HomeNewsAnalysisUS Congress Rejects Trump Proposals to Slash Latin America Security Aid
ANALYSIS

US Congress Rejects Trump Proposals to Slash Latin America Security Aid

COLOMBIA / 9 FEB 2018 BY ANGELIKA ALBALADEJO EN

A new analysis suggests the US congress is poised to push back against President Donald Trump’s proposals for massive cuts in security aid to Latin America, adding to mixed messaging from Washington that is causing uncertainty for regional partners.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the legislature’s in-house research arm, recently published a report analyzing the differences between the Trump administration’s budget proposal and those of the Senate and House of Representatives when it comes to US assistance for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Trump’s budget proposal, released in May 2017, would decrease overall foreign aid to Latin America and the Caribbean from $1.7 billion in 2017 to $1.09 billion for 2018, a reduction of 36 percent that would bring regional funding to its lowest level since 2001.

The CRS report highlights that the dramatic proposed reductions are part of Trump’s so-called “America First” foreign policy, which aims to reduce foreign assistance across the board while refocusing aid toward “US domestic concerns, such as irregular migration and transnational crime.”

However, the report notes that when it comes to aid to Latin America, “congressional priorities appear to differ from those of the Trump administration in several respects.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

For example, the House and Senate appropriations bills propose some slight cuts in aid to Colombia, Mexico and Central America that are nonetheless significantly higher than the administration’s proposed funding levels.

In the case of Colombia, the Trump administration requested $251 million to support the country’s peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). The request represents a reduction of more than one-third compared to 2017 funding levels. The House, on the other hand, would provide $336 million — a 14 percent reduction — and the Senate would provide $391 million, the same amount as in 2017.

When it comes to security and rule of law efforts in Mexico, the Trump administration again requested cutting aid by more than one-third, from $139 million to $88 million. In contrast, the House bill would cut just $2 million, and the Senate bill would provide $144 million — $5 million more than in 2017.

Trump requested a 30 percent reduction in the budget for the US “Strategy for Engagement in Central America,” from $655 million to $460 million. The House would provide $615 million, a reduction of 6 percent. The Senate would provide $600 million, an 8 percent drop compared to 2017.

Although the House and Senate are unlikely to cut funds to the extent that Trump’s administration has requested, according to the CRS report, these proposals to “scale back US assistance could have significant implications for US policy in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The report argues that Trump’s proposal to slash assistance could lead to a “decline in US influence in the region.” In addition, the author writes that the cuts could lead to the Defense Department taking on a larger role in security cooperation, which some experts have warned could result in negative outcomes.

InSight Crime Analysis

The congressional pushback against Trump’s request for huge cuts in aid to Latin America underscores the challenges the administration has faced in establishing a coherent strategy for working with regional partners on security issues.

Trump’s calls to slash aid are likely aimed at appealing to his domestic political base. But the approach could risk further alienating important partner countries.

For example, last week, Trump threatened to stop providing aid to Mexico and the Central American nations of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala “if they can’t stop drugs from coming in.”

As InSight Crime has previously noted, large cuts in aid could prove detrimental to efforts aimed at improving security conditions in these crime-wracked countries. Moreover, these consistent threats have raised concerns among key allies — most recently Honduras — regarding the future of security cooperation with the United States.

SEE ALSO: Trump Stumbles on Latin America Security

But in spite of Trump’s aggressive rhetoric, Ben Raderstorf, a program associate for the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, told InSight Crime that “there never was a chance of significant cuts on the scale the Trump administration requested.”

“Nothing seismic” is expected to happen to 2018 aid for Colombia, Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of Central America because the US Congress widely supports these existing programs, Raderstorf said.

“The vast majority, if not all of [the assistance programs for these countries], have pretty strong defenders on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle, particularly Central America and Colombia,” he said.

Lisa Haugaard, the executive director of the Latin America Working Group, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization, agreed that assistance will remain relatively stable despite the slight cuts propsed by congress. However, Haugaard suggested that although Trump’s first budget proposal was rejected by the legislature, the 2019 budget — expected to be presented next week — may “reflect actual administration priorities” that could shake up aid.

“For the first round it was more hot air than dramatic restructuring of assistance. The question is what happens from now on,” Haugaard said.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

COSTA RICA / 23 AUG 2011

On a visit to Mexico, Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla signed agreements with her counterpart Felipe Calderon to strengthen the…

BARRIO 18 / 30 MAR 2016

El Salvador's government is pushing ahead with measures to get tough on gangs despite a drop in killings over the…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 APR 2011

As Mexican cartels infiltrate Central America, corrupt elements within the region’s militaries from places like Honduras are providing them with…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…