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  • There was fear that funding would be cut with Trump

    There was fear that funding would be cut with Trump's administration. | Photo: Reuters

Ongoing U.S. aid to Colombia is seen as important for the peace process but has also been criticized for its heavy-handed militarized approach.

Despite concerns that Donald Trump’s administration would be slashing foreign aid programs, funding for Colombia’s peace treaty and security measures announced under former U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to be safe for another year.

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A budget compromise was reached by U.S. Congress on Sunday night after Republican members accepted a number of requests from Democrats for the upcoming federal budget amid threats to stall government operations.

The bipartisan deal includes the US$450 million promised last year by Obama, known as "Peace Colombia," to help implement Colombia’s historic peace deal signed last year by the government and FARC rebel army. The Congress still has to approve the budget, which would then need to be signed by Trump.

In recent years, Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid, with more than US$10 billion in aid — mainly to boost Colombia's military in its fight against insurgents — flowing into the country since 2000, originally packaged under Plan Colombia. Last year, Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the extension and rebranding of Plan Colombia as Peace Colombia, to honor the historic end of the country's decades-long armed conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

This year’s funding contains a number of important elements to support the implementation of peace, such as funding for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities hit hard by the conflict. It also bolsters funding for military, security and anti-drug enforcement.

Aid given to the FARC, currently undergoing a demobilization process, and Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, ELN, will be banned under the funding package. Washington has listed both groups as terrorist organizations since 1997.

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While many have criticized ongoing U.S. aid destined for military and anti-drug operations for prolonging the conflict and fueling human rights abuses, the majority of Colombian officials have regarded the Peace Colombia package as a key lynchpin for implementing the peace accords.

With the shakeup of Trump’s new administration, U.S. officials confirmed in March that there would be a review of the aid budget. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had earlier raised speculation during his Senate review process, saying he planned to review U.S. support for “one of our closest allies in the hemisphere,” referring to Colombia.

Under the current budget, aid to could be held back if Colombia fails to prove that it is undertaking adequate counternarcotics policies to stamp out the growing and production of illegal drugs, putting Colombia’s crop eradication programs in the spotlight.

Colombia will also have to ensure that tribunals implemented under the peace treaty are independent and transparent and the government takes steps to shut down insurgent groups.

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