The global financial crisis will pressure U.S. lawmakers to cut a
multibillion-dollar Colombian aid package that has helped the
government counter Marxist rebels, U.S. ambassador to Bogotá William Brownfield said
The envoy’s remarks were the first signal of how the worldwide credit
turmoil could impact the $600 million a year Colombia receives from
Washington to fight FARC guerrillas and attack the cocaine trade that
helps fuel the conflict.
Violence has ebbed and foreign
investment has flooded in as guerrillas are battered by military
assaults. U.S. lawmakers have already trimmed some aid and Democrats
controlling the U.S. Congress now want more focus on economic
“The U.S. Congress wants to reduce your aid. The
pressure from the financial and economic crisis will increase that
demand,” Brownfield said in Bogota. “I don’t see an
elimination of our aid, but a gradual reduction.”
President Álvaro Uribe is one of the staunchest White House allies in
South America, where leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are promoting
socialist revolution to counter U.S. influence in the region.
Under Plan Colombia, the U.S. government has sent more than $5 billion
in mostly military and counter-narcotics assistance to Colombia since
2000 — the largest aid package outside the Middle East.
Uribe’s opponents acknowledge the security gains his government has
made against the FARC with the help of U.S. funds. But critics question
the counter-narcotics portion as Colombia remains the world’s No. 1
producer of the cocaine.
Adam Isacson, who analyses U.S. policy
on Colombia for Washington’s Center for International Policy, said U.S.
officials have said the original plan was to trim the aid gradually
over the next several years.
“But thanks to the financial
crisis, the decline may be faster than expected,” he said. “I would
expect the entire worldwide foreign aid budget to see an
across-the-board cut, and we can expect Colombia to participate in