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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Official launch of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative

The Obama Administration has been working this spring to put its own stamp on security and counternarcotics programs for Latin America. This is starting to come together as four initiatives: the Mérida, Caribbean Basin Security, Central American Regional Security, and Colombian Security Development Initiatives. By covering several different regions of Latin America, the Obama administration believes it will "mitigate any 'balloon effect' - criminal spillover resulting from successful reductions in drug trafficking and transnational crime elsewhere in the region."

To underscore one of the goals of the Obama Administration's approach to security in the region, the State Department released a new fact sheet today on "Citizen Safety in the Western Hemisphere." The fact sheet stresses the president's commitment to working with the region, "creating practical partnerships in the hemisphere to advance shared interests and protect our citizens." The approach to citizen security that the four above-mentioned initiatives encompass includes:

  • Emphasizing the need for comprehensive, evidence-based strategies that address underlying causes, not just symptoms;
  • Recognizing that the absence of citizen safety undermines efforts to promote equitable economic growth and social opportunity, secure and clean sources of energy, and the strong democratic institutions needed for effective and accountable governance; and
  • Focusing on making advances in citizen safety at the neighborhood level while simultaneously countering emerging transnational threats.

A State Department fact sheet on the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) released late last week cites three key objectives of this initiative: 1) substantially reduce illicit trafficking; 2) increase public safety and security; and 3) promote social justice. The new initiative was formally launched today at the inaugural U.S.-Caribbean Security Dialogue in Washington.

The meeting was attended by high-level representatives from 15 Caribbean Community countries, the Dominican Republic, and other non-Caribbean observer nations. According to the State Department's release announcing this meeting, "in addition to law enforcement cooperation, partnership activities will include important elements of judicial reform, as well as development and education components intended to provide at-risk youth of the region with improved prospects for social and economic inclusion."

At the meeting, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela told officials that "security must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas." The Assistant Secretary continued to note that the initiative's success "'will require the allocation of adequate resources for enhanced law enforcement and prevention programs' as well as judicial reforms," according to AFP coverage of the meeting.

In the 2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, Congress allocated "not less than $37 million" for CBSI, though in various platforms, the State Department has emphasized that it is "fully committed" to fund the President's $45 million request for 2010. The President asked for an additional $79 million for CBSI in his 2011 budget request. According to the Congressional Budget Justification for Fiscal Year 2011, of the $79 million, $17 million would be used economic and social assistance and $62 million for military and police assistance, though a detailed breakdown has yet to be released indicating how much each of the 15 countries in the Caribbean region will receive and, specifically, what it will pay for.

Though this meeting was previously scheduled, it coincides with the recent violence in Jamaica, as its government seeks to arrest and extradite to the United States one of its top drug lords, Christopher "Dudus" Coke. Over the past four days, violent clashes between the Jamaican security forces and armed gangs have resulted in over 50 deaths. Many analysts have linked the violence to "the government's risky tolerance of, and even collusion with, Coke and similar gang bosses who lord over Kingston neighborhoods." Others note that drug traffickers in Jamaica "fill a void left by the Jamaican government's inaction or negligence. They pay for basic services and hand out money. Jamaican youths, especially, complain of a lack of jobs or other opportunities that drives them into the gangs."

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said at today's U.S.-Caribbean meeting, "I take note of the challenges that Jamaica is facing." However, it is still unclear whether the Obama administration's initiatives in the region will be able to truly address the underlying social, economic and political problems that allow drug traffickers like "Dudus" Coke to function with impunity and prosper in the region.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toward a Fresh Start? Obama’s Response to Haiti & the Budget for Latin America

This is cross-posted from the Latin America Working Group's blog, the LAWG Blog. It was written by Lisa Haugaard.

We charitably termed the Obama Administration’s first year of Latin America policy a “false start.”  After the year was kicked off with a promising beginning with a rousing speech at the Summit of the Americas, a promise to close Guantanamo, the lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans, and some principled words on human rights to Colombian President Uribe, we had some hope for a new, less ideological, more people-centered approach to the region. As the year progressed, those hopes were dashed. But now we dare to hope again.

