Latin America in the 2014 foreign aid law

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was drafted by WOLA Program Assistant Ashley Davis.

Last month the U.S. Congress approved, and President Obama signed into law, a 2014 Omnibus appropriations bill, funding most of the federal government’s budget for the rest of the year. The bill includes funding for the State Department and foreign aid. Below are some highlights of how it affects aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

(The full text of the law can be found here. See “Division K: Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2014.” See also the explanatory statement (PDF, go to Division K) prepared by the House-Senate conference committee that resolved differences between both chambers’ versions of the bill. The Latin American highlights from the 2012 consolidated appropriations bill can be found here. For 2013, the Congress did not manage to approve a foreign aid bill; a “continuing resolution” maintained funding levels, and restrictions, that were laid out in the 2012 bill.)


Foreign Military Financing (FMF): in the bill’s explanatory statement, Congress specifies that $28 million should go to Colombia through FMF, the main non-drug military aid program in the foreign aid bill.

International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE): $149 million are mandated for Colombia from this program, which funds both military/police and economic/institution-building programs. INCLE in Colombia pays for coca eradication, drug interdiction, and judicial reform, among other priorities. The bill specifies that $10 million of the INCLE outlay should go to the Human Rights Unit of Colombia’s Attorney-General’s Office (Fiscalía).

Economic Support Fund (ESF): $141.5 million are earmarked for Colombia from this USAID-administered program, to continue alternative development and institution-building activities. Within this category, the bill specifies the following priorities and amounts.

  • Transfer to the State Department-administered Migration and Refugee Assistance account $7 million
  • Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities $15 million
  • Human rights program $6.5 million
  • Biodiversity $3 million
  • Children disabled by violence $500 thousand

As in previous years, the U.S. government has attached human rights conditions to Colombia aid, and will withhold 25 percent of assistance to Colombia’s armed forces (not police) until the State Department certifies that:

  1. Members of the Colombian military alleged to have committed human rights violations, or have aided or benefitted from illegal armed groups, are tried in civilian courts, and the military is cooperating with investigations;
  2. Paramilitary groups are being dismantled, the government is protecting the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and other social activists, as well as respecting the rights and territory of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities; and
  3. The government is investigating and punishing those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and is not offering amnesty to such persons.

All of the above conditions are similar to those of 2012–13. The Senate’s version of the conditions had included even stronger language: it would have frozen the aid even if a post-conflict framework tried abusers but suspended their sentences.

Additionally, this year 10 percent of funds appropriated to the Colombian national police for aerial drug eradication programs may not be used for aerial spraying of chemical herbicides until the State Department certifies that:

  1. Herbicides do not pose health risks or have adverse effects on humans (including pregnant women and children) or the environment; and
  2. The government will investigate any complaint that aerial spraying is harming licit crops, and fair compensation will be paid for such claims.


The bill appropriates $17.5 million for ESF programs in Cuba, but they cannot fund new programs or activities there. It will continue existing programs to support civil society in Cuba, like the activities for which USAID contractor Alan Gross continues to be imprisoned in Cuba.


As in the past, U.S. aid is withheld from the Guatemalan Army–as it has been since the early 1990s, though some aid flows to it through the Defense Department budget. However, it is worth noting that the language in the 2014 law has changed from an outright ban on aid to the Guatemalan Army, to having conditions pending a certification process. Nevertheless, assistance to the Army remains frozen unless the State Department certifies that the Guatemalan Army:

  1. Has a narrowly defined mission focused on border security and external threats, and a credible plan to end the army’s involvement in law enforcement (which does not look likely, as President Otto Perez Molina has expanded the military’s internal security role via the creation of Citizen Security Squads [Escuadrones de Seguridad Ciudadana], or groups of soldiers that patrol high-crime areas).
  2. Is cooperating with civilian investigations and prosecutions of human rights cases involving current and retired military officers, with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala; and provides the investigators timely access to witnesses, documents, forensic evidence, and other relevant information.
  3. Is publicly disclosing all military archival documents relating to the internal armed conflict in a timely matter.
  4. In addition, this year the bill explains that, “There is a concern with the failure of the Government of Guatemala to implement the Reparations Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam (April 2010),” and the government of Guatemala must take credible steps toward implementing this plan.

Also new to this bill is the withholding of all funds to the Guatemalan Armed Forces (from both the Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training programs) until the State Department certifies that the Guatemalan government has resolved all cases, or is making significant progress toward resolving all cases involving Guatemalan children and American adoptive parents that have been pending since 2007.

