US Secretary of State John Kerry

The US State Department budget proposal for 2014 has reduced aid for Colombia and Mexico while increasing funds for Central America, reflecting changes in regional priorities.

In its budget request to US Congress earlier this week, the State Department allocated $323 million to Colombia, a $61 million decrease compared to 2012, reported a senior State Department official (the figures were collated before the 2013 budget was finalized). A total of $205 million was allocated to Mexico, a $124 million decrease from 2012. Meanwhile, funds allocated to the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) rose by $26 million to $161.5 million.

Previous years' assistance to Mexico and Colombia had involved providing very expensive military equipment, said the official, whereas now the focus was on less-costly capacity strengthening. Increased funds to Central America reflected increased drug trafficking and crime in that region, they added.

InSight Crime Analysis

The State Department's 2014 budget request follows the pattern of the previous year, in which aid to Central America was increased by 3.5 percent from 2012, and aid to Colombia and Mexico was cut.

As noted by the State Department official, this reflects the changing nature of the counternarcotics assistance rather than any decreased importance of Colombia or Mexico in the international drug trafficking landscape. The two countries continue to receive by far the greatest proportion of the State Department's aid to Latin America.

However, Central America is certainly increasing in importance as a hub for drug trafficking operations, as the pressure brought to bear on drug traffickers operating in Mexico in recent years has had the knock-on effect of increasing organized crime in the isthmus, particularly in the "Northern Triangle" of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This helps explain the increased budget for the region.