We hoped for the United States to stand up for human rights and democratic principles, but in a fair-minded way, not based on whether or not a government was considered a close ally. We hoped for our country to uphold the same human rights standards we asked of others. We hoped for a reshaping of U.S. aid to focus generously on human needs, like health care and small-scale development for the poorest communities and humanitarian aid for those displaced by war and natural disaster—rather than military aid. We presented these ideas to the administration in letters, petitions, reports and meetings (and we give this administration credit for its open door for meetings). But our hopes were dashed by the administration’s failure to take a strong enough stance towards the coup in Honduras, the roll out of a major base agreement with Colombia, an aid budget that mirrored the Bush Administration’s, and the decision to give a free pass to Mexico and Colombia on the human rights requirements attached to military aid.

Now we are looking for signs that the Obama Administration—with its top officials finally in place for Latin America and human rights—is ready for a fresh start to the region.

The administration’s response to the Haitian earthquake and, to a lesser extent, its fiscal year 2011 budget may be signs of steps in the right direction. 

Haiti. The U.S. government responded in a committed fashion to the Haitian tragedy, mobilizing emergency aid, extending Temporary Protected Status to Haitians currently in the United States, and announcing that the U.S. Treasury will work to encourage cancellation of all of Haiti’s multilateral debts. There are and will be problems, but the effort so far has been swift and generous. Now the question is what next. We are calling for at least $3 billion in U.S. relief and reconstruction aid, for a Haitian-led recovery. The White House has not yet announced how much it will ask Congress to commit to Haitian reconstruction, and since it is not included in the budget, will have to ask for a “supplemental” bill to be approved. We expect the White House will do this soon.

Budget. In the FY2011 foreign operations budget the White House unveiled, we’re beginning to see the faint outline of the administration’s own stamp on a U.S. approach to the region. (The foreign operations budget funds most foreign aid, both military and economic, though increasing amounts of military aid now are included in the defense budget.) We’re not seeing a real departure, but there are certain glimmers of hope.


Glimmers of hope:

  • U.S. military aid to the region declines. The administration has requested $742 million in military aid to the region in the foreign operations budget, compared to $1.1 billion the previous year. Watch out, though: We don’t yet know what’s in the defense budget for Latin America. We need to see if that increases.
  • U.S. aid to Mexico no longer includes helicopters and planes for the army. Military aid to Mexico has declined as the big-ticket items promised as a part of the Merida Initiative have already been appropriated—the main reason for the overall decline in military spending for the region. Aid for the justice sector and police reform and oversight continues. Watch out, though: We need to know what’s in the defense budget, we need to be sure there’s not more helicopters in a supplemental bill, and we need to know how the $8 million in foreign military financing for Mexico included in the budget will be spent.
  • There’s a sizeable cut for hard-side counternarcotics assistance to Colombia. The budget cuts this by $44 million, saying it’s time for Colombia to finance these programs by itself. We hope what is being cut is the controversial, inhumane, ineffective and environmentally damaging aerial spraying program.
  • Economic assistance stays level and will increase with Haiti. The budget slightly increases economic aid for the region by $20 million, from $1.415 billion in the 2010 request to $1.435 billion in 2011. However, this total will go way up if a supplemental bill for Haiti is passed, changing dramatically, in numbers, the overall balance of military vs. economic aid to the region. We will need to see the more detailed documents that are released weeks after the sketchy overall budget to know more about how this is spent, but some positive developments in U.S. aid worldwide are a greater focus on programs for food security and climate change, and continued high priority for global health programs. Watch out, though:  We need to make sure that the already limited U.S. development and humanitarian aid for Latin America is not cut to make room for aid to Haiti.

