WASHINGTON - At a time when still-fragile civilian
are trying to consolidate their hold in Latin America, the United
pouring unprecedented amounts of aid and other forms of support to
region's armed forces, according to a new report released here
In the year 2000, Washington provided well over a billion dollars'
training, equipment, weapons and other kinds of support to Latin
military and police - almost twice as much as it provided the
bilateral development aid.
It marked the first time since the winding down of the civil wars
America that the United States supplied more military and security
assistance than economic or development aid, according to Adam
the Center for International Policy and co-author of the new
the Facts: A Civilian's Guide to US Defence and Security
Assistance to Latin
America and the Caribbean'.
Moreover, that trend looks likely to increase over the next two
least, especially in light of recent statements by senior
officials of the
incoming George W. Bush administration who have suggested that US
aid to Colombia's neighbours may figure high on their agenda as
carries through its US-backed army offensive into the southern
part of the
country to challenge guerrilla control there.
''If I were the neighbouring countries, I'd worry about the
well,'' warned Defence Department Secretary-Designate Donald
confirmation hearings here last week.
The new report, a close look at all US aid to military and police
the region, is the third in its annual series and covers mostly
culled from State Department, Drug Enforcement Administration
Pentagon documents. The Pentagon, which is not bound to disclose
much information about its training and other programmes as the
Department, released its relevant 2000 documents only in the past
after the report went to press.
''2000 was an especially busy year for the Pentagon in Latin
according to Isacson, who cited in particular the appropriation of
billion dollars in support of 'Plan Colombia,' the US-backed
reduce coca and opium production in southern Colombia by training
equipping the army and police to battle the leftist insurgency
controls much of the region where the plants are grown.
Under the plan, Washington provided some 950 million dollars in
police aid to Colombia alone, as well as tens of millions of
dollars more to
the armed forces of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, including the
of a key air base in Ecuador to be used by US spy planes, as well
Ecuadorean aircraft in Washington's ''war against drugs''.
Indeed, the same four countries - which constitute the drug war's
Zero'' - accounted for more than 90 percent of all military and
Washington provided to Latin America last year, according to Joy
second co-author and director of the independent Latin American
Group (LAWG) here.
Virtually all of the equipment and weapons supplied to Latin
countries are provided under Washington's counter-narcotics
But US military training in the region has also grown at a
in recent years, according to the report.
On the basis of recently released documents, the two co-authors
that Washington changed between 13,000 and 15,000 Latin American
police personnel in 1999 - up from about 10,000 the previous year.
they said, the total has almost certainly risen substantially
1999 level, as a result of the initiation of Plan Colombia which,
other things, called for the training of two new anti-drug
the Colombian army.
''The United States trains more military personnel from Latin
from East and South Asia, the Middle East, and the former Soviet
combined,'' said Olson.
Outside NATO, only South Korea, where Washington permanently
troops as a deterrent to North Korea, was to receive more military
than Colombia in 2000, she added.
In addition, the US military now provides training programmes to
country in the Americas except Cuba. ''The training programme in
America is huge,'' according to Olson, who also noted that more
US military personnel travelled to Latin America and the Caribbean
training and engagement in 1999.
Unlike US equipment, the training is not provided only by anti-
programmes, according to the report. In 1999, it said, US Special
trained with 3,600 Latin American and Caribbean troops under the
Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programme which, until the
largely escaped Congressional oversight. The training covered
ranging from air assault to sharp-shooting to riot control.
In addition, both the Pentagon and the State Department appear to
increasingly on private contractors, whose activities are subject
less regulation and oversight, to provide various services to
militaries, according to the report.
These include private corporations, such as Dyncorp, which
than 100 pilots, mechanics and other support staff to conduct
operations in Colombia during 1999 at a cost of some 37 million
Military Professional Resources International (MPRI), a Virginia-
of retired senior US military officers, which has trained the
of key US allies, including Croatia and Nigeria on behalf of the
All of these training programmes raise serious questions about
control, according to the authors. While the Pentagon has insisted
years that a primary mission of training is to teach the military
for civilian authority, the fact of the training itself is cited
recipient military as a ''US seal of approval'' in its dealings
government, ''whether it is intended or not'', said Isacson.
He also noted Washington's approval in principle last week of the
million dollar sale of 10-12 new F-16s to Chile as another
of US support for Latin American militaries. Not only did the move
25-year US ban on introducing high-performance warplanes to the
it also raised new questions about the power of the military. ''I
heard President (Ricardo) Lagos voice strong support for it,''
Annual US weapons sales to Latin America have generally not
million dollars in recent years, he said. The sale, which may not
concluded for a year or two, would triple that amount and possibly
pressures on other militaries to buy new systems as well,
The new report also dispels a number of misconceptions about US
activities. Despite the widespread belief that Mexico and the
reduced their fast-growing military ties following disclosures
embarrassed Mexico City in 1997, the report notes that training
remains substantially the same, and that the 73 helicopters that
returned to the US in 1999 have since been replaced by the
purchase of 73
It also noted that the School of the Americas (SOA), where
Latin American military officers, including dozens of notorious
abusers, received counter-insurgency training during the Cold War,
re-open this month under a new name, the Western Hemisphere
Security Co-operation. It remains unclear whether the curriculum
substantially changed, according to the
Copyright 2001 IPS