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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Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

January 22, 2020

Brazil

The case raises concerns among journalists and advocates for a free press because journalists often rely on confidential or leaked information, sometimes obtained by whistle-blowers or hackers

Colombia, Venezuela

Abuses including murder, forced labor, child recruitment, and rape are often committed as part of the groups’ strategy to control the social, political, and economic life of Arauca and Apure

Ecuador, Venezuela

Tres meses después, la Fiscalía no encontró evidencias. El pasado 14 de enero, el juez Miguel Narváez confirmó la inocencia de los sospechosos y declaró que todos eran taxistas de aplicaciones móviles

El Salvador

On issues such as corruption, gang violence, and economic development, Bukele still has a long way to go in fully implementing his promises and making sure his administration does not repeat previous mistakes

Guatemala, Mexico

Lo que sorprende es que López Obrador, que prometió una política más humana, los engañe de esta forma

La barrera de la Guardia Nacional en la orilla del Suchiate impidió el paso a la mayor parte de la caravana migrante. Muchos de los que lograron zafarse de los uniformados fueron posteriormente detenidos

En apenas un año, López Obrador deconstruye su paradigma migratorio y vira a posiciones cercanas a sus predecesores

Mexico

The National System of Public Security said late Monday that 35,588 people were victims of homicides last year, 2.7 percent more than the previous year

The day ahead: January 22, 2020

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

I’m in El Paso this morning, and plan to spend the day with a full agenda in Ciudad Juárez. I’ll be difficult to reach and barely even able to check messages.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Jeff Abbott photo at Al Jazeera. Caption: “Migrants run towards the banks of the Suchiate River in hopes of evading the Mexican National Guard”

(Even more here)

January 21, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

State Department analysts found that Russian-linked Twitter accounts sought to sow confusion in South American nations that oppose the Moscow-backed government in Venezuela

“Once you see it,” Fisher, donning a Fisher Industries hat with Trump 2020 stitching, recently told CNN, “this proves what we’ve been saying”

Brazil

A dictatorship-era torturer is suing one of his victims in Brazil in a stark reminder of how Bolsonaro emboldens rights abusers

Colombia

La mitad de los 22 líderes asesinados en los 17 primeros días del año eran campesinos comprometidos con la erradicación de cultivos

En diferentes regiones del país las comunidades han denunciado la posible connivencia de la fuerza pública y las Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia

Los habitantes del Consejo Comunitario Unión Río Chagüí tuvieron que salir de su territorio a raíz de los enfrentamientos entre el Frente Oliver Sinisterra, el Bloque Occidental Comandante Alfonso Cano y la estructura delincuencial de origen paramilitar

During the Airborne exercise, U.S. and Colombian paratroopers will conduct an airborne training insertion from U.S. and Colombian C-130 Hercules aircraft, followed by tactical exercises designed to simulate the securing of an airfield

Colombia, Venezuela

Al encuentro en Bogotá asisten representantes de más de 20 países americanos, entre ellos el secretario de Estado de EE.UU., Mike Pompeo

Cuba

But the number of U.S. visitors dropped by 21.9% last year after the Trump administration tightened those restrictions again and banned the recently re-instated cruises

El Salvador

There are signs that a conscious gang decision to lower violence, or even some kind of agreement between gangs and the state, may be driving down homicides

Guatemala, Mexico

Chaos ensued on the Guatemala-Mexican border on Monday after thousands of migrants and asylum seekers attempted to cross the Suchiate River

Some scuffled with national guardsmen on the riverbank while others slipped through Mexican lines and trudged off on a rural highway in small groups. Immigration authorities nabbed more there and chased others into the brush

Más de 500 migrantes lograron cruzar hacia México y llegar a Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas. En la carretera hacia Tapachula la Guardia Nacional montó un operativo y detuvo a más de 100 migrantes

Guatemala

Guatemala’s new government could bring stability to the country following a turbulent administration riddled with corruption. But analysts see little hope for substantive change in the return of military and private sector elites to power

Mexico

Aunque por ley el pleno del SNAV debería acumular al momento doce sesiones ordinarias a nivel nacional (dos al año), por lo menos, en los hechos solo se ha reunido una vez y fue en 2014

The day ahead: January 21, 2020

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

Good morning from El Paso, Texas. I’m here with a group organized by WOLA’s partnerships team, and we have a full schedule of meetings with experts, service providers, and law enforcement all around the city. I’m guiding the agenda and driving a big huge van, so will not be reachable today, and barely able to respond to messages.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Teresa de Miguel photo at El País (Spain). Caption: “Migrantes esperan en la frontera de El Ceibo.”