Reasons not to be cheerful:

  • Militarization of economic assistance, the Pentagon as the face of the United States in Latin America. The cuts in military aid mentioned above are not enough to change these trends. We’re also worried about the movement towards military-led economic assistance, most notably in Colombia (and a factor to watch in Haiti, though there is an appropriate role for the military in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster).
  • Military aid to Colombia remains high despite human rights abuses. We were disappointed to see that the administration cut military aid to Colombia by only 3.5 million, to a still-massive $51.5 million in the foreign operations budget alone.
  • The defense budget contains more military aid. We can’t judge the overall trends until we get more information about what’s in the defense budget, not just the foreign operations budget. And military aid in the defense budget is always far too untransparent and unaccountable to the public.
  • The migration and refugee spending for Latin America declined. Why, oh why, did the Obama Administration do this? Spending for the refugee crisis from the Colombian conflict is never anywhere near adequate, and the administration has inexplicably cut the Western Hemisphere budget from $48.5 million to $37 million. Congress must fix this.

Check out Adam Isacson’s slideshow on the budget & Latin America on the joint CIP/LAWGEF/WOLA “Just the Facts” website which monitors trends on U.S. military aid & policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. See also his blog noting that the main change in the budget is Mexico and Colombia. “We need not lament that the tempo of helicopter-buying for Mexico and Colombia has slowed, and we note that economic and social assistance is holding remarkably steady despite the Millennium Challenge program’s decline in the region,” he concludes.

Let’s hope that these glimmers of change in the budget and the immediate, generous response to Haitian relief mean that we will see some real movement towards a more caring, just, and people-centered approach towards our neighbors. We are waiting!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Minus Colombia and Mexico, a much different picture

The drop in aid to Latin America foreseen in the Obama administration's 2011 aid request to Congress, issued a week ago, has caused a minor stir in the region's media. Typical is this opening sentence in Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer's Sunday column.

If President Barack Obama's foreign aid budget request for 2011 is a reflection of his priorities in world affairs, it looks like the president is saying "adios" to Latin America.

A look at the region as a whole does reveal U.S. aid declining sharply in the hemisphere, by 15 percent from 2010 to 2011. A region-wide view also makes 2011 appear to be the least militarized aid package since 2001; the ratio of economic and military aid would approach 2:1 for the first time in ten years.

(As always, do keep in mind that we're looking only at assistance in the foreign aid budget here. The U.S. defense budget also provides military aid to the region, much of it for counter-narcotics programs, which normally increases the military-aid total by about one-quarter to one-third. The Defense Department does not have to report its aid expenditures, however, until the year after it spends the money.)

The picture changes dramatically, however, if you remove just two countries: Mexico and Colombia. These two countries:

  • are the number-one and number-two recipients of U.S. aid;
  • account for more than two-thirds of all military and police aid to the region;
  • have been the recipients of mostly military U.S. aid packages big enough to get their own "brand names:" the Mérida Initiative in Mexico, and Plan Colombia in Colombia; and
  • both would see aid cuts — with almost all of the reductions coming from military aid — as both "brand-name" aid programs exit their "delivery of big expensive helicopters and other military equipment" phase.

Here is the same chart as above, leaving out Mexico and Colombia. The difference is striking.

When Mexico and Colombia are removed from the equation, aid to the rest of the region follows a different trend.

  • Total aid actually increases from 2010 to 2011. The only reason 2009 is higher than 2011 is that it included the Millennium Challenge program, which provided much aid to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras that year (despite cutoffs to the latter two) and has not gone on to aid other Latin American countries.
  • The aid is far less military in nature, with military and police aid making up less than one-sixth of all aid in the foreign aid bill. However, it becomes slightly more military from 2009 to 2011, with the economic-to-military aid ratio slipping from over 6:1 to just barely over 5:1. The main reason for this is the Obama administration's launch of a new Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, an anti-crime and anti-drug program in the Caribbean.
  • The 2010 bar on these graphs will grow taller. Economic aid — and, as a result, overall aid — will grow by hundreds of millions of dollars once the administration requests, and Congress approves, a special "supplemental" aid appropriation to help Haiti rebuild from the January 12 earthquake. The amount of this additional 2010 aid is not yet known, as the request has not yet been issued.

