Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.



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Good morning from Havana

I’m off shortly to the event that has me here. Taking advantage of the $2/hour wifi in the hotel lobby because:

In 4 normal days, I can easily run through a gigabyte of mobile phone data. Over 4 days in Cuba, that would cost me $2,050.

The day ahead: December 11, 2018

I’ll be hard to reach today. (How to contact me)

I’m traveling to Havana today for a series of conversations between U.S. and Cuban scholars. Haven’t been to Cuba in 5 years and I’m very interested in seeing what has changed. I don’t know a lot of people in Cuba, and may have some dead time with no internet access. If so, I look forward to doing a lot of writing.

I’ll be in the Miami airport for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll be hard to contact. I look forward to posting here when I’m able.

The day/week ahead: December 10, 2018

I’m in Washington, but in meetings all day. Then, I’m traveling the rest of the week. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a weekly staff meeting, a strategy session of defense and arms-control groups much of the afternoon, and a conversation with visiting members of the Colombian Senate’s peace committee. After 9:30 or so, I won’t be at a keyboard and will have difficulty answering my phone.

Tomorrow, I go to Cuba for the first time in five years, for a series of conversations between U.S. and Cuban scholars. I’ll be there the rest of the week. If telecoms have improved since the last time I visited Cuba, I may be reachable. If they haven’t, I may as well be spending the week in the Himalayas.

The day/week ahead: December 4, 2018

I’ll be in Colombia and hard to reach for the rest of the week. (How to contact me)

Greetings from Dulles Airport. I’m headed back to Bogotá for the second time in two weeks. This time I’m on a panel at the Universidad del Rosario, who is bringing together a terrific group of security experts from around the region. There’ll be some side-meetings and private events too. I return to Washington Friday afternoon.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

All Week

Monday, December 3

  • 11:30–1:00 at the Atlantic Council: China-Latin America Trade at a Moment of Uncertainty: What Lies Ahead in 2019? (RSVP required).
  • 2:30–5:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Human Rights and Grand Corruption: What Role for International Law? (RSVP required).

Tuesday, December 4

  • 9:00–11:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Defending LGBTIQ Rights in Latin America: Obstacles and Advancements in Law and Culture (RSVP required).
  • 6:30–8:00 at The Potter’s House: Book Talk by John Lindsay-Poland on “Plan Colombia” (RSVP required).

Wednesday, December 5

  • 9:00–4:30 at the OAS: Elected Officials Advancing Hemispheric Priorities Through Inclusion and Diversity (RSVP required).
  • 5:45–7:30 at 1730 Pennsylvania Ave NW: Constitutional Courts and the Defense of Democracy, Rights, and Liberties (RSVP required).
  • 6:00–8:00 at Georgetown University: Rescuing Venezuela: The Role of the International Community (RSVP required).

Thursday, December 6

  • 8:30–10:00 at WOLA: Bolsonaro’s Election in Brazil: What are the Implications for Democratic Governance and Human Rights? (RSVP required).
  • 5:30–7:00 at WOLA: IACHR Reception: Honoring Latin American Human Rights Defenders (RSVP required).

Arms transfers and arms trafficking in Latin America: Links from the past month

Brazil, Uruguay

  • Andrea Barretto, Brazil Donates 25 Armored Tanks to the Uruguayan Army (Revista Dialogo (U.S. Southern Command), November 13, 2018).

    The M-41C vehicles that the Brazilian Army used through 2009 will be part of the Uruguayan Army’s 13th Armored Infantry Battalion Brazil purchased the M-41 armored vehicles from the United States in the 1960s. EB used the vehicles equipped with cannons for almost five decades for training purposes

Colombia, Western Hemisphere Regional


Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

November 30, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional


  • Andres Schipani, g20 and the Painful Price of Argentina’s Tumultuous Past (The Financial Times (UK), November 30, 2018).

    We may be a G20 economy, but with interest rates at more than 60 per cent, the adage that there are four kinds of economies — developed, under-developed, Japan and Argentina — still applies



  • Francisco De Roux, El Desafio de la Verdad (Revista Arcadia (Colombia), November 30, 2018).

    Hay miedo. Miedo a las preguntas y miedo a las respuestas que reclaman millones de adoloridos. Miedo a las sorpresas que puedan aparecer en la búsqueda. Susto de lo que ha estado oculto

  • Juan Camilo Pedraza, Estremecedores Testimonios en Arranque de la Comision de la Verdad (El Tiempo (Colombia), November 30, 2018).

    Intervinieron distintos sectores y protagonistas del conflicto, víctimas y victimarios, quienes depositaron sus esperanzas de esclarecimiento de lo sucedido en la guerra en los 11 comisionados que componen la Comisión


El Salvador

Brazil, Haiti



  • Jonathan Blitzer, Tijuana’s Migrants Are Running Their Own Asylum Process (The New Yorker, November 30, 2018).

    The men managing the ledger weren’t government officials, or even immigration lawyers. They were fellow asylum seekers who had come with their own documents several weeks before

  • Sandra Dibble, Hundreds of Central American Caravan Members Seek Work in Mexico (The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 30, 2018).

