U.S. President Donald Trump first budget proposes deep foreign aid cuts to Latin American countries. Ecuador, which received $2 million in 2016 for a drug control program, would receive nothing under the new budget.
Although aid to Latin America as a percentage of the U.S. budget has been declining for years, the proposed cut of more than 50% raised eyebrows among some Latin American experts. Trump’s budget would cut $614 million from President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget of $1.1 billion.
“It sends a strong message to the region that it isn’t very important in the U.S. scheme of things,” says Larry Strauss, a University of Miami adjunct professor and Latin America researcher. “My concern is that the resurgent drug trade in several countries will pose a growing problem for the U.S. and it will need help to fight it. Trump is focused on illegal immigration, which is declining, while the flow of drugs is increasing.”
As it was under the Obama administration, almost all aid to Latin American countries is dedicated to security, immigration and anti-drug trafficking programs. A small portion is earmarked for “promotion of democracy,” according to the U.S. State Department, which administers the funding.
Under Trump’s budget, aid to Mexico is reduced from $160 million to $87.7 million; to Guatemala, from $131.2 million to $80.7 million; to Honduras, from $98 million to $68 million; to Nicaragua, from $10 million to $200,000; to Panama, from $3.3 million to $1.2 million; and to El Salvador, from $68 million to $46 million.
Colombia remains the largest beneficiary of U.S. aid but would receive only $251.4 million compared to the $402 million it received under Obama’s last budget.
Strauss says that it’s important to look at the aid cuts in perspective. “The amount of money is fairly insignificant to most Latin America countries these days,” he says. “This was true under Obama, and Bush before him, as it will be under Trump. The situation has changed since the 1960s and 70s, when U.S. money actually supported a number of countries in the region.”