Military and police training in Latin America, 2009

Latin America and the Caribbean

After a long delay, the Department of State released the Foreign Military Training Report (FMTR) for 2009. The report is a joint report by the Department of Defense and the Department of State and is due by March 1 of every year. The report covering 2010, therefore, is recently overdue.

Volume I of the FMTR is very useful to our project. We use the information presented in these reports to track the total number of United States training recipients in the region via different assistance programs. The report also provides us with the information necessary to keep track of courses, training locations, recipient units, and how much money the United States spent on each training program/course. Since the State Department released its 2008 and 2009 reports within a span of a couple of weeks this year, our previously out-of-date training database now covers U.S. training in Latin America from 1999 to 2009.

A look at the new training statistics shows an increase from 2008 to 2009 in the number of Latin American military and police personnel trained. After declining from 2007 to 2008, training appears to be going back up to around average, with 15,423 military and police personnel trained in 2009.

This increase, however, owes entirely to training information received not from the 2009 FMTR, but a report about the status of aid deliveries to Mexico that we received from Republican staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [PDF]. As Adam Isacson pointed out in a recent blog, a side-by-side comparison of the 2009 FMTR data for Mexico and the Senate report shows a massive discrepancy in the total number of Mexican military and police personnel trained by the United States in 2009. The Senate report shows 4,933 Mexican personnel trained by the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INLCE) program in 2009, while the FMTR shows 5 trained by that same program.

Therefore, if we only use the data provided by the 2009 FMTR, the total number of Latin American trainees actually continues the downward trend that started in 2008, with only 10,495 military and police personnel trained in 2009. As Adam pointed out in his blog on the 2008 FMTR data, the decline in training from 2007 to 2008 was prompted by "a sharp reduction in training of personnel from Colombia," as the United States began to wind down the large-scale military assistance programs of the 2000s.

Adam also noted that the 2008 data did not "register what is likely the most important change: the effect of sharply increased military and police aid to Mexico and Central America under the Mérida Initiative, which was barely underway in 2008." The 2009 training data, thanks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, shows that this Mérida Initiative effect is in full-force in Mexico. From 2008 to 2009, the number of Mexican military and police personnel trained by the United States increased from 1,074 to 5,724. That's a 728% increase over the average number of personnel from Mexico trained between 1999 and 2007.

Most of the Mérida Initiative training comes out of the State Department's INCLE program, which increased substantially in 2009 (from 707 trainees in 2008 to 5,732 in 2009), making 2009 an all-time high for the number of Latin American personnel trained by that program. Of the 5,732 personnel trained by INCLE in 2009, 4,933 were from Mexico. The majority of which (4,892) were Federal Police trained by the Narcotics Affairs Section. In 2003, the second-highest year since 1999, only 1,713 Latin American personnel were trained by INCLE, of which only 55 were from Mexico.

The Mérida effect, however, does not appear to have taken hold in Central America, at least according to the data that is currently available to us. Instead, the number of personnel from Central America trained declined 32% from 2008 (3,381) to 2009 (2,286). The countries that experienced the largest decreases in training were Nicaragua (549 to 112) and Honduras (805 to 411).