We do know that only about 15–20 percent of it would go to Central American security forces. This is an important break with past frameworks like Plan Colombia (81% non-military/police aid, 2000–2006) or the Mérida Initiative (78%, 2008–2010). This time there are no helicopters, and almost nothing for militaries.
For now, our energy must go toward supporting these overall amounts, which will face a fight in Congress. But our message must also be that this aid cannot subsidize kleptocratic elites or bypass civil society. The 22% of aid through the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement account must not revert to old patterns of funding weapons and elite units while downplaying recipients’ corruption and human rights abuse.
Central America has no shortage of creative community-based violence prevention initiatives, honest judicial personnel, and courageous investigative journalists and human rights defenders. All badly need help and should get support from this package.
Police are necessary to protect people, too, and the police aid in this package can have the greatest impact if it goes to professionals working in areas like internal anti-corruption controls, relating and being accountable to communities, reducing response times when citizens call for help, investigating corrupt financial flows, and making policing a proper career.
Adam Isacson is Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).