Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said on Thursday that he regretted US President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget proposal includes sizable reductions in aid to Colombia.
The current proposal is projected to reduce US aid to Colombia by as much as 12%, to $280 million in the 2015 fiscal year.
McGovern told Colombia Reports that he feels reducing aid in the midst of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group, the country’s largest, would be a mistake.
“At this moment, when Colombia is in the process of negotiating peace to end its half century-old conflict, we should be preparing for the same or even greater investment in Colombia, not less,” McGovern said.
The Democrat has been a long time advocate of the ongoing peace negotiations and has played a central role in the shaping of US-Colombia foreign policy.
The congressman did admit that he was “opposed to the way the drug war has been carried out in Colombia” and believed that this aspect of aid to Colombia should be altered. Indeed, the proposed budget reportedly includes a $25 million drop or almost 20% decrease in the funds allocated in the fight against drugs, traditionally the focus of US foreign policy with regards to Colombia. According to Colombian media, the cuts to anti-narcotics programs represent over 60% of the total reductions.
Rather than cut that money entirely, the congressman said he would prefer that the US government consider “transferring funds from military and drug-related purposes and investing them in community-based and and sustainable economic development and humanitarian programs and the protection and promotion of human rights.”
|“We should be preparing for the same or even greater investment in Colombia, not less.”|
“After spending billions on counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency, we must not walk away from Colombia’s development and human rights needs, just when they might have the most positive impact, McGovern said.”
In addition to stressing the importance of peace talks, McGovern has supported many human rights initiatives in Colombia, including recent attention to worker’s rights initiatives and protecting women from violence. Starting in 1999 with the advent of Plan Colombia, the US has invested heavily in its Andean partner, to the tune of more than $9 billion over the course of the past decade. Spending, however, has been directed almost entirely to military and defense programs.
A US watchdog group puts US aid to Colombia at $386 million in 2014, significantly higher than Colombian media, which could indicate an aid reduction of over 25% for 2015.
- Statement from US Congressional Representative Jim McGovern