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Time to Listen: Trends in U.S. Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean

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 The United States’ diplomatic influence is ebbing in Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. military influence, though, remains strong. The result is inertia, a policy on autopilot, focused on security threats and capabilities at a time when creativity is badly needed.

This new report finds that U.S. assistance has dropped near the lowest levels in more than a decade—about US$2.2 billion foreseen for 2014. But dollar amounts are deceptive. While U.S. diplomatic efforts are flagging, other less transparent forms of military-to-military cooperation are on the rise. For example, the report finds that Special Operations Forces, whose budgets are not being cut as they re-deploy from Iraq and Afghanistan, are visiting Latin America more frequently for joint training in war-fighting skills, intelligence gathering, and other military missions.

Despite calls in Latin America for a change in drug policy, today, the vast majority of U.S. security assistance continues to flow through counter-drug funding programs: eradicating the crops of the poorest, transferring weapons and lethal skills to institutions with recent records of human rights abuse, and increasingly with direct participation in interdiction operations—some of them disturbingly violent—on other countries’ soil, especially in Central America and the Caribbean.

Time to Listen is a product of the “Just the Facts” project (www.justf.org), a collaboration between CIP, LAWGEF, and WOLA dating back to 1997. Soon, the project’s name will change: the Center for International Policy, in partnership with several non-governmental partners, is taking “Just the Facts” global. The resource currently hosted at www.justf.org will become the Latin America section of Security Assistance Monitor at www.securityassistance.org, a site documenting U.S. security assistance to every region of the world.

Read our publication Time to Listen: Trends in U.S. Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean

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WOLA, LAWGEF, and CIP—three expert organizations—manage the “Just the Facts” project, which has monitored U.S. military and police aid to Latin America since 1997. Soon, the resource currently hosted at www.justf.org will become the Latin America section of Security Assistance Monitor atwww.securityassistance.org, and the project will go global, documenting U.S. security assistance to every region of the world. Stay tuned for its upcoming launch.