What Does the Trump Era Mean for Drug Policy in Latin America?

What Does the Trump Era Mean for Drug Policy in Latin America?
A giant puppet depicting U.S. President Donald Trump paraded at Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Feb. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Diego Herculano).

Other than a wall at the border with Mexico, Donald Trump promised little to address drug trafficking in the Americas during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign. Two months into his presidency, it is clear that the Trump administration’s disengaged and military-first approach to the drug trade could bring more volatility to the region.

On March 13, the White House released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” which raises more questions and concerns than solutions on many issues, including the drug trade. It notably recommends a $54 billion increase in military spending, proposes reduced funding to the “UN and affiliated agencies,” and requests a $10.1 billion budget cut for the Department of State and USAID—a 28 percent decrease from current levels. In his introductory message to Congress, Trump declared that, “It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”

While the budget itself does not mention specific partnerships and commitments to Latin America, doubts persist over the Trump administration’s willingness to continue to support countries across the region in their fight against drug trafficking. For instance, it has not confirmed if it will commit to the $450 million pledged by former President Barack Obama to support Colombia’s peace process with the FARC insurgency, which will have a direct impact on the country’s efforts to root out the drug trade in territories formerly controlled by the guerrillas. In a written response to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January during his nomination hearing to become secretary of state, Rex Tillerson merely noted he would “seek to review the details of Colombia’s recent peace agreement, and determine the extent to which the United States should continue to support it.”

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