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.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press photo at The Washington Post. Caption: “A demonstrator lights a candle during a vigil for a student who was killed during clashes between anti-government protesters and Bolivarian National Guard officers, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. The 17-year-old student was shot dead on Monday the Public Prosecutor’s Office said, bringing the death toll to 72 in two months of demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.”

(Even more here)

June 23, 2017


People who are afraid, angry, or who feel victimized look for enemies that can be eliminated, instead of searching for ways to fix a broken criminal justice system and a failed public security model


The referendum vote was not the fatal blow to peace that many feared at first, but the ensuing delay in the peace process may yet cause long-term ramifications

We are proposing the formation of 16 regional citizen committees to support and accompany the implementation of the peace agreement

Cuatro guerrilleros y ocho personas de sus círculos más cercanos han sido asesinados desde que arrancó la implementación del acuerdo de paz

‘Martín Sombra’ lideró en los 90 la columna Mario Hernández, encargada de vigilar a los cientos de secuestrados que caían en manos de las Farc

El plan para desmantelar organizaciones criminales es una nueva apuesta por Tumaco y Buenaventura. También es una prueba de fuego para el Vicepresidente

Colombia, Venezuela

Though many come from Venezuela’s lower and middle classes, Montilla and her friends have seen even skilled professionals like architects and engineers arriving in Colombia and sleeping in bus stations


The old-guard exiles gave their Cuba policy far less chance to succeed because they arrogantly alienated the rest of the world – and just as imperiously neglected the same island-dwelling Cubans

U.S. officials say day-to-day cooperation on halting U.S.-bound human trafficking and narcotics has improved significantly since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations

El Salvador

The killings occurred between 2014 and 2016. Some victims were alleged gang members while other killings appeared to be contract hits


Considering them a burden, even an embarrassment, the Guatemalan state and society are unable and unwilling to assist the thousands of migrants being sent back home


No incident has hardened feelings about illegal immigration in Arizona more than the unsolved 2010 killing of 58-year-old Rob Krentz, head of one of the oldest ranch families in southeast Arizona

In this short video, Corchado shows AQ Editor-in-Chief Brian Winter how integrated both countries are – and talks to Mexicans and Americans about how life has changed (and stayed the same) under President Donald Trump


La autorización garantiza el ingreso de naves y aeronaves de las Fuerzas Armadas y ejércitos de la Conferencia de las Fuerzas Armadas Centroamericanas (CFAC), Estados Unidos, Rusia, México, Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, República Dominicana


Benavides, who the U.S. government sanctioned in 2015 for alleged human rights abuses during a previous wave of unrest, will now lead an agency created by Maduro to oversee the capital, whose opposition mayor was jailed two years ago

“Viene una decisión muy importante de los componentes de nuestra FFAA”

At least two soldiers shot long firearms through the fence from a distance of just a few feet at protesters who were throwing rocks

“The tragic situation in Venezuela calls out for action,” Haley said in a statement in which she complained about the lack of action from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States

Western Hemisphere Regional

The decision not to send Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and for the U.S. not to attend the Commission’s 161 hearings on U.S. cases may likely have hurt U.S. candidate Doug Cassel’s chances

The day ahead: June 23, 2017

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

I’ve avoided scheduling meetings today, and the result is 12 hours of time for writing and research. If all goes well, I’ll have prepared a Colombia presentation I’ll be giving to a State Department audience on Monday, recorded (or at least scripted) a podcast about the current state of U.S. policy toward Colombia, and drafted a memo about the same.

No you won’t

I’ve had about two dozen meetings since April to talk with congressional staff about border security. I’ve met about equally with Democrats and Republicans, in both houses.

What can I say. It’s been weeks since I’ve even bothered to open a meeting by talking about the border wall. It just gets dismissed out of hand. A few miles may get built here and there—maybe some levee wall in south Texas—but I don’t see interest in hundreds of miles, much less a coast-to-coast wall.

Homeland Security funds are scarce, and more fencing is way down serious people’s list of priorities for securing the border. I’m concluding that Congress is about as willing to pay for it as Mexico is.