Look at the aid this way, and it's pretty clear that nobody is saying "adiós" to anybody. We need not lament that the tempo of helicopter-buying for Mexico and Colombia has slowed, and we note that economic and social assistance is holding remarkably steady despite the Millennium Challenge program's decline in the region.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: What is it?

The Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2011 foreign aid request, submitted to Congress earlier this week, includes a new counternarcotics and security initiative: the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

Here is what we know about the CBSI so far:

  • It is a "multiyear, multifaceted effort by the U.S. Government and Caribbean partners to develop a joint regional citizen safety strategy to tackle the full range of security and criminal threats to the Caribbean Basin," according to the Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request. The International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL) Program and Budget Guide for FY2010 says the initiative will be a 5-year program. (Download the Program and Budget Guide here)
  • Developing the CBSI "became a priority as the Mérida Initiative began yielding positive results in Mexico and Central America, making the Caribbean an increasingly attractive transit zone for transnational organized criminals, terrorists and illicit traffickers."
  • The CBSI was first announced by President Obama at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009.
  • Fifteen countries of the Caribbean Basin are included in the CBSI: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Funding for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will come out of the Development Assistance, Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Foreign Military Financing accounts. So far, the CBSI budget for FY2010 and FY2011 looks like this:
      • In the FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, Congress appropriated "not less than $37 million" for the initiative "to provide equipment and training to combat drug trafficking and related violence and organized crime, and for judicial reform, institution building, education, anti-corruption, rule of law activities, and maritime security." Congress specifies that at least $21.1 million of that amount should be used for social justice and education programs.
      • For FY2010, the INL Program and Budget Guide allocates $6,365,000 for the initiative, which comes from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement accounts. The FY2010 allocation is described as "an investment" in anticipation of the program's official launch in FY2011. This INL funding is broken down into $715,000 for "Caribbean Training and Logistical Team Support," $2,325,000 for combating money laundering, and $3,325,000 for legislative function and process programs. (More details about the program from the Program and Budget Guide can be found here.)
      • The Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request allocates just under $73 million in both military and economic aid to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: $37,463,000 for INL, $18,160,000 for Foreign Military Financing, and $17,000,000 for the Economic Support Fund.
  • The FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill requires the Secretary of State to submit a spending plan for the initiative to the Committees on Appropriations by January 29, 2010. The report includes a "detailed plan for funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the countries of the Caribbean Basin by this Act, with concrete goals, actions to be taken, budget proposals, and anticipated results."
  • The CBSI will eventually include a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, deployed to the region. The INL Program and Budget Guide reads:

    Caribbean Training and Logistical Support Teams will provide a platform for leading U.S. engagement and support for maritime interdiction in the Caribbean. Teams will deploy to the region to provide training, logistical and maintenance support. The primary goal for these teams is to provide onsite support until a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, can be deployed to provide those services. That vessel will foster international cooperation by offering the opportunity for a diverse, international and joint/interagency crew to work together and support all of the cooperating countries in the Caribbean. The Caribbean support vessel will deliver a total support package including a mobile professional training program and maintenance team with potential for shops, tools, technicians, and limited onboard classroom/berthing/messing for students. Additionally, it may provide a centralized supply source for standard spare parts, turn-in items, etc., and will have the capability to deliver cargo.

  • The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the CBSI in early December 2009. The transcript of the hearing can be downloaded as a PDF here. Written testimonies by each of the witnesses and a webcast are also available online.

    During his opening remarks, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said:

    I also believe that we need to take a holistic view of the entire region when we begin implementing CBSI. I am very concerned that if we do not act quickly to bolster our friends in the Caribbean, the positive impact of the Merida Initiative in Mexico and Central America will push the drug trade further into the Caribbean and increase the already alarming rates of violence.
    ...
    CBSI was announced at the Summit last April, there have been three meetings held on this initiative. Initial U.S.-Caribbean meetings were held in Suriname, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic in 2009, and a ministerial meeting is expected to take place in Washington in early 2010 at which a political declaration, action plan, and framework for the CBSI will be adopted.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The 2011 foreign aid request

Lea una versión de este artículo en español.