(Even more here)

January 20, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

The pricetag for President Trump’s border wall has topped $11 billion — or nearly $20 million a mile — to become the most expensive wall of its kind anywhere in the world

Brazil, Paraguay

Members of the cartel, the First Capital Command, had spent weeks digging the tunnel from their wing of the Pedro Juan Caballero prison, piling dozens of bags of dirt into a cell

Chile

Apenas un 7% confía en las empresas, un 6% en el Ministerio Público, un 5% el Gobierno, un 3% en el Congreso y un 2% en los partidos, tanto del oficialismo como de la oposición de izquierda

Colombia

El año pasado, por un golpe de suerte, el periodista que ha liderado las investigaciones contra el Ejército en revista “Semana” se enteró de que dos sicarios de Boyacá fueron contratados para matarlo

Rodrigo Ramírez denuncia que en esa región del Caribe habría connivencia entre la Infantería de Marina y las Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia

Desde el 11 de enero más de 4.000 personas han sido desplazadas desde veredas hacia zonas rurales de Tumaco

Duque también resaltó el anuncio del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos que, a través de recursos de la Corporación Financiera de Desarrollo Internacional de ese país, destinará 5.000 millones de dólares, en los próximos años, para invertir en zonas afectadas por el narcotráfico

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Un total de 351 migrantes aceptan las condiciones del INM y son encerrados en La Mosca, una antigua fábrica convertida estación migratoria en Tuxtla Gutiérrez. México ofrece a los migrantes planes de empleo en Honduras y El Salvador

El nuevo muro mexicano demostró ser eficiente y la mayor parte de los cientos de hondureños y el puñado de salvadoreños que llegaron a Tecún Umán y El Ceibo accedieron a subirse a autobuses de la migración mexicana para iniciar un trámite incierto

En el paso de El Ceibo, en Tabasco, las autoridades cierran el paso durante horas y luego lo abren a cuentagotas. Algunos se echan a la montaña para intentar burlar a las autoridades

Honduras

Corruption in Honduras has had a corrosive effect on the country and remains a key driver of migration to the United States. The Honduran people are the ones who will suffer the most from this ill-advised decision

Bartolo Fuentes, a Honduran activist, journalist, and former lawmaker told BuzzFeed News that someone used the phony account to send Facebook messages falsely claiming that established migrant groups were organizing the effort

Mexico

Mexico has adopted a series of measures along its southern border with Guatemala that, while somewhat effective at stopping the flow, seems a partial solution with high financial and political costs

Thousands of migrants are camped out in Mexican border towns, waiting to ask for asylum in the U.S. Many are becoming despondent

Since 2014, at least 1,750 have perished along the border region, according to the international migration agency. Half of the deaths have been in Texas, surpassing Arizona

Venezuela

Juan Guaidó should harness his renewed international support to obtain electoral conditions that lead to free and fair elections

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó has traveled to Colombia to participate alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a regional counter-terrorism meeting

The day ahead: January 20, 2020

I’ll be very hard to reach until Friday. (How to contact me)

I’m going to the airport in a little while, for a 3 1/2-day trip to El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. I return to Washington late Thursday evening. I’ll be difficult to contact while I’m away.

