US will again give $391M in aid to Colombia, despite Trump effort at cuts

(Image by Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons)

The US Congress is set to finalize a 2018 budget that maintains aid to Colombia at its 2017 level, $391 million, despite efforts by President Donald Trump to slash the amount.

That absence of a cut in aid is “a huge support to peace accord implementation” in Colombia, according to Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), an NGO based in DC.

The US House approved the budget Thursday, the Senate is expected to do the same Friday, and Trump is expected to sign it in time to avoid yet another government shutdown at midnight Friday. There already have been two brief shutdowns during the protracted fight over the budget.

This budget authorizes spending through September 30, 2018.

The $391,253,000 in aid for Colombia is the exact amount in the previous 2017 budget, which was part of a US initiative dubbed “Peace Colombia” by former President Barack Obama and heralded by a joint appearance by Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Trump’s initial budget request would have cut that by $140 million, or 36%, down to $251 million.

But the Republican controlled Congress firmly rejected not only Trump’s proposal to slash aid to Colombia, but his overall foreign policy goal of dramatically reducing aid throughout Latin America and the world and significantly lowering the international diplomacy budget of the State Department.

Further, the $391 million in 2017 and again in 2018 is 30% higher than its level in 2016, $300 million.

There appear to be no changes in categories of aid being funded.

The US’ budget for Colombia

  • $187.3 million for economic support, including migration and refugee assistance, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, human rights, and biodiversity;
  • $143.0 million for International narcotics control and law enforcement, including human rights and environmental crimes;
  • $38.5 million for foreign military financing;
  • $21.0 million for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, de-mining and related programs;
  • And $1.4 million for international military education and training.

Elsewhere in the budget document, under funding for refugee assistance worldwide, it is specified that such funds “should be made available to address the needs of refugees from Venezuela to Colombia, including to reduce stress on Colombian health care and other social welfare systems.”

Earlier this week, the US announced it was making what it called an “initial” investment of $2.5 million to help Colombia deal with Venezuelan refugees. The overall cost to Colombia for services to refugees will run to several billion dollars, experts say.

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