This afternoon, the Obama administration made public its 2011 budget request to Congress, including its proposal for next year's foreign assistance. This is the first "real" foreign aid request for an administration that had barely arrived in power a year ago.

Congress will use this request as the guideline for its State and Foreign Operations budget funding bill, which provides about three-quarters of all military and police assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. (The Defense budget bill provides nearly all of the rest.)

The Obama administration's foreign aid request differs significantly, if not radically, from what came before. For Latin America, the difference is notable, as this slideshow indicates.

2011 Foreign Ops

Here are a few things we've observed after entering the new aid numbers into the "Just the Facts" database (notice that most tables now include the year 2011).

  • A sharp decrease in military and police assistance, while economic aid levels hold steady. Two-thirds of this request is non-military aid. (Keep in mind, though, that additional military aid comes through the Defense budget.)
  • Reductions for the region's two largest aid recipients, Mexico (-30%) and Colombia (-11%). With most equipment deliveries already funded, the "Mérida Initiative" is winding down. Similarly, "Plan Colombia" programs are increasingly being turned over to Colombia. Most of Colombia's aid cut comes from the State Department-managed International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account, which funds the aerial fumigation program and the maintenance of aircraft belonging to the Colombian security forces.
  • Notable increases in assistance, both military and economic, to Central America.
  • No major increase yet in aid to earthquake-battered Haiti; after donors' conferences conclude, more Haiti aid will likely be included in a supplemental request for 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Pentagon's military aid role grows

Since we began the "Just the Facts" project in the 1990s, a constant theme has been the Defense Department's steadily growing role in assigning military aid. First for the "war on drugs," later for the "war on terror," the Pentagon has accrued ever greater authorities to use part of its $664 billion annual budget to aid foreign military forces.

This is undesirable for several reasons.

  • It weakens the State Department's role in determining which militaries get how much aid. Because is designed to consider and protect all U.S. interests in a country — not just security but development, diplomatic relations, democracy, human rights, environmental protection and others — the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act placed the State Department in charge of foreign aid, including security assistance. Routing such aid through the Defense budget reduces the State Department's authority.
  • It weakens congressional oversight, including human rights protections. The congressional committees that authorize and fund State Department-managed military assistance oversee a $50 billion annual budget that gets significant scrutiny, since foreign aid is not politically popular in the United States. Aid that goes through the regular foreign aid budget channel is subject to conditions — including important human rights protections — and must be reported to Congress and the public. This website's database depends heavily on these reports. By contrast, aid that goes through the enormous defense budget is an almost invisible fraction of the total, and receives little scrutiny from the relevant committees.
  • It gives the Pentagon a greater diplomatic role. Giving the Defense Department significant autonomy over aid to foreign militaries can bring about situations in which military-to-military ties with a country are stronger than diplomatic ties.

The biggest leap forward in Defense budget military aid came in 2006, when Section 1206 of that year's National Defense Authorization Act created a new program authorizing the Pentagon to use $200 million of its budget to "train and equip" foreign militaries and police. This program, known simply as "Section 1206," closely resembled the State Department-run Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, and was supposed to expire at the end of 2007. It was extended through 2008 and raised to $300 million, then extended again through 2011 and raised to $350 million. The 2011 Defense budget request will reportedly include a proposal to increase the 1206 program budget to $500 million in 2011. Between 2006 and 2008 — the years for which we currently have data — Section 1206 was the fifth-largest source of U.S. military assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Now, as the Obama administration prepares to send Congress its 2011 budget request, the future of the Section 1206 program, which would expire at the end of that year, is a topic of much internal debate. 