5 links from the past week

  • Colombia’s Semana magazine started the week with a bombshell scoop. The country’s army has been spying on, and hacking into the communications of, opposition politicians, high court judges, reporters (including Semana’s), human rights groups, and even other officers. The magazine claims that a mid-December Supreme Court search of an army installation where the hacking was happening is what precipitated the Army chief’s post-Christmas resignation. Over the past year, the magazine notes, officers concerned about this and other scandals have been forced out and replaced by others whose records are so questionable that they are already facing investigations.
  • Alex Cuadros spent a lot of time with former and current gang members who have adopted evangelical Christianity in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The result is a good long read in Harper’s. My favorite is the gang-tied pastor who told Harper’s fact-checkers that Cuadros’s “account was ‘all lies’ and that [Cuadros] was possessed by the devil.”
  • U.S. authorities have sent more than 143 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers—including families—to Guatemala, to go seek asylum there. Kevin Sieff reports in the Washington Post from Guatemala City that they’re often not even being told which country they’re going to. And once they arrive, “The Guatemalan government is completely absent in this whole process.”
  • Colombia’s coca-growers are better organized than they were before the FARC peace process. But when huge nationwide protests broke out in November, the cocaleros’ participation was minimal. With Iván Duque’s government starting the year with a draft decree to restart aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing areas, that’s about to change. The growers are now starting to mobilize, Juanita Vélez reports in La Silla Vacía.
  • On Friday Honduras’s government failed to reach an agreement with the OAS and will shut down the MACCIH, an anti-corruption body similar to (though always weaker than) Guatemala’s defunct CICIG. Days earlier, my WOLA colleagues Elyssa Pachico, Adriana Beltrán, and Adeline Hite wrote a useful explanation of MACCIH’s accomplishments, the disastrous record of President Juan Orlando Hernández, and how the Trump administration basically gave a green light to corruption in exchange for Hernández making concessions on migration, like taking other countries’ asylum seekers.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Luis Echeverria/Reuters photo at Al Jazeera. Caption: “A man holds a banner reading ‘Corruption’ outside Guatemala’s Constitutional Court in Guatemala City”

(Even more here)

January 17, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Shrouded in secrecy, the immigration courts run by the U.S. Department of Justice have been dysfunctional for years and have only gotten worse

Argentina

Definitivamente atrás ha quedado un lamentable período de cuatro golpes de Estado cívico-militares en la segunda mitad del siglo pasado

Brazil

Brazil’s evangelicals face the temptations of the drug trade

Brazil, Mexico

The program previously had covered Spanish-speaking migrants. But the addition of people from Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language, would expand its reach further

Colombia

Al concluir el año 2019 un total de 12.235 personas se habían sometido a la JEP (9.720 ex Farc, 2.431 de la Fuerza pública, 72 agentes del Estado diferentes a Fuerza pública y 12 por protesta social)

“Peace will not be fully achieved if the brave voices of social leaders continue to be silenced through violence and if former combatants who laid down their weapons and are committed to their reintegration continue to be killed”

According to a journalistic investigation, these activities would have been carried out through special equipment that allows to capture cell phone calls and the installation of malware called “Invisible Man” on hacked devices

Tras este escándalo, en su momento fueron capturados el general (r) Humberto Guatibonza, Carlos Arenas, exjefe de prensa de la Policía Metropolitana de Bogotá, además de ex integrantes del Ejército Nacional y ex miembros de la Fiscalía

Después de más de dos horas de protestas, y pese a la llegada de gestores de convivencia, y a una conversación con el secretario de Gobierno, Luis Ernesto Gómez, y de Seguridad, Hugo Acero, los manifestantes decidieron seguir adelante con los bloqueos

Se ha filtrado que en la reunión que sostuvo con el presidente Iván Duque tras ese episodio, Santos sorprendió al mandatario no presentando su renuncia

Colombia, Cuba

“La Cancillería colombiana acaba de radicar formalmente en La Habana la solicitud de extradición (…), en este caso (Gabino) es solicitado por secuestro agravado”, dijo el Comisionado

Cuba

The Trump administration opened deportation proceedings against 25,044 Cubans in fiscal year 2019, mostly asylum seekers at the U.S. border

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

The officials say they won’t give the migrants transit visas to reach the U.S., but will consider asylum requests to stay and work in Mexico

Guatemala

Es mencionado en un informe de la Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG) como integrante de una supuesta red ilícita de abogados, militares y fiscales conocida como La Oficinita y señalada de espionaje y de desviar investigaciones

The officials, including an ex-congresswoman and ex-mayor, lost immunity after a new administration was sworn in

Guatemalan police accompanied by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have swept up hundreds of migrants, returning them to the Honduran border and in effect dashing their plans to travel together in a “caravan”

Mexico

El panista comentó que el lunes el comandante Luis Rodríguez Bucio, titular de la GN, le informó que hay 4 mil 150 elementos de la corporación en la entidad, lo que el mandatario estatal puso en duda

Venezuela

La ONG venezolana Foro Penal explicó que solo en diciembre de este año hubo 22 nuevos presos presos. Y en enero, hasta el momento, hay tres nuevos presos políticos

