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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The day ahead: March 30, 2020

I’m around all afternoon. (How to contact me)

Other than a long morning staff meeting and check-ins with colleagues at WOLA, I should be reachable today. Other than some brief writing about Colombia, my main goal is to make big progress on a project, involving creation of a web resource, that will focus and strengthen my work on the border.

Email newsletter

My streak of sending out weekly e-mail newsletters now stands at 13. Here’s the latest one. I resolved at the new year to be more regular at these. So that means this horrible year is already 13 weeks old.

You can read it and subscribe there, or just subscribe at the bottom of this very page.

Tweets that made me laugh the most this week

Latin America-related online events this week

Tuesday, March 31

  • 4:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: Impact of the oil market crash on the major producers in Latin America: A closer look at Brazil and Mexico (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 1

  • 12:00–1:00 at thedialogue.org: Price War Meets Pandemic – Energy’s Perfect Storm in Latin America (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 2

  • 9:00–10:30 at thedialogue.org: Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Migrants and Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).
  • 11:00 at migrationpolicy.org: COVID-19 in Latin America: Tackling Health Care & Other Impacts for Vulnerable Migrant Populations (RSVP required).

5 links from the past week

  • If coronavirus wasn’t putting a halt to such things, this week the U.S. government would’ve sent back to Colombia one of the maximum leaders of the AUC paramilitary group, Salvatore Mancuso, who was extradited to face drug trafficking charges in 2008. In a detailed piece at Canada’s National Post, Brian Fitzpatrick tells the story of Mancuso, the AUC, and its “Justice and Peace” demobilization process. He also talks to AUC victims exiled in Canada. (Also noteworthy this week: an El Espectador profile of Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco,” a much-feared AUC leader who the U.S. government sent back to Colombia last July.)
  • The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s security program published a brilliant overview of security, defense, U.S. policy, great-power influence, multilateralism, globalism, and the crisis of democracy in Latin America, by Argentine-Spanish analyst Mariano Aguirre, former Obama administration defense official Rebecca Bill Chavez, and former Bachelet administration defense official Marcos Robledo. (The paper is dated January 2020, but was just released this week.)
  • In the New York Review of Books, veteran Brazil correspondent Vincent Bevins portrays the country’s politics, economy, and human rights situation just over a year into the Bolsonaro administration—within the context of the archconservative president’s unhinged coronavirus denialism.
  • Another populist president in the region, Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also come under fire for his slow response to the virus. Alex Ward at Vox wrote a nuanced but dire explanation of what’s happening there.
  • At the New York Times, Nathaniel Popper and Ana Vanessa Herrero profile Gabriel Jiménez, the twentysomething coder whose belief in the liberating power of cryptocurrencies led him to create the Maduro government’s “Petro.” Jiménez now lives in exile in the United States; his account is rich with details about the Maduro regime. Don’t miss the part where Maduro asks Vice President Tareck El Aissami to fix his air conditioner by banging on it.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at El Tiempo (Colombia). Caption: “El puente Simón Bolívar en la frontera entre Colombia y Venezuela.”

(Even more here)

March 27, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Many now fear that Latin America may go the way of Italy — with too many cases already circulating to gain control of the virus for many weeks or months

Top Trump administration officials grew angry with Matt Albence, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after he announced that immigration authorities would halt most enforcement efforts during the coronavirus outbreak

Bolivia

La propuesta legislativa acordada con las ocho candidaturas que concurren a los comicios prevé que la elección se celebre “entre el domingo 7 de junio y el domingo 6 de septiembre”

Brazil

Decisão levou em conta epidemia do coronavírus, que adiou audiências; sete homens permaneceram mais de 500 dias no Complexo de Gericinó sem julgamento

In a nationally televised address Tuesday night, he urged governors to limit isolation only to high-risk people and lift the strict anti-virus measures they have imposed in their regions

Colombia

Al inicio de la cuarentena nacional dos líderes Embera y una defensora de derechos fueron asesinados

Erradicación forzada de coca no da tregua en medio de emergencia por nuevo coronavirus

Hablamos con Luis Fernando Arias, consejero mayor de la Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, quien nos dio un panorama de cómo están las comunidades aborígenes de cara al coronavirus

When Salvatore Mancuso was shipped from Colombia to a U.S. cell, he said, ‘they extradited the truth.’ But his sentence ends today and he has secrets to tell

La Fuerza Pública adelanta un plan a nivel nacional para la prevención ante la expansión del covid-19. También se preparan por la posible llegada del virus a las filas del Ejército

Due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic, state protection measures have been weakened, they can no longer keep moving from one location to another for their safety, and their attackers know that public security forces are focusing on issues related to the pandemic

