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Bush Budget Includes Big Increase for 'Plan Colombia', War on Drugs
Published on Tuesday, April 10, 2001 by Inter Press Service
Bush Budget Includes Big Increase for 'Plan Colombia', War on Drugs
by Jim Lobe
 
WASHINGTON, Apr 9 - The administration of President George W. Bush wants Congress to approve major increases in aid to Colombia and its neighbours in 2002 as part of the next level in its long war against drugs.

In particular, he's asking for a total of almost 800 million dollars in bilateral economic and security assistance for Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, and Panama, according to the fiscal year 2002 international-affairs budget submitted to Congress here Monday.

Plan Colombia
Colombian anti-narcotics soldiers fire with their U.S. machine guns in a demonstration at the Tres Esquinas military base in the country's southern jungle region, April 2, 2001. Tres Esquinas is the center of anti-narcotics operations in the country's $7.5 billion Plan Colombia.
REUTERS/Eliana Aponte
Aside from those big aid boosts, Bush appears to have opted for a policy of continuity in US aid priorities for fiscal 2002. He has decided to ask Congress, for example, to approve the same level of funding for UN and other multilateral agencies as had been committed by the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

That includes some of Clinton's more controversial commitments which have been opposed by Republicans in Congress, including 25 million dollars for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 107.5 million dollars for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and more than 90 million dollars for the Korea Energy Development Organisation (KEDO), which was created in a 1994 accord with North Korea which Bush has said he wants to review.

Although the total international affairs request - at just under 24 billion dollars - comes to about five percent more than what Congress approved for 2001, most of the difference derives from one-time investments in upgrading US embassies and the State Department's antiquated communications and information system.

To compensate for those costs, and increases in bilateral aid to South America, the administration has proposed reducing appropriations for Washington's export credit agencies (ECAs), the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

But US multinational businesses, the ECAs main clients, have pledged to fight those cuts and are mobilising their considerable lobbying resources to press Congress into restoring them.

The aid request submitted Monday will be taken up by Congress over the next four or five months. Although Bush is likely to have an easier time than Clinton, whose aid requests were often bitterly opposed by the Republican majority in Congress after 1994, it is unlikely that a final bill will be approved until just before the new fiscal year begins, Oct. 1, at the earliest.

In addition to the anticipated fight over ECA funding, some lawmakers, including Republicans, will clearly want to play with the numbers. The Senate, for example, voted for a resolution that favoured increasing funding to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by about 50 percent next year, to one billion dollars by 2003.

The State Department budget, by contrast, called for a ten percent increase in 2002 over the current level of some 460 million dollars.

As in years past, Israel and Egypt, which will receive some three billion dollars and 2.1 billion dollars, respectively, in economic and military aid, will be the biggest aid recipients under the new request.

Multilateral economic and development agencies, like the World Bank and the regional development banks, will also receive a big chunk of the total - about 1.4 billion dollars, including 186 million dollars in voluntary contributions to specialised UN agencies, such as UNFPA and the UN Development Programme (87.1 million dollars).

Despite Republican unhappiness with some UN peacekeeping operations, the administration also asked for full funding of all assessed contributions to UN operations, at 844 million dollars for 2002, as well as another 879 million dollars for assessed contributions to some 44 international organisations, including the United Nations.

Bilateral aid to Eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union will also remain constant under the new request, at 1.4 billion dollars, the same as this year, of which ten percent is earmarked for Yugoslavia, another 120 million dollars for Kosovo, and 45 million dollars for Macedonia where recent fighting between Albanian rebels and government forces evoked concerns about a new Balkan War.

The most startling increases, however, are to go to South America as part of the ''war against drugs''. Bush wants to provide 731 million dollars in new funding for the 'Andean Counterdrug Initiative' (ACI), a continuation of the 'Plan Colombia' to which Washington has already committed some 1.6 billion dollars.

Plan Colombia, a joint US-Colombian programme designed primarily to train, equip, and advise Bogota's military and police forces to take control of the major coca-growing region of Putumayo in southern Colombia and eradicate coca and opium poppy fields, has drawn strong expressions of concerns from most of Colombia's neighbours who fear the ''spillover'' effects of the US- backed campaign in the region.

The new aid plan appears designed to answer those concerns. Under ACI, Colombia is to receive 399 million dollars in 2002, of which 252.5 million will be used for interdiction and eradication, and 146.5 million dollars is to be used for alternative development programmes and aid to the Colombian justice system and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Peru, whose current aid level is only 48 million dollars, will receive 156 million dollars next year, Bolivia 101 million dollars, and 39 million dollars, all about equally divided between military and development aid, if Bush's plan is approved.

In addition, Ecuador will receive an additional 30 million dollars - up from five million dollars this year - in economic support to support structural reform, while Peru will get 10 million dollars for similar purposes, up from 2.2 million dollars this year.

Brazil is to receive 15 million dollars in drug-related assistance, Venezuela 10 million dollars; and Panama 11 million dollars. Those figures represent increases from two million dollars; 1.2 million dollars; and one million dollars, respectively.

Aside from the anti-drug effort, military training assistance is also set to increase by about 10 percent next year. While the total amount earmarked for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) comes to only 65 million dollars, Washington proposes to more than double IMET programmes for Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Yemen.

Foreign military financing (FMF), a programme which promotes arms transfers, will also increase from 3.6 billion dollars to 3.7 billion dollars under the new request.

Countries receiving major increases include Nigeria, which is slated to receive 10 million dollars; South Africa, six million dollars; the Philippines, 19 million dollars (up from 2 million dollars); Kazakhstan, 2.75 million dollars; Ukraine, 4.8 million dollars; the Caribbean region, 5.5 million dollars; and El Salvador, 3.5 million dollars.

Copyright 2001 IPS

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