The day ahead: January 17, 2020

I’ll be hard to reach today, and for the next week. (How to contact me)

This is my last workday in Washington until next Friday: I’m spending Monday through Thursday in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Today is full of meetings (again): another session of WOLA’s annual strategic planning in the morning, and a few interviews with candidates for an assistant position in the afternoon. I have to leave a bit early for a meeting at my kid’s school. So I’ll be difficult to contact.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Marcus Yam photo at The Los Angeles Times. Caption: “A Colombian police officer monitors Venezuelans crossing the border from San Antonio del Táchira into Colombia through illegal paths near the Simón Bolívar International Bridge.”

(Even more here)

January 16, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

The year saw a resurgence of criminal groups from seemingly bygone eras, the arrival of new presidents who tried to face these old problems with familiar but failed policies, the end of a decade-long judicial experiment in Central America, and two high-profile drug trials

The women told U.S. District Judge David S. Bury, who is overseeing the bench trial, that they were placed into freezing cells that were dirty, served spoiled food, and their requests for routine medical care were either ignored or put on hold

Brazil

An effort to expose state-sanctioned torture offers tools for stemming further impunity

Colombia

El borrador de decreto del Gobierno de Iván Duque para retomar la fumigación aérea prendió la mecha para que los cocaleros se metan con más ganas al paro nacional, que tiene citada una movilización el próximo martes

De 90 homicidios esclarecidos por la Fiscalía, 36 fueron a manos de los disidentes

The members of the Security Council expressed their serious concern over reports of grave security conditions in several of Colombia’s departments, and continued threats, attacks and killings targeting community and social leaders

«Son al menos 555 homicidios en lo corrido en los últimos cuatro años que le dejan una honda herida a los derechos humanos y a la democracia de Colombia», afirmó el defensor del Pueblo

El gobierno olvida que la oficina de la ONU aún está verificando 43 casos presuntamente ocurridos durante el gobierno actual

Todos han sido asesinados en condición de indefensión. Varios de ellos en algunas de las zonas más pobres del país. Los matones, en unos casos, han entrado hasta sus propias casas disparándoles frente a sus aterrados seres queridos

Las nuevas revelaciones de espionaje en Colombia han provocado un vendaval político que recuerda el escándalo del espionaje del DAS, bajo el mandato de Uribe

Guatemala

Jimmy Morales dejó la presidencia de Guatemala pero no perdió la inmunidad. En el camino para mantenerse protegido de las investigaciones quedaron seis manifestantes golpeados y detenidos, otros afectados por gas pimienta y una protesta de diez horas

The “safe third country” agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras would put US-bound asylum-seekers in ill-equipped countries plagued by violence

Guatemala, Honduras

As of last week, the U.S. had sent 94 asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras to Guatemala. Only six of them decided to seek asylum there while the rest returned to their countries

  • U.t. v. Barr (American Civil Liberties Union, January 16, 2020).

The American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Human Rights First filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policies regarding so-called “safe third country” agreements with Guatemala and other nations

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Most attempts at forming caravans in 2019 were broken up by police and the national guard in Mexico, which has come under increased US pressure to prevent migrants from arriving

Honduras

The delays in renewing the mission’s mandate have raised concerns that the Honduran government may be seeking to limit the powers of the mission and its ability to help investigate entrenched corruption

Nicaragua

La guía de la oposición no necesariamente tiene que ser una persona, sino una idea o un objetivo en común, pero sí reconoce que sin organización, no puede haber unidad de todas las fuerzas opositoras

Colombia, Venezuela

The departure of the caminantes, or walkers, began slowly in 2017 with young men hoping to find jobs and send money home. Now women and children, the sick and the elderly also are taking their chances

Venezuela

Hannam, a former JPMorgan banker, arranged the trip as part of his yearlong scouting effort for possible gold investments in the crisis-battered nation

Dicha arbitrariedad no sólo constituye un nuevo golpe al estado de derecho en Venezuela, sino un irrespeto al país que clama por un entendimiento nacional y por el pleno funcionamiento de sus instituciones

The day ahead: January 16, 2020

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

I’m not going to be available at all today. I’m looking at several hours of annual internal planning meetings, some interviews of assistant candidates, and a meeting of groups working on security assistance. I may not see the inside of my office, or a computer keyboard, until late this evening, so will be hard to contact.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Reuters photo at The New York Times. Caption: “Migrants in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Wednesday.”