Cuba

“Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID?19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program,” tweeted an account for the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The undersigned organizations call on the U.S. government to issue a time-bound suspension of sanctions on Cuba to facilitate the flow of desperately needed humanitarian and medical supplies to the Cuban people as they cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

El ingreso de un grupo de deportados salvadoreños este martes 24 ocurrió apenas un día después de que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés) presionara a los gobiernos del Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica para que levantaran sus cuarentenas en los aeropuertos

In the age of COVID-19, anything other than ending deportations is a high-risk, potentially disastrous move

Mexico

A federal judge issued arrest warrants against five government officials and a former marine for torture, forced disappearance, and obstruction of justice in the case of the 43 students

En febrero de este año hubo 2 mil 766 asesinatos, una cifra algo menor a los 2 mil 819 de enero y a los 2 mil 817 de febrero del año anterior

U.S.-Mexico Border

President Trump recently announced strict new border controls, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Officials will now turn away most migrants entering the country from the U.S.-Mexico border — including people coming legally and fleeing violence. Jean Guerrero of KPBS spoke to families stuck in limbo at the country’s busiest land border crossing, just south of San Diego in Tijuana

The memo requests 1,000 military personnel to support CBP operations at the northern border and an additional 540 for the southwest border

Remain in Mexico cases have been postponed and the U.S. has stopped taking new asylum applications at border

Venezuela

The 57-year-old leader still has some popular support and, critically, continues to enjoy the backing of the upper echelon of the Venezuelan military

Since at least 1999, Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios and Alcalá Cordones, acted as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles

Federal prosecutors accused President Nicolás Maduro of participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, in a major escalation of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure him to leave office

An indictment, unveiled at a video news conference in Washington, D.C., accuses Maduro and other current and former officials in his socialist regime of conspiring with the U.S.-designated terrorist group known as the FARC, so that Venezuela could be used as a base for narcotics shipments

El anuncio del gobierno de Donald Trump cierra la puerta a una solución negociada en Venezuela y reafirma la posición de Iván Duque de no hablar con el gobierno del vecino país

Whatever incentive these key power brokers might have had to support a transition has been wiped out. They are each more likely to decide that they’re better off sticking with Maduro, even if it means going down with the ship

A group of Democratic senators joined growing calls for Trump to ease punishing sanctions and provide aid to Venezuela and Iran amid the worsening pandemic

The day ahead: March 27, 2020

I’ll be most reachable in the early afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m recording podcasts with people at 10 and 3. Otherwise I should be at my desk working on an analysis of Latin America’s militaries and the powers and roles they’re being given during this crisis, as well as some border work.

WOLA Podcast: Searching for Mexico’s Disappeared

With two very good guests in two parts of Mexico, I’m really glad the technology held up on this one. It was well worth the high-wire act.

Here’s the text of the summary at wola.org. Listen above, or download the .mp3 file here.

More than 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006. As a March 23 WOLA commentary by Maureen Meyer and Gina Hinojosa notes, the current government is taking some initial steps to address the crisis. A great deal, however, remains to be done, and victims’ groups trying to locate the disappeared continue to work very much on their own.

To discuss the crisis and Mexico’s incipient efforts to address it, Meyer and Hinojosa are joined by two guests from the frontlines of Mexico’s fight to locate and identify the disappeared. Mariano Machain is the international advocacy coordinator at SERAPAZ Mexico, a non-governmental organization working for peace and positive transformation of social conflicts. Lucy Díaz (seen in a December 2019 ABC News Nightline feature) is a leader of Colectivo Solecito, a group of mothers searching for the disappeared in Veracruz state; her son Luis disappeared in 2013.

Photo

After many years of accumulating home office-type gadgets, working at home is tolerable.

In the frame: Mac Mini with dual monitors, MacBook Air, sheet-fed scanner, podcasting mic, HD camera, blu-ray burner, printer, mechanical keyboard, mouse, Hue lamp, amp, LED lighting, speakers, turntable, headphones.

If you find this horrifying, I totally understand. If it’s any consolation, there’s a washer/dryer and a litterbox behind me.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Leo Correa photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A volunteer with a face mask walks past a police officer after distributing soap and detergent in an effort to avoid the spread the new coronavirus.”

