Both the United States and Colombia have expressed the desire for the two nations to develop a “true partnership.” They say the relationship will become more than just a fight against drugs and terrorism through Plan Colombia. They say the two nations will work together to promote action on the environment, scientific knowledge transfer, and increased support for social projects. The 2011 Fiscal Year foreign aid budget, however, suggests something else.
The U.S. Foreign Aid budget for Colombia for the fiscal year of 2011 is $464 million, a figure down $56 million from last year. The decrease supposedly marks a shift from heavily military-based aid to a plan including more social aid, rhetoric that has been repeated by the U.S. but the concrete effects of which remain to be seen. The U.S. says the country wants to direct more energy towards social support, but examination of the 2011 budget shows otherwise. All of the budget areas where Colombia is specifically mentioned refer to narcotics enforcement, terrorism, or military training.
The U.S. budget for the Department of State was submitted by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on February 1, 2010. The budget summarizes all foreign aid requests, which includes money to fund all state programs overseas (diplomatic and consular functions), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), international organizations, and all foreign operations.
According to the budget, the largest appropriation made for Colombia in the coming year is the $204 million that will go towards International Narcotics Control and Enforcement. These funds are meant “to support country and global programs critical to combating transnational crime and illicit threats, including efforts against terrorist networks in the illegal drug trade and illicit enterprises.” The budget says that these funds are replacing those previously allotted to the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, a program started by President George W. Bush that included funds to fight drug production in Colombia as well as Bolivia and Peru. This money “will reduce the flow of drugs to the United States; address instability in the Andean region; and strengthen the ability of both source and transit countries to investigate and prosecute major drug trafficking organizations and their leaders, and to block and seize the organizations’ assets,” the budget says.
Although Plan Colombia is not specifically mentioned in the 2011 budget, the narcotics control funds aim to address the goal of reducing drug production and thus drug flow to the U.S. This has been a priority since Plan Colombia began in 2000, and will continue to be the main focus of U.S. policy towards Colombia until cocaine flow north can be stopped. Plan Colombia was met with debated results of efficiency, with cocaine use still rampant in the north and production showing no signs of ceasing altogether in the south.
The second area where the U.S. will direct the most money to Colombia is with an appropriation of $202,988,000 through the Economic Support Fund. According to the budget the ESF “advances U.S. interests by helping countries meet short- and long-term political, economic, and security needs. These needs are addressed through a range of activities, from countering terrorism and extremist ideology to increasing the role of the private sector in the economy; assisting in the development of effective, accessible, independent legal systems; supporting transparent and accountable governance; and the empowerment of citizens.”
While the description of the use of these funds is quite vague, it is clear that “countering terrorism” will certainly be a priority. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) appears on the U.S.’ list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and has long been the target of the North American country’s military aid in Colombia. The budget says the money appropriated for Colombia from the ESF “will help consolidate the gains made to date by the Government of Colombia in its fight against illegal armed groups and narcotics trafficking by strengthening its institutional capacity to provide security, economic, and social development.” It goes on to say that “U.S. assistance will focus on alternative development, enhance the capabilities of justice personnel, strengthen the criminal justice system, support internally displaced persons and vulnerable populations, and expand economic opportunity for populations at risk.” Coincidentally, this will be done “all in carefully identified strategic geographic zones in which violence, illicit crop cultivation, and drug trafficking converge.”
This is not to say that Colombia does not need more capable justice system actors and a strengthening of the justice system as a whole, and support for displaced, vulnerable, and at-risk populations. It most certainly does. However, it is considerably more likely that the money will be directed more towards the anti-terrorism efforts than the world’s second largest internally displaced population. (The budget, through money appropriated for Migration and Refugee Assistance, does support internally displaced persons and conflict victims. The aid is not broken down by country in this section, and shows $37 million to be shared among the Western Hemisphere.)
Colombia will receive $51.5 million in Foreign Military Financing, which “will support the Government of Colombia’s efforts to sustain the gains made by its military in regaining and maintaining control of its national territory, and will enhance the military’s capacity to maintain its forces and operations.” An additional $1.695 million will come from the International Military Education and Training Program to “promote regional stability,” to serve “as an effective means to strengthen military alliances and international coalitions critical to U.S. national security goals,” and “to develop a common understanding of shared international challenges, including terrorism, and fosters the relationships necessary to counter those challenges in a collaborative manner.”
Colombia is noticeably absent from other sections in the foreign aid budget where figures are broken down by country. Colombia is not listed as getting any part of the $2,980.9 million appropriated for Development Assistance, funds which are used to “support the efforts of host governments and their private sector and non-governmental partners to implement the systemic political and economic changes needed for sustainable development progress.” The 2011 funds will be directed towards education, economic growth,
and democracy and governance.
Colombia was also left off the list of recipients of Global Health and Child Survival funds, which aim to arrive at its goals by “encouraging country ownership and investing in country-led plans; building sustainability through investments in health systems strengthening improving metrics, monitoring, and evaluation; and promoting research, development, and innovation,” among other things.
Scientific research and innovation are, however, one of the three areas the U.S. pledged to focus on with Colombia during a visit from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg to Bogota in October. The two countires will also seek to advance their relationship on human rights and democratic governance, and energy cooperation, topics that were selected during the High Level Partnership Dialogue between the U.S. and Colombia. During the visit, Steinberg said, “During the last decade, our governments have cooperated to stem the flow of illegal drugs, combat terrorism, promote trade and economic development, and improve respect for human rights. The expansion of this cooperation is a remarkable story, as is Colombia’s own success in overcoming internal security threats and shaping itself into a model of democratic development.”
He went on, “That success does not diminish the importance of our partnership; if anything, it makes Colombia an ever-more vital strategic partner for the United States. And in the very productive meeting I just completed with President [Juan Manuel] Santos and Foreign Minister [Maria Angela] Holguin, we discussed how we can broaden and deepen this partnership going forward.”
Colombian President Santos met with U.S. President Barack Obama at a United Nations meeting in September, after which he said, “Now that the problem of security is more or less resolved, we can promote a more progressive agenda. Social development, the prosperity of our people, climate change and the environment are themes that we can now include in our agenda.”
In a speech on October 21, U.S. ambassador to Colombia Michael McKinley said, “This relationship is evolving beyond drug trafficking, security, and the free trade agreement. It must be a relationship of partners, mature, and based on the priorities of the country and of the new government.”
The desires of Santos nor the claims of the U.S. diplomats do not line up with the money appropriated for Colombia. It is clear that the two countries will not “broaden or deepen” their “partnership” when all U.S. foreign aid funding for Colombia will be given to the military and anti-drug opperations.