2009 aid nears approval in Congress

Latin America and the Caribbean

The U.S. Congress is nearing completion of the 2009 federal budget. On Wednesday, the House passed the "omnibus" spending bill, which combines ten sections of the budget, with a recorded vote of 398 - 24. The Senate will take it up next week.

One of the bill's ten sections is the 2009 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act. This section funds U.S. foreign assistance programs, including most of the military, police and economic aid programs tracked on this website.

The House-Senate Conference Committee, which developed the omnibus bill, offers non-binding instructions for how Congress intends to see some of this foreign aid distributed, country by country. For some aid programs, the committee's narrative report includes recommended aid levels for specific contries.

Below is a table that compares the aid allocated in 2008, the 2009 budget request the Bush Administration issued in February 2008, and the 2009 budget provided in the omnibus spending bill. As can be seen, the 2009 aid bill is smaller than the Bush Administration request, but greater than that allocated in 2008.

The 2009 bill slices into the Bush Administration's request for the Mérida Initiative - allocating only $299 million in lieu of the $499 million requested. The budget justification states that the International Narcotics Control funding allocated to Mexico "does not provide or permit any funds to be used for the purchase or lease of UH-60 transport helicopters, equipment, training or related assistance; such funding will be considered at a later date."

Aid to Colombia remains close to the FY 2008 allocations, and below the higher, more military-focused request submitted by the Bush administration. A more detailed analysis of Colombia-specific aid provided by this bill can be seen on the Center for International Policy blog.

The new bill also allocates a greater percentage of foreign aid to economic and social aid programs than the Bush administration request would have done. In the Bush request, economic and social aid made up 26% of the total allocations, while the 2009 spending bill allocates 39% of the budget to economic and social aid. The amount of economic and social aid also increased from FY 2008 by $132.4 million - which is a factor in why this year's bill is higher than the 2008 bill.

On February 26, the Obama administration issued the broad outlines of its 2010 budget request. It calls for an overall increase in the foreign aid and diplomacy budget, but no details beyond that overall amount are expected until at least April.

FY 2009 Request
2009 - H.R.1105
Andean Counterdrug Program Bolivia 30,154 31,000 26,000
Brazil 992 1,000 1,000
Colombia 247,098 329,557 242,500
Ecuador 7,042 7,200 7,500
Panama 3,324 1,000 1,000
Peru 36,546 37,000 37,000
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Central America 19,800 0 70,000
Colombia 0 0 45,000
Dominican Republic 3,292 1,150 2,500
Haiti 11,202 15,000 2,500
Guatemala 11,720 5,320 3,000
Mexico 190,851 477,816 246,000
Foreign Military Financing Colombia 55,050 66,390 53,000
Guatemala 496 500 500
Haiti 982 1,600 2,800
Mexico 116,500 2,000 39,000
Western Hemisphere Regional 3,968 7,886 15,000
Development Assistance Brazil 9,983 5,000 15,000
Dominican Republic 12,403 20,700 25,700
Ecuador 9,855 22,585 26,585
Guatemala 18,067 28,795 29,000
Peru 10,911 53,293 63,293
Economic Support Fund Colombia 194,412 142,366 200,000
Haiti 62,881 84,200 121,250
Mexico 31,903 0 15,000
Central America 25,000 0 12,000