The law renews the $5 million in assistance to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN body that investigates illegal security groups and related corruption in Guatemala.


All assistance to the central Government of Haiti is frozen until the State Department certifies that:

  1. Haiti is taking steps to hold free and fair elections for a new parliament;
  2. The government is respecting judicial independence; and
  3. The government is combating corruption and improving governance, including passing the anti-corruption law, and implementing financial transparency and accountability requirements for government institutions.


The 2014 law not only maintains human rights conditionality that appeared in the 2012 bill, but increases the amount withheld, pending certification, from 20 to 35 percent of all assistance to the Honduran military and police. This aid will be frozen until the State Department certifies that:

  1. The Government of Honduras is reducing corruption, including by prosecuting and removing corrupt officials from office;
  2. The government is implementing agreements between the United States and Honduras concerning counter-narcotics operations, including assistance for innocent victims;
  3. Freedom of expression, association, assembly, and due process of law are protected, including in the conflictive Bajo Aguan Valley, the site of land disputes and attacks on activists; and
  4. Military and police alleged to have committed human rights violations including forced evictions, or to have aided any armed groups involved, are being investigated and prosecuted in civilian courts, and the Honduran military and police are cooperating with investigations.

This law does not apply to assistance to promote transparency, anti-corruption, border security, and the rule of law within the military and police forces.


Foreign Military Financing: The explanatory statement sets aside $7 million in FMF for Mexico.

International Narcotics and Law Enforcement: The explanatory statement assigns a very specific amount: $148.131 million. Much INCLE in Mexico has supported police and judicial reform efforts.

Economic Support Fund: The bill sets aside $45 million for Mexico through this USAID program. The State Department and USAID are required to consult with the Committees on Appropriations on the uses of the funds.

The bill expresses “concern with reports of abuses by Mexican security forces,” and as in previous years, the law freezes 15 percent of aid to the Mexican military and police until the State Department certifies that:

  1. Military personnel alleged to have committed human rights violations are investigated and prosecuted, and the government is codifying this practice into law by reforming Mexico’s military court of justice;
  2. Prohibitions against torture and the use of testimony obtained through torture are enforced;
  3. The Mexican military and police are promptly transferring detainees to civilian custody and are cooperating with civilian authorities; and
  4. The Government of Mexico is searching for victims of forced disappearances and is investigating and prosecuting those responsible.

The bill appropriates $161.5 million in new funds for the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), which supports military, police, and civilian funds for public security and judicial reform in Central America. $61.5 million would go to USAID’s Economic Support Fund program, and $100 million to the State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement program.

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which pursues similar objectives in the Caribbean, would get $54.1 million: $29.1 million through ESF and $25 million through INCLE.

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

Although $898.2 million has been appropriated worldwide for the Millennium Challenge Corporation—an independent US foreign aid agency that gives grants to countries based on their policy performance—the explanatory statement voices concern about the indicators used to establish candidate countries’ eligibility:

Weak judicial systems and official and private sector corruption are significant impediments to democratic institutions and economic development and growth in many potential MCC compact countries. There is concern that anti-corruption indicators for eligibility are not sufficiently rigorous, and do not properly reflect adherence to the rule of law in candidate countries including the influence of criminal enterprises and enforcement of private sector contracts.




Sen. Patick Leahy (D-Vermont), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that appropriates foreign aid funds, voiced concern about El Salvador’s weak record of corruption this summer, when the country’s second MCC aid package ($277 million over five years [PDF]) was approved. He argued that the MCC was designed to reward countries whose governments are taking significant steps to address corruption and strengthen the rule of law, but that corruption and money laundering are widespread, and democratic institutions remain weak, in El Salvador.

The law advises the MCC to improve its eligibility criteria in this area, and to consult the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and USAID regarding their evaluations of corruption and rule of law in MCC candidate countries.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Funds were earmarked for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Offices in Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico. The Senate Committee recommends a $5.5 million U.S. voluntary contribution to the UNHCHR, of which:

  • $1 million is to support an office in Honduras;
  • $500 thousand is to support an office in Colombia; and
  • $500 thousand is to support an office in Mexico.

The Honduras office will be a start-up (both the main office and any field offices), and the above funds are contingent on whether the UNHCHR actually sets up an office there.