After the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, visited the White House, the South American government let out a sigh of relief. According to various sources, Donald Trump and Santos had an amicable conversation; both ensured to maintain the economic help, the bipartisan, and political support between the two countries. Revista Semana reported on the meeting and, despite some minor differences between Trump and Santos, they stated that it was positive. The Colombian magazine even titled the article “Trump behaved well”.
Aside from the political support, Santos wanted to have reassurance about the budget that the United States would invest on Peace Colombia –the previously named Plan Colombia– in the years to come. The good feelings after the meeting and the already approved budget for 2017 –US$450 million– were a sign of what could happen in 2018. The report of Revista Semana anticipated that, due to good relations between Colombia and the U.S and the promise of a valuable ally, Trump would strengthen the relation in the next years.
Four days passed after the meeting and the Colombian government faced a gamechanger. It seemed as if that Trump’s attitude at the meeting was just intended to give what seemed a small taste of confidence. On Tuesday, Trump presented the budget for 2018 and, surprisingly, Colombia had a reduction of 36% on its funding, the lowest in 20 years. The funding through the U.S. Economic Support Fund went from US$187 to US$105 million, and the International Narcotics Control aid dropped from US$143 to US$125 million.
After this reduction, Colombia, after being one of the Latin American countries with highest economic support from the U.S., took a tough blow on the peace and narcotics program. Miguel Ceballos, Colombian ex-vice minister of Justice, argued that, after seeing the poor results of anti-narcotic policies –coca crops increased in the last few years–, the reduction in budget was expected. After almost twenty years of the war on drugs, the U.S. government seems reluctant to maintain the same levels of economic commitment.
However, it’s important to realize that the reduction was a key element of Trump campaign and Colombia it’s not the only country affected by it. According to Arlene Ticknerm, professor at Universidad del Rosario, Trump’s proposed budget shows little interest in social and economic issues, and a focus on military spending all across Europe and Latin America. Being the biggest military ally in Latin America, there has to be a silver lining for Colombia in the next few years.
LatinAmerican Post | Juan Sebastian Torres