US President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal would slash economic aid to Colombia by $67 million compared with this year while increasing support for narcotics control by $112 million.
While the US Congress usually makes big changes to Trump’s budget requests, the proposal shows how determined his administration is to pumping more and more into Colombia’s security apparatus and less and less into programs that would actually advance peace prospects.
Trump’s budget request, released Monday, nearly doubles Colombian anti-narcotics funding, from $125 million this year to $237.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.
His proposal is based on what the budget document says are “threats posed by sharp increases in coca cultivation.”
But rather than adopt anti-coca measures recommended by international authorities, including the United Nations, such as economic development, his proposal aims to further build the military and police machinery needed for the US’ so-called War on Drugs.
The budget document says, about the narcotics program known as International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement: “U.S. assistance will build partner country law enforcement capacity to eradicate and interdict drugs.”
Colombia would get more anti-narcotics security aid than any other country, nearly four times the $60 million asked for Afghanistan, the second largest.
Meanwhile, the proposal cuts economic development aid from $207.3 million this year to $140 million, a reduction of 32%.
In addition, economic aid would likely be transformed, as Trump is consolidating several current categories into a new catch-all named the Economic Support and Development Fund.
The budget proposal explains that this new program “prioritizes foreign assistance to better advance U.S. interests, target the challenges of a new era of great power competition, and support reliable strategic and diplomatic partners.”
This matches the changes Trump has made in overall security strategy compared with Barack Obama. For example, Trump’s National Security Strategy, a document outlining each president’s foreign policy goals, dropped climate change as a security concern and focused instead on challenging Russia, China and Iran.
The budget proposal now goes to Congress, which is likely to make big changes. Last year, for example, Congress rejected his proposal to significantly cut Colombian aid.
This year, total aid would fall by a much smaller amount, $36 million or 8%, to a total of $412.9 million. Congressional supporters of Colombia might be pleased with the overall amount asked for. Whether they will be concerned with the big push into security aid remains to be seen.