Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bloomberg News: U.S. Military Aid for Colombia may be on the decline somewhat from previous years, BUT...

U.S.-Colombia Defense Accord to Offset Drop in Aid, Uribe Says

February 05, 2010, 05:54 PM EST (This is from Bloomberg News)
By Alexander Cuadros

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S.-Colombia defense agreement signed last year will compensate for a proposed decline in U.S. assistance to its staunchest ally in Latin America, President Alvaro Uribe said.

The Obama administration’s $56.8 billion spending plan for the State Department, released this week, calls for reducing U.S. anti-narcotics assistance to Colombia by 9 percent to $460 million for the 2011 fiscal year from an estimated $507 million in 2010. Colombia in 2011 will likely receive additional aid from the Defense Department, which this year budgeted $160 million in assistance for the Andean country.

“We accept that the U.S. has a serious budget problem,” Uribe said in Bogota today, according to a transcript provided by the president’s office. “The declines in Plan Colombia will be compensated in some way, and Plan Colombia will in some way be extended, thanks to this cooperation agreement.”

Colombia in October signed a deal to allow the U.S. armed forces access to seven military bases to help fight drug trafficking and terrorism, after Ecuador refused to renew the U.S. lease at its Manta base.

Under Plan Colombia, the U.S. has provided more than $6 billion in mostly military aid since 2000 to reduce the outflow of cocaine and push back Latin America’s oldest guerrilla insurgency. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine and main supplier of the drug to the U.S.

“We have a challenge: to do more with less cash,” Uribe said.

--Editors: Joshua Goodman, Brendan Walsh