This is evidenced by a letter (PDF) Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on December 15. The letter proposes that the two departments pool their funds for military and police aid — but also economic development assistance — in three areas: security capacity-building, stabilization and conflict prevention. These pools, which Gates calls "Shared Responsibility, Pooled Resources" or SRPR, would require "dual-key" approval for expenditure of funds. (The analogy refers to a door or vehicle that requires two people to turn keys in order to unlock or start it.)

Each pool would operate with joint formulation requirements in the field and dual-key concurrence in Washington, DC. Legislation would endow these funds with inherent authority to achieve their purposes. Each department would be able to add funds to the pool to meet a departmental imperative, although the use of these funds would be subject to the dual-key approval requirements.

A "dual key" process is preferable to the Pentagon having autonomy to carry out its own security assistance policy. However, if made permanent this proposal would be a defeat for the State Department, which until recently was the only "keyholder." Since at least the 1990s, though, the State Department has not been assigned the resources needed to do the job on its own, while the Defense Department has. This proposal would make that reality permanent, irreversibly solidifying the Defense Department's foreign assistance role.

The Bush administration's secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, consistently yielded to the Defense Department on the Section 1206 jurisdiction issue. Secretary Clinton's department, on the other hand, has sought to re-take some of the lost turf. However, a January 20 post to Foreign Policy magazine's diplomacy blog, "The Cable," indicates that the State Department already gave in to the Defense Department's request to increase the Section 1206 budget to $500 million in 2011.

"That literally is the result of vigorous arm wrestling within the administration," one source familiar with the discussions said. The battle had been waged primarily between the shops of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, but finally Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew got involved.

"Eventually State backed off," the source said. "They're not sure they have the capacity to actually run the 1206 programs." …

Insiders working on the issue also suggested that State didn't match up bureaucratically inside the fight. The Pentagon just has so many more people and resources to bring to bear, and besides, the State Department's strategy review, the QDDR, isn't complete.

Meanwhile, "The Cable" says, the Gates proposal for a jointly administered SRPR pool does not, for now, appear to be going anywhere.

[Capitol] Hill staffers, who would be the ones appropriating the money, said there was no follow-through. Many saw the memo as a decoy and not really operative in any sense.

The security-assistance turf battle is heating up in ways that will affect future assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. And it is taking place while the congressional foreign affairs committees consider a rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act that could change the picture still further. We can expect more flare-ups over the coming year. But given the Defense Department's larger budget, political capital and bargaining power, it will be difficult - not impossible, but difficult - to forestall an outcome that doesn't involve a greater U.S. military role in foreign aid.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FY2010 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations

Last week, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2010 (H.R. 3288) which combines provisions for six Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations.

One of the provisions included in the bill is the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations for FY2010 (Division F). This section funds U.S. foreign assistance programs, many of which are tracked on this website.

We have added the Latin America-relevant text of Division F of H.R. 3288 and its Conference Report (111-366) to the Just the Facts legislation page.

Highlights from the two documents are listed below.

  • A portion of the Development Assistance account must be used to provide "safe water for communities harmed by oil contamination in the northeastern region of Ecuador."
  • Of the funds appropriated to Colombia under the Economic Support Fund ($209,790,000), not less than $8,000,000 for Colombian refugees in neighboring countries; $45,000,000 for Colombian IDPs (internally displaced persons); and up to $15,000,000 for Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities.
  • The International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account creates a Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), extending the Mérida Initiative to the Caribbean region. The funds allocated to the CBSI are intended to "provide equipment and training to combat drug trafficking and related violence and organized crime, and for judicial reform, institution building, education, anti-corruption, rule of law activities, and maritime security."

    While this bill allocates "not less than $37,000,000" to this new initiative, it states that "not less than $21,100,000" of this amount "should be made available for social justice and education programs to include vocational training, workforce development and juvenile justice activities."