(Even more here)

March 26, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

In every region, under all kinds of political systems, governments are turning to increasingly stringent measures — and deploying their armed forces to back them up

Brazil

A video apparently recorded in the City of God circulated on social media this week showing a loudspeaker broadcasting the alert: “Anyone found messing or walking around outside will be punished”

The leader of Latin Americaâ??s largest country wants people out of their homes and back to work

Brazil, Mexico

The leaders of the region’s two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — have largely dismissed the dangers and have resisted calls for a lockdown

Brazil

Law-and-order strategies that “stuff” Brazil’s crowded prisons with new inmates may actually exacerbate the problem, given that the PCC has effectively converted the country’s prisons into logistical hubs and training centers of illicit activity

Colombia

El consejero para la Estabilización, Emilio Archila, resaltó la importancia del trabajo de los campesinos que han dado el paso a la legalidad y a través del Programa han sustituido 41 mil 370 hectáreas

Colombia, Venezuela

Con el operativo militar, que fue concertado con el Gobierno nacional, el alcalde espera enfrentar dos grandes crisis que vive el municipio: la situación sanitaria por el COVID-19 y el aumento de la migración venezolana

Ecuador

Vargas says communities are rightfully nervous, and recalls past illnesses like yellow fever, cholera and the H1N1 virus that caused similar alarm

El Salvador

El poder extraordinario que la Asamblea ha dado al Ejecutivo mediante los decretos de emergencia y excepción no son cheques en blanco, sino auxilios contemplados en la Constitución

Honduras

Pidió al general de las Fuerzas Armadas, Tito Livio Moreno, que la entrega de los sacos solidarios sea sin ningún tipo de distinción

Mexico

“People expressed fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus and announced their intention to start a hunger strike if they were not released,” the rights groups said. National Guard and INM officers deployed poles, water hoses, pepper spray and Tasers

Por redes sociales o a través de mensajes por WhatsApp, diversos grupos en el Estado de México, Oaxaca y Puebla han hecho llamados para realizar saqueos en tiendas departamentales por las noches o en la madrugada

La banda delictiva de Tlacotepec que dirige Onésimo Marquina Chapa, alias El Necho, irrumpió en las comunidades de Tepozonalco y El Naranjo para desplazar al grupo denominado Cártel del Sur, que encabeza Isaac Navarrete Celis, El Señor de la I

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The protesters demanded greater controls and screenings on southbound traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border out of concern that travelers from the U.S. could import new cases of the coronavirus into Mexico

Volunteers and aid groups are especially worried about Juarez shelters and the sprawling Matamoros migrant camp

Nicaragua

Los militares no permitirán la entrada ni salida de nadie por estos puntos ciegos, en el territorio fronterizo terrestre y navales

U.S.-Mexico Border

Keeping Mexican nationals out of processing centers was a request made by the Mexican government and agreed to by the U.S. government

In a lengthy message Tuesday, the leader of operations in Tucson, Arizona, alerted the region’s 3,700 agents that two agents tested positive for the virus

Venezuela

The government of President Nicolas Maduro is hoping to renegotiate oil-for-loan deals agreed nearly 15 years ago under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez

Vivas Santana, escritor de una columna en el portal web aporrea, es el tercer periodista agredido por los cuerpos de seguridad del régimen en menos de una semana

The threat against Avila, who is now in hiding but spoke with Reuters by telephone, is one of at least seven recent episodes in which Venezuelan authorities have sought to arrest critics of the government’s preparedness for the coronavirus

International assistance will require a basic agreement between the de facto Maduro government and the National Assembly

Karl writes that one of the options Trump “had in mind was a naval blockade of Venezuela, which didn’t make sense for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Venezuela is not an island.”

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The United States’ legacy in Latin America is much older than Trump and Graham are. It’s a legacy that weighs heavily on the Pentagon’s reluctance to sail major warships through Latin American waters

The day ahead: March 26, 2020

I’ll be easiest to reach in the mid-to-late afternoon. (How to contact me)

The new computer is set up and working well. It’s a gigantic improvement.

Lots of virtual meetings today: I’m on a conference call about human rights defenders in Colombia, recording a podcast about Mexico, and guest-teaching a George Washington University class. I’ll edit and post that podcast, and try to book some new ones. In any extra time, I plan to start building an online resource for the border work.

New feature: “Explainers” about Colombia

I’m happy to say that a new section of my colombiapeace.org website, which I’ve been overhauling since late January, is ready to go. This is the final feature that I’d planned to add. (I’ve already added a timeline, a page of important numbers, infographics, links to reports, public-domain photos, and embedded videos.)

Explainers, the new section, is a series of brief articles offering plain-language, fact-filled explanations of persistent, evergreen topics. Each looks at an aspect of Colombia’s conflict, peace effort, human rights challenges, or U.S. policy. The format is inspired by—but less ambitious than—the “card stacks” that Vox.com used when it first launched, but later abandoned.

These Explainers are never “finished.” We’ll edit and update them as new information emerges or situations change. Months from now, some may look quite different than they do now.

I’ve completed three Explainers so far, and plan to add approximately one per week between now and June. Right now, you can find Explainers about:

Explainers about the ELN, and about Colombia’s efforts to build state presence in rural areas, will be coming soon. By June, I hope to stop at about 10 to 15 Explainers on the page.

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