The day ahead: June 22, 2017

I am difficult to reach today. (How to contact me)

I’m posting this later than usual: I wrote an article about coca eradication and the Trump administration, which I hope to link to soon—but I jumped right into it when I woke up this morning and forgot to do this daily update.

With that done, I’m in the office for a bit, then I’ve got a lunch meeting with a Colombian journalist, a meeting with a member of Congress to talk about border security and migration, and a meeting with another legislative staffer about Colombia. As that means another day without touching a computer keyboard very often, this site won’t get updated much.

WOLA Podcast: Colombia’s FARC demobilizes, but new challenges await

Here’s a half-hour conversation with Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA’s senior associate for Colombia.

On June 20, 2017 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ceased to be an armed group. But as Gimena makes clear, the hard part awaits.

In a wide-ranging discussion about the current moment, we discuss next steps in the FARC demobilization, the ominous appearance of armed groups in zones of previous guerrilla influence, recent social protests on the Pacific Coast, Colombia’s ability to implement its accord commitments, civil society’s role in making it happen, and our growing concerns about where the Trump administration is headed.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

William Widmer photo for The New York Times. Caption: “United States Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended a man seen crossing the Rio Grande near Roma, Tex., last month.”

(Even more here)

June 21, 2017


If Brazil’s top prosecutor agrees with the federal police recommendation, Congress will decide whether Temer should be investigated by the Supreme Court

General Etchegoyen’s staff mentioned the official by name and described the official’s position as the C.I.A.’s “chief” in Brasília in a publicly available agenda of the spymaster’s meetings


During his visit to Colombia, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, visited the Transitory Point of Pondores – La Guajira

Se han registrado 42 desplazamientos masivos en la costa pacífica, Norte de Santander y Arauca. Son 7.371 personas, 2.056 familias afectadas


If all these people are now to be considered “prohibited officials,” then a quarter of the Cuban labor force will no longer be eligible to receive remittances


A video shown in court shows Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez on the ground when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz fired through the border fence

The equipment is provided to the Department of Homeland Security under the Defense Department program established to repurpose military equipment previously used in Afghanistan and Iraq


The United States attorney’s office submitted a motion urging the court to keep Mr. Martinelli in jail until the extradition case is decided


Brazil and Mexico were thwarted by a handful of leftist nations and Caribbean island states which voted against the OAS draft resolutions or abstained

The process itself produces shared understandings, expressed commitments and diplomatic networks that go beyond the actual meetings and can lead to actions beyond the multilateral body

The government-stacked court in a statement Tuesday it had approved a request from a socialist party lawmaker to lift prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz’s protection from prosecution for allegedly committing “grave errors”

The day ahead: June 21, 2017

I should be reachable late morning and early afternoon. (How to contact me)

After seven meetings with congressional staff yesterday, I’ve got another this morning. Then a few hours in the office doing actual work. Then around 3:00 I’ll record a podcast with a colleague, followed by a meeting with NGOs that work on Colombia.

At 4 Common Misconceptions about U.S.-bound Drug Flows through Mexico and Central America

Graph of cocaine seizures showing Mexico far down the list.

This brief piece at wola’s website is for anyone who seems to think that you can fight opioids by aiding Central America, that a border wall can stop drugs, that gangs like MS-13 ship drugs to the United States, or that Mexico stops a lot of northbound cocaine.

I leaned heavily on my database to cite facts that aren’t, but should be, well known about how the drug trade works in the Mexico-Central America “transit zone.”

View it here.

The day ahead: June 20, 2017

I will be very difficult to reach today. (How to contact me)

It’s a day of legislative work. I have seven or eight meetings with staff today in the House and Senate, mainly to talk about border security and migration concerns.

This means that I’ll be hard to reach, and that this site won’t see updates all day.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Andrés Celis photo at Verdad Abierta (Colombia). Caption: “Cada campamento de las distintas ZVTN o PTN rinde homenaje a través de pancartas a los comandantes que han muerto.”