    The job fair opened Nov. 19 in response to the arrival of caravan members. Staffers said interest has spiked following last Sunday’s march to the border by some members of the caravan who rushed the border

  • Duncan Wood, What We Learned From the Amlo Transition (Wilson Center, Americas Quarterly, November 30, 2018).

    AMLO’s control of the apparatus of the federal and state levels of government give him the coercive power he craves, but he has demonstrated his desire to rule with at least the appearance of consent from the Mexican people

Links from the Past Month about “Soldiers as Police” in Latin America

El Salvador



  • Claudio Lomnitz, ¿el Ejercito Es Pueblo en Armas? (La Jornada (Mexico), November 21, 2018).

    Andrés Manuel López Obrador ha dicho que como el Ejército es pueblo armado, nunca tirará contra del pueblo. Cabe preguntar entonces: ¿contra quién disparará?

  • Alejandro Hope, No Maten a la Policia Federal (El Universal (Mexico), November 19, 2018).

    Hay tareas que hoy realiza la PF que sería demencial trasladar a un cuerpo militar. Por ejemplo, retirar bloqueos en carreteras. ¿Quiere el gobierno de AMLO enviar a soldados y marinos contra manifestantes?

  • Ricardo Ravelo, ¿y las Finanzas del Crimen? (SinEmbargo (Mexico), November 16, 2018).

    En realidad las policías, en su mayoría, están “cartelizadas”, es decir, al servicio de los grupos criminales

  • Alejandro Hope, Un Plan Sin Razones para la Tranquilidad y el Optimismo (El Universal (Mexico), November 15, 2018).

    El plan apuesta por una salida abiertamente militar a los dilemas de seguridad pública. Se plantea la creación de un cuerpo militar (la Guardia Nacional), ubicado administrativamente en la SEDENA, para atender de manera permanente asuntos de policía

U.S.-Mexico Border

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images photo at Vox. Caption: “Some bridges, like this one in El Paso, have turned into temporary encampments for waiting asylum seekers.”

(Even more here)

November 29, 2018



  • Ernesto Londono, Lisa Friedman, Brazil Backs Out of Hosting 2019 Climate Change Meeting (The New York Times, November 29, 2018).

    It comes about a month before the inauguration of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to empower commercial ventures in the Amazon and other Brazilian biomes while weakening enforcement

Brazil, Western Hemisphere Regional

Central America Regional, Mexico

  • Christopher Sherman, E. Eduardo Castillo, Mexico Accepts Housing Migrants, Seeks Us Development Aid (Associated Press, The Washington Post, November 29, 2018).

    President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government signaled Tuesday that it would be willing to house the migrants on Mexican soil while they apply for asylum




  • Scott Smith, Venezuela’s Next Generation of Opposition Plays a Long Game (Associated Press **, November 29, 2018).

    Many of the beleaguered opposition figures remaining in the country see their best hopes in capitalizing on widespread discontent with Maduro’s rule playing out in rough neighborhoods long considered his strongholds

Western Hemisphere Regional

The week ahead: In Bogotá, briefly

I flew down to Bogotá yesterday, arriving quite late last night. I’m here for a closed-door conference on post-conflict “stabilization” hosted by the UN Resident Coordinator’s office. I’m flying back overnight Tuesday, after some meetings with government officials.

Of course, I haven’t finished preparing my presentation yet—but I’ve got most of today free, so that shouldn’t be a problem. With sufficient time, I’d like to post a few things here too, and simply catch up on what’s happening in the region: I sort of lost the thread over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ll be back in Washington Wednesday afternoon. Then, the following Tuesday, I’ll be flying back to Bogotá for another conference, at the Universidad del Rosario, about Colombia’s security sector. It’s sort of like commuting.

The day ahead: November 21, 2018

I should be reachable much of the day. (How to contact me)

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, one of the principal holidays of the year in the United States. We’re celebrating with family here in the Washington area, so I’m not going anywhere today, the busiest travel day of the year.

I’ll be in the office much of the day, working on updates about Colombia peace implementation and about the upcoming border wall debate. I may take off early to buy some ingredients for tomorrow’s feast, and then work at home.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

November 20, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

  • Robert Burns, Pentagon: Troops at U.S. Border to Cost About $210 Million (Associated Press, Time, November 20, 2018).

    The total includes $72 million for approximately 5,900 active-duty troops providing support to Customs and Border Protection, plus $138 million so far for 2,100 National Guard troops who have been performing a separate border mission since April

  • Dara Lind, Judge Stops Trump From Enforcing Asylum Ban (Vox, November 20, 2018).

    The most surprising thing about Judge Tigar’s ruling is that it took more than a week after the asylum ban went into effect for him to issue it


Central America Regional, Mexico

  • Julia Ainsley, Feds Have Paid Undercover Informants in Migrant Caravan (NBC News, November 20, 2018).

    The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants

Colombia, Cuba

Colombia, Venezuela

Colombia, Western Hemisphere Regional




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