  • The Andean Counterdrug Program account is folded into the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account.
  • The conference report states that INCLE account funds for Colombia cannot be used for assistance for the Colombian Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), or any successor organization if the DAS is dismantled.
  • The heading of Section 7008 is changed to "Coups d'Etats." In previous appropriations bills, this section was titled "Military Coups," however, the conference committee notes in its report that "the previous title implied an unintended limitation of the provision's application."
  • Funds allocated to Colombia under Division F of Public Law 111-117 are capped at $521,880,000, while funds allocated to Mexico under the INCLE, Foreign Military Financing, and Economic Support Fund accounts are capped at $210,250,000. This allocation for Mexico for FY2010 is substantially lower than the State Department's FY2010 request ($481 million), though the difference was already covered by an earlier allocation in the FY2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act of $420 million.
  • The human rights conditions placed on aid to both Mexico and Central America in the Fiscal Year 2009 State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act will apply to Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations.

    In reference to the Mexico human rights certification document submitted to Congress by the State Department over the summer, the Conference Committee noted in their report that

    "The conferees are concerned that the report submitted pursuant to section 1406(b) of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-252) and section 7045(e)(I) of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-8) relating to human rights in Mexico did not include the requisite findings by the Secretary of State that the Government of Mexico had met the requirements in the law. The conferees remain concerned with the lack of progress on these issues, and the lack of transparency in cases involving allegations against Mexican military personnel, and direct that future reports submitted pursuant to section 7045(e)(2) of this Act include the necessary findings."

  • The FY2009 Appropriations Act does not give us specific amounts for allocations under all accounts, nor does it give us details for every country in the region. However, the Conference Report does provide us with some numbers for the Economic Support Fund, INCLE and Foreign Military Financing accounts. Below is a table comparing the FY2010 numbers as appropriated in H.R. 3288 to the number requested in the State Department's FY2010 Congressional Budget Justification. As can be seen below, the FY2010 allocation for Mexico under the INCLE account is substantially lower than that requested by the State Department ($269 million less), while the allocation under the Economic Support Fund for Mexico is $12 million more than the requested amount.
  • Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Two reports, similar story

    In 2007, President George W. Bush announced the Mérida Initiative, a 3-year, $1.4 billion program, most of it military and police assistance, to help Mexico and Central America fight organized crime and narcotrafficking. Congress first appropriated funds to the Mérida Initiative in the Fiscal Year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill, and have since appropriated nearly $1.3 billion for the initiative.

    The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a branch of the U.S. Congress that audits and evaluates government policies, released a report (pdf) Thursday finding that as of September 30, 2009, only 2% of funds ($26 million) allocated to the Mérida Initiative since 2008 had been actually delivered. The report attributes the delay to three factors: "(1) statutory conditions on the funds, (2) challenges in fulfilling administrative procedures, and (3) the need to enhance institutional capacity on the part of both recipient countries and the United States to implement the assistance."

    Interestingly, in 2003, the GAO released a similar report on the status of assistance appropriated to Colombia under Plan Colombia from 2000-2003 (pdf). The report only covered the allocation of assistance appropriated in 2000 to the Colombian Army, much of which had been delivered by June 2003, though it highlights similar financial and management challenges.

    The most clear comparison between the two reports is the delay in delivering the helicopters provided under the two U.S.-funded programs. In the report on the Mérida Initiative, the time it takes for administrative procedures to be carried out, especially for the delivery of helicopters, was an important factor in slow delivery of Mérida assistance. The report cites one State Department official, who explains that "it typically takes between 3 to 6 months to negotiate and sign a contract for the provision of aircraft." Once the contract has been signed, it then takes another 12 to 18 months for a helicopter to be built, and 18-24 months for an airplane. Therefore, it would take anywhere from 15-24 months for a helicopter to be delivered. The report does say that the State Department expects five Bell helicopters to be delivered to Mexico sometime this month as a result of an attempt to expedite the process. Though it is noted that "the time lapse between funds being appropriated and a deliverable on the ground will still be about 18 months."