(Even more here)

June 19, 2017

Brazil, Venezuela

Although the trip is expensive and long for the Warao — it can take multiple boat and bus rides and several weeks to reach the Brazilian city — those who have made the journey say it was worth it just to see their children eat


Se empieza a vislumbrar lo que pueden ser estos territorios para las Farc y las comunidades cercanas: un enclave de estudio, arte y política

‘Carlos Antonio Lozada’ cuenta detalles de la última etapa del desarme, que comienza el martes

Es el momento de la grandeza de todos: de la sociedad colombiana para obrar sin mezquindades y buscar la reconciliación

  • Alfredo Molano Bravo, Esmad (El Espectador (Colombia), June 19, 2017).

Las últimas actuaciones contra el paro cívico en Buenaventura tuvieron un resultado contrario a lo esperado: las manifestaciones fueron creciendo de 10.000 a 120.000 personas

El Gobierno tendrá que meterle el acelerador para que la presión del discurso de Trump no cale. Y eso pasa por resolver el pulso entre Coccam y las demás organizaciones


The rest of Cuba’s entrepreneurs are left to figure out how to recover from the expected drop in American visitors

Despite the incendiary rhetoric in which Donald Trump cloaked his new policy when he rolled it out at a rally of Cuban-American hardliners in Miami, the sanctions he announced were limited

At a Monday news conference, the nation’s foreign minister called the latest deal “a grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War”

Members of Cuba’s small but vibrant independent civil society say they fear the new policy will do more harm than good


La adquisición de este equipo de última generación está incluido dentro del convenio de cooperación bilateral entre Honduras y el gobierno de Israel, valorado en 209 millones de dólares


The software has been used against some of the government’s most outspoken critics and their families, in what many view as an unprecedented effort to thwart the fight against the corruption infecting every limb of Mexican society

Advanced surveillance and sensing technologies, wide area communications networks, pattern recognition algorithms and power generation systems form the basis for the construction of a virtual wall

The humanitarian group said approximately 30 well-armed Border Patrol agents descended upon the location looking for “bodies” in a coordinated and alarmingly militarized operation

What the DEA could easily do, however, is establish firm and formal protocols for exchanging information with Mexico. Current and former DEA officials describe the system as loose and somewhat random


According to a United Nations report released Monday, some 34,200 Venezuelans sought asylum in 2016 — up from 10,200 claims the previous year

A negotiated resolution remains the best hope for avoiding even greater bloodshed, but not by returning to the futile, time-c0nsuming “dialogue” of 2016

Last month’s U.S. government reports relevant to Latin America

Lessons Learned from Prior Reports on CBP’s SBI and Acquisitions Related to Securing our Border (1.1MB PDF)
Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General, June 12, 2017.

The Homeland Security Inspector-General looks at past border wall-building experiences in light of the Trump administration’s proposal to add new fencing.

Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress (1.3MB PDF)
Congressional Research Service, June 8, 2017.

A new update of a regular overview of U.S. assistance to Central America to improve public security and governance.

CBP Continues to Improve its Ethics and Integrity Training, but Further Improvements are Needed (1.6MB PDF)
Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General, May 31, 2017.

A report finding that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates in part along the border with Mexico, “misses valuable opportunities to deliver consistent high-quality ethics and integrity training courses across multiple operating environments and components.”

A Special Joint Review of Post-Incident Responses by the Department of State and Drug Enforcement Administration to Three Deadly Force Incidents in Honduras (26.3MB PDF)
Department of Justice and Department of State Offices of Inspector-General, May 24, 2017.

A thorough, strongly worded overview of improper activity following 2012 deadly use of force incidents involving DEA and State Department personnel in Honduras.

Congressional Budget Justification for Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (10.8MB PDF)
U.S. Department of State, May 23, 2017.

The State Department’s annual explanation to Congress of how it is using its budget for both diplomacy and foreign assistance. The 2018 request calls for a steep reduction in U.S. aid to the world.

Congressional Budget Justification for Homeland Security (18.8MB PDF)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, May 23, 2017.

The annual budget request submitted to Congress by the Department of Homeland Security. Includes funding requests and justification language for border security programs and border wall-building.

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