President Barack Obama’s proposed budget plan for fiscal year 2011 would decrease aid to Latin America by nearly 10 percent, mostly by cutting military and police support. Released on Monday, the plan—a blueprint of the president’s budget priorities that will now be debated in Congress—calls for economic development aid in the region to stay about the same, while aid for health programs would increase. Obama’s budget proposal increases overall spending by the State Department, with much of the proposed increase going toward programs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Colombia and Mexico, currently the largest recipients of U.S. aid in Latin America, would receive less funding in 2011 under Obama’s plan. Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew said the cuts represent the Plan Colombia and Merida Initiatives moving on to less costly phases. Most of the helicopters the U.S. promised Mexico to help counter drug cartels under the Merida Initiative, for example, have already been purchased.
"We are launching a new effort against gangs in Central America to support efforts here in the region ... including the social and economic forces that drive young people toward criminality," Obama said. He said it would help train security forces, strengthen courts and tackle underlying poverty.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "in 2008, total net official development assistance (ODA) from members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) rose by 10.2% in real terms to USD 119.8 billion. This is the highest dollar figure ever recorded."
The 2013 foreign operations aid request includes about $1.74 billion in new aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the lowest amount since 2007 and a 12% reduction from the estimated 2012 budget.
Economic and social aid to the region would decrease by 6% from 2012 to 2013
The economic and social aid programs that would receive more funds in 2013 than 2012 include the Development Assistance fund (5% increase), and the OAS Development Assistance Programs (22% increase).
Most of the economic and social aid programs, however, will decline from 2012 to 2013, including Migration and Refugee Assistance (12.4% decrease), Economic Support Fund (7% decrease), Global Health (11% decrease), and the Inter-American Foundation (20% decrease).
U.S. Agency for International Development plans to distribute $1.8 billion in aid in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next two years
"Latin America is only going to become more important to the United States, especially to our economy," the president said after a meeting and news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera. "Trade between the United States and Latin America has surged. We buy more of your goods and products than any other country, and we invest more in this region than any other country…. In other words, when Latin America is more prosperous, the United States is more prosperous.
"Obviously," Obama said, "the history of relations between the United States and Latin America have at times been extremely rocky and have at times been difficult. I think it's important, though, for us, even as we understand our history and gain clarity about our history, that we're not trapped by our history.
"And the fact of the matter is, is that over the last two decades we've seen extraordinary progress here in Chile, and that has not been impeded by the United States but, in fact, has been fully supported by the United States."
The region is set to grow by more than 4 percent this year. Brazil, the regional powerhouse, grew 7.5 percent last year. Every $1 billion dollars the U.S. exports to Latin America represents 5,000 jobs in America. “The impressive growth that we've seen in Latin America in recent years is good for the people of the hemisphere, and it's good for us,” Obama wrote