis of Bolivia’s crisis and how it can be resolved, written for the Inter-American Dialogue by analyst George Gray Molina. I add another recommendation; I learned a lot from this piece and agree that “a return to legality” would be a great starting point.
- EFE: “The FOX channel decided not to broadcast in Argentina an episode of the animated series ‘The Simpsons’ in which reference is made to ‘the PerÃ³n dictatorship’ and it is said that the ex-president ‘disappeared’ people, in order to avoid reopening ‘painful wounds.’