By Dialogo January 25, 2011 In an interview published on 23 January, Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said that Colombia has acquired experience in the fight against drug trafficking and could assist other countries in combating it, if the United States and others finance that aid. “We’re not entirely free to offer that cooperation using our own resources, and this is where there’s a place for the new role of allies like the United States and other countries that can finance the (security) aid that Colombia can offer,” Rivera declared to the Bogotá daily El Tiempo. He added that his country has “acquired many capabilities” for the fight against drugs, violence, and kidnapping within the framework of Plan Colombia – which has been sponsored by Washington since 2000 and the budget of which is being gradually reduced by decision of the White House – and that Bogotá is currently assisting Mexico and thirteen other countries, including several in Central America and the Caribbean. That aid “should serve Colombia’s interests in the fight against transnational crime and a portfolio of capabilities that we can offer at the global level,” the minister said. Rivera indicated that Bogotá “will not let down its guard” against drug traffickers, kidnappers, and violent groups, despite the decrease in direct U.S. aid to Plan Colombia, and that the Colombian police and military are already prepared to take over the programs Washington has been financing. The United States dedicated around 465 million dollars in military and financial aid to Plan Colombia in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, compared to 540 million dollars the year before, amid the budget difficulties the White House is facing due to the global crisis. Washington also wants to focus its aid to the Andean country on social programs and strengthening human rights, the judicial system, and other institutions, and not so much on the military apparatus, as was the case in the previous decade. As part of Plan Colombia, approved by former Democratic president Bill Clinton, the United States has given the South American country more than six billion dollars since 2000.