    The earlier report on Plan Colombia noted an even longer lag in the delivery of helicopters. President Bill Clinton signed the Plan Colombia appropriation into law in July 2000, yet the first Black Hawk helicopters were delivered between July and December 2001 and not operational until November 2002 "because of a shortage of fully qualified Colombian Army pilots." 25 UH-II helicopters were also to be delivered between November 2001 and June 2002, however, "they were delivered between March and November 2002 instead because the Colombian military was considering whether to use a more powerful engine in the helicopters than the one usually installed." Those helicopters were not operational until June 2003, again due to a lack of qualified pilots. The Colombian Army did not have the operational helicopters promised under Plan Colombia for almost two and a half years - a long delay that makes the 18 month lag in delivering helicopters to Mexico look like an improvement, though the problem with training could arise as it did in Colombia.

    Both reports also mentioned human rights conditions and a lack of institutional capacity as factors in the delay of aid delivery under these two prominent counternarcotics initiatives.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Honduras: steps taken so far

    (This post was written by CIP Associate Abigail Poe.)

    Following the June 28th coup in Honduras, the U.S. government did not immediately impose sanctions on the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti. Some aid was suspended, but few other steps were taken, with the argument that moving slowly preserved "leverage" on behalf of President Manuel Zelaya's return. However, after a last OAS mission to Honduras in late August failed to convince the de facto coup government to agree to the terms of the San Jose Accord, the United States has started to implement multiple sanctions.

    Below is a list of the sanctions that have been imposed by the United States on the de facto Honduran government to date, including details on the aid that has been officially terminated. In addition to the sanctions listed below, the State Department also released a statement indicating that "at this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections" on November 29 in Honduras.

    • $11 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) assistance to Honduras has been terminated, along with a hold on $4 million intended for a road project.
    • $9.4 million in USAID assistance has been terminated. This includes $8.7 million in development assistance and Economic Support Funds (ESF), which "go mainly toward trade capacity building and support for Honduran ministries of labor and education" and $2.7 million of the Child Survival and Health fund.
    • $8.96 million in State Department assistance has been terminated. This is broken into three parts: $6.5 million in Foreign Military Financing, $361,000 in International Military Education and Training and $1.72 million in Global Peacekeeping operations.
    • $1.7 million in section 1206 security assistance has been frozen.
    • Visas of a few members and supporters of the de facto regime have been revoked.
    • The nonimmigrant visa section in the consular section of the embassy in Honduras has been closed to all but emergency cases.
    • So far, the sanctions and threats to not recognize the results of the November 29th elections have not appeared to soften the Micheletti regime's opposition to the San Jose Accord and the subsequent return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power. Instead, Micheletti has expressed that he "is sure that the international community will recognize the regime formed from the coup d'etat on June 28, after the elections take place on November 29th."

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Merida Funds Released: Mexican NGOs Speak Out

    This was originally posted by Vanessa Kritzer and Jennifer Johnson on the Latin America Working Group's blog.

    We were disappointed and troubled to learn last week that the U.S. government had released the chunk of Merida Initiative funds that were supposed to have been withheld until the State Department reported that Mexico had demonstrated progress in key areas of human rights.

    Soon after the news of the release was confirmed, the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, and the Fundar Center for Analysis and Investigation, three prominent Mexican human rights NGOs, released a public statement condemning the U.S. government’s action, as the “human rights obligations remain unfulfilled as Mexican security forces commit widespread, unpunished violations against the civilian population.”

    Click here to read their statement in English.

    Para leer el pronunciamiento en Español haga clic aquí.

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who recently exercised his position as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations to freeze these funds, also issued a public statement expressing his deep disappointment that the State Department had “issued its report prematurely when there is so little progress to report.”

    Senator Leahy also remarked that the report issued by the State Department about the status of human rights in Mexico “is most notable for how little it says about the key issue - impunity within the Mexican military. It is well known that the military justice system is manifestly ineffective, and it is apparent that neither the Mexican government nor the State Department has treated human rights abuses by the military, which is engaging in an internal police function it is ill-suited for, as a priority since the law was enacted over a year ago…Reform of Mexico's dysfunctional judicial system…is critical to the success of the Merida Initiative and to addressing the culture of lawlessness that pervades Mexican society.”