Increase in US Military Aid to Latin America
by the wars on drugs and terrorism, levels of U.S. military aid to Latin
America have more than tripled over the last five years, according to a new
report released here Monday by three foreign policy groups.
even as Washington has intensified its training of military and security forces
in Central and Southeast Asia and the Middle East as part of its "war on
terrorism," Latin America soldiers and police received the most U.S. training
of any region--13,000 Latin American personnel out of a total of 34,000
at a time when the region's economies are stagnating or even shrinking,
throwing millions more people into poverty, total U.S. military aid to Latin
America now almost equals the amount of money Washington is devoting to social
or economic development there.
pervasive problems of poverty in Latin America, the United States' focus on
military rather than economic aid to the region is increasing," according
to Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Latin America Working Group
Education Fund (LAWGEF), one of the groups that sponsored the new study.
the biggest recipient of U.S. aid globally after Israel and Egypt, has received
by far the most assistance--both military and economic--in the region for the
last several years, and the sheer volume of aid as a proportion of all aid
going to Latin America dominates the regional picture.
some of the patterns--particularly the rise in military aid as a proportion to
all U.S. assistance--that have applied to Colombia also apply to the region as
'Paint by Numbers: Trends in U.S. Military Programs with Latin America,' the
report also expresses concern over the growing number of obstacles to obtaining
reliable information about U.S. military-related programs in the region.
charged that the administration of President George W. Bush (news - web sites)
has tried systematically to repeal a number of Congressional mandates to report
on military training, joint exercises, and equipment that Washington provides
to Latin American countries, calling such requirements "overly burdensome"
or of "minimal utility."
the most part, Congress has resisted the administration's pressure, but, in a
number of cases, the administration has moved training programs from the State
Department to the Pentagon (news - web sites), whose $400 billion annual budget
makes oversight much more difficult.
Pentagon control not only effectively reduces the amount of information the
administration is required to produce but also transfers jurisdiction for their
oversight to Congressional committees that are less attuned to foreign policy
priorities, human rights, and civilian control over militaries. It also reduces
the State Department's leverage.
tendency to fund security assistance programs directly through the Defense
Department is making the State Department increasingly irrelevant to important
foreign policy interactions," said Joy Olson, the director of the
Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA). She noted that civilian control of the
Latin American militaries has long been weak.
the militarization of U.S. aid in Latin America actually began under former
President Bill Clinton (news - web sites)--particularly with the launch of Plan
Colombia in 2000--trends established then have become more pronounced under
Bush, the report found.
alarming, according to the report, is the sharp rise in military aid as a
proportion of all U.S. assistance for the region.
fiscal year 2004, which begins October 1, the administration has requested a
total of $874 million in military and police aid for Latin America compared to
a total of $946 million in aid for economic and social programs.
during the height of the Cold War, military and police aid to the region were
generally less than half as great as economic and social levels. Indeed,
despite the rise in the region's poverty rate to well over 40 percent since
2001, Washington has actually reduced its economic aid in the same period.
the enormous quantity of military aid to Colombia--$605 million in 2003 and
$553 million requested for 2004 compared to $137 million and $136 million in
economic and social aid, respectively--naturally skews the balance, a number of
other countries receive or will soon receive more security-related aid than social
and economic assistance.
for example, is slated to receive about $21 million in military and security
assistance next year, slightly more than it will receive in social and economic
aid. The Bush administration plans to reduce the economic aid Ecuador receives
from $46 million to $40 million, while raising its military and security
assistance from $30 million to $49 million.
similar reversal is planned for Panama, which is to get $14 million and $13
million for military aid and economic assistance, respectively, while the
balance for Mexican aid will be particularly spectacular: military aid is
slated to almost double from $27 million to $52 million--$20 million more than
what it will get in economic aid. Costa Rica too will receive more security
assistance than economic aid, continuing a trend that began in 1999.
Peru, economic aid will be down more than 20 percent--from $147 million to $115
million--while military aid will increase by ten percent, to $71 million.
report notes that over half of all U.S. military and security aid and trainings
in Latin America is attributed to counter-narcotics work by security agencies.
But it stresses that this distinction is increasingly unimportant as the U.S.
blurs the line, especially in Colombia, between counter-insurgency and
counter-narcotics. Indeed, most of the training for counter-narcotics programs
are directly applicable to counter-insurgency work as well.
of all U.S. military training is now also paid through the defense budget
rather than the foreign-aid budget, according to the report, which stressed
that Pentagon programs are not subject to the same human rights and democracy
provisions as required by the foreign-aid bill.
report also found that the Pentagon is training an increasing number of police
in Latin America, including those, like Panama and Costa Rica, that have no
military institutions, as well as those, like Peru, which do.