(Even more here)

January 15, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Two-thirds of the total killings took place in Latin America where impunity from prosecution is the norm

Some worry that the frustration and lackluster responses from government officials, paired with dimming views of democracy, may further open the door to authoritarianism

For the second year in a row, the White House is planning to obtain the majority of the funding it wants for Trump’s barrier project by defunding construction and maintenance projects on military bases at home and abroad

The chair of a House Homeland Security subcommittee reprimanded Border Patrol officials for concealing information about migrant children’s deaths. Officials did not respond to the chairwoman’s criticism

An internal review board at CBP had recommended that at least seven be terminated

Argentina

El entonces ministro de Macri, Oscar Aguad, había planteado modificar el decreto para sumar otras “amenazas” como el narcotráfico, el terrorismo, la ciberseguridad y los recursos estratégicos

Bolivia

Bolivia’s armed forces hit out at exiled former president Evo Morales on Monday after he said he would introduce armed local militias similar to those in Venezuela if he returns home

Colombia

Después de dos años la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz avanza en siete casos priorizados y la determinación de medidas cautelares sobre desaparición forzada. Grandes retos para este 2020

According to our records, 107 activists were killed last year, and our staff in Colombia are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings

La situación es preocupante, pues además de los 17 líderes asesinados en los primero catorce días de enero, en diciembre fueron asesinados 23

Las noticias de que supuestamente las comunicaciones de sus integrantes son el foco de intervención ilegal por parte de miembros del Ejército Nacional —como denunció la revista Semana— evidenció los temores de los magistrados

Sobre quienes habrían ordenado el ataque, ‘Iván Márquez’ y el ‘Paisa’, dijo que “da pesar que sean señores que en algún momento estuvieron con uno”

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

“The Mexican government told us that they won’t let it pass,” said Giammattei, “that they will do everything in their powers to stop it from passing”

As the latest caravan wends its way across Guatemala, Mexico will likely find itself under renewed pressure from the United States to strengthen its borders further and block the group’s passage

Guatemala

Two notorious cases from his tenure as Guatemala’s prison director in the mid-2000s loom over him like a shadow

One of the biggest questions is whether Guatemala will support a controversial asylum agreement it signed with the U.S. last July. So far, the new president has sent out mixed signals

Giammattei, who in the past has suggested he would seek to change the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA), appeared to soften his stance on Monday

Honduras

“Refugio: en Honduras nos matan” es el lema utilizado para publicitar la marcha

Mexico

Desapariciones, ejecuciones extrajudiciales, tortura o malos tratos contra los migrantes, según Human Rights Watch

La secretaria Sánchez Cordero mencionó que habrá operativos especiales y agentes migratorios que responderán al paso de la caravana que partió de Honduras

El vehículo en el que se transportaban fue atacado a tiros por un grupo de hombres armados, lo que provocó que el conductor perdiera el control

Peru

El Tribunal Constitucional dio este martes (14.01.2020) un respaldo definitivo a la decisión del Gobierno de Perú de disolver el Parlamento, al rechazar la demanda presentada por el expresidente del Congreso

Venezuela

106 del Ejército, 62 de la Guardia Nacional, 25 de la Armada y 24 de la Aviación

Delsa Solórzano, one of the deputies in the car, tweeted that the pro-government gangs known as “colectivos” shot at them as they tried to reach the legislative palace in Caracas

As China’s economic activities have declined, Maduro and his socialist government are becoming more reliant on Russia and its oil giant Rosneft

Trump to Seize More Border Wall Money Through Brute Force

We learned in Monday evening’s Washington Post that our president plans to take another $7.2 billion out of the Defense Department’s budget and put it into the border wall that he couldn’t convince Congress to pay for. If he gets his way, more than three out of every four dollars in border-wall money will have gone without congressional approval.

This sort of rule by decree is what we’ve seen in Latin America when democracies start giving way to dictatorship.

A new commentary at WOLA’s website breaks down what’s happening: the amounts involved, the convoluted way Trump is wresting the money from defense and avoiding Congress’s constitutional checks, and the situation in the courts, where our only hope lies.

Here are two graphics I made for that piece.

Read the whole thing here.

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