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

Gregory Bull/AP photo at Mother Jones.

(Even more here)

April 18, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

U.S. Border Patrol agents released nearly 1,300 migrants in Yuma, which has a population of about 100,000, in the past three weeks

The ruling won’t address the heart of the current border crisis. Families make up a majority of people crossing into the US without papers

Bolivia

The group of 12 politicians asked Donald Trump to use Washington’s influence within the Organization of American States to prevent Bolivian President Evo Morales from running for another term

Brazil

President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is at war with itself, and the president is increasingly unable to control the factions close to him jockeying for influence

Colombia, Venezuela

The report explores how these recruits are funnelled into numerous lines of illegal work, including drug trafficking, micro-trafficking, fuel smuggling, illegal mining of gold, coltan and copper, or being employed as “gariteros”

Colombia

El presidente rechazó el atentado que sufrió la familia del excombatiente de las extintas Farc y en el que perdió la vida el menor de 7 meses

Los congresistas se refieren, sin duda, a la reunión que sostuvo el embajador estadounidense con senadores y representantes en días previos a la votación de las objeciones presidenciales a la ley estatutaria de la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz

They agreed with the Secretary-General’s assessment that the peace process stands today at a critical juncture

El representante Kevin McCarthy anunció que estarán este jueves en la frontera colombo-venezolana

Cuba

U.S. citizens will now be allowed to sue any entity or person found to be “trafficking” in property that was expropriated from U.S. citizens after the 1959 revolution

The re-tightened restrictions also could impact air travel because of a reduction of passengers

Guatemala

As alleged, Estrada and Gonzalez conspired to solicit Sinaloa Cartel money to finance a corrupt scheme to elect Estrada president of Guatemala

Colombia, Mexico

Una organización campesina del sureño municipio colombiano de Piamonte denunció este miércoles que grupos armados, entre los cuales se menciona al Cártel de Sinaloa, amenazaron de muerte a varios dirigentes sociales de la zona

Mexico

“No nos oponemos a eso, pero que lo hagan por tierra, y que además nos traigan proyectos productivos”, dijo uno de los comisarios

Miles de cubanos, congoleños, angoleños, haitianos y centroamericanos se acumulan en la frontera sur de México tras la orden del Gobierno de López Obrador de suspender en Tapachula los trámites migratorios para quienes se dirigen a EE UU

When their names were finally called, they were detained for three days in extremely cold cells and then released back into Tijuana as part of the Trump policy known as Remain in Mexico

Ambas organizaciones, “La Línea” y “Gente Nueva”, han protagonizado sanguinarios enfrentamientos que ha aumentado la violencia principalmente en Chihuahua

Peru

Alan García, the former two-time president of Peru, died Wednesday morning after shooting himself as police attempted to arrest him in the wide-ranging corruption scandal that has implicated scores of leaders

When the authorities arrived at the home of the former president, Alan García, with an arrest warrant, he locked himself into his bedroom, shot himself and was rushed to a hospital

Venezuela

The U.S. strategy of sanctions and isolation has yet to show any concrete wins — and in some ways, may even be backfiring

The day ahead: April 18, 2019

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

I’m in the office, and will be finishing a big-picture article, for a Latin American publication, about current U.S. policy toward the region. Also adding new information to my database. I’m off tomorrow, Good Friday/Passover.

Updated border and migration graphics are always here

I keep up-to-date a big PDF file full of stats and graphics about security and migration issues at the U.S.-Mexico border. Right now, it’s 2.2 megabytes and 36 pages long, and you can download it here or, more memorably, at the shortcut bit.ly/2019wolaborder.

It covers migration, Border Patrol staffing, the immigration court backlog, and security measures like terrorism, drugs, and so-called “spillover” violence (which doesn’t happen).

I just updated it again, with the March migration data that CBP released last week, while I was traveling at the border. Incidentally, I’ve screenshot every instance of that monthly report since it was first released in May 2014.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

Paul Ratje / AFP / Getty Images photo at The Los Angeles Times. Caption: “Internal memos say Trump officials to resume forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico.”

April 17, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Mr. Barr’s decision does not affect unaccompanied children or families who cross into the United States illegally. A longstanding settlement in a previous court case says that the government cannot detain children or families for longer than 20 days

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told

Colombia

El 15 de agosto se acaba la figura que creó los espacios territoriales en los que viven casi 3.500 excombatientes

Ni los jefes de las antiguas Farc se sienten seguros en los llanos, donde tuvieron su fortín. Al escenario, dominado por las disidencias de Gentil Duarte, se suman grupos posparamilitares y se asoman los elenos

Esta conversación, registrada el 3 de febrero de 2018, es una de las pruebas que tiene la Fiscalía en el proceso penal por terrorismo y concierto para delinquir en contra del cubano

Colombia, Venezuela

In the Casablanca of the Andes, seemingly everyone’s plotting—or counterplotting—for control of neighboring Venezuela

Colombia

El ataque a una comisión de la Unidad de Restitución de Tierras, el pasado 11 de abril, habría sido perpetrado por una organización cuyo objetivo es “exterminar” a todo campesino que reclame tierra o verdad

Resulta desconcertante que aun cuando los capturaron cometiendo el delito, el 95 por ciento de ellos quedaron en libertad, según cifras de la Fiscalía y la Policía

Leiner Palacios, líder social de ese territorio chocoano y sobreviviente de la masacre de Bojayá, aseguró a EL COLOMBIANO que puede presentarse no solo una masacre como la que el presenció, sino otras incluso más fuertes

Cuba

The major policy shift, which will be announced on Wednesday, could expose U.S., European and Canadian companies to legal action and deal a blow to Cuba’s efforts to attract more foreign investment

Mexico

Under the policy, which then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced in December, authorities have forcibly returned more than 1,000 asylum seekers

La Presidencia informó a Animal Político que el gobierno buscará dar marcha atrás a su propia propuesta y que este requisito se elimine

Rodríguez Bucio se pregunta: ¿cuáles fueron los principales problemas externos e internos que enfrentaron las Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas (FAMs) con motivo de su participación en la estrategia mencionada?

El gobierno de Andrés Manuel López Obrador pretende dotar a la Guardia Nacional de facultades para revisar documentos y arrestar a migrantes que transiten por territorio mexicano y custodiar los centros de detención migratoria

Este semanario revela los pormenores de esos acuerdos, que son trastocados una y otra vez por la ira de Trump

López Obrador ha utilizado sistemáticamente ese espacio para desacreditar a reporteros, columnistas y a medios de comunicación que lo critican

Nicaragua

Opposition calls for a return to the streets as talks between government and civil society leaders stall

Venezuela

Some express anger at what they see as ineffectual U.S. bluster and are calling colleagues still inside, telling them to stay put

Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela

US and other regional officials say it’s Venezuela’s own military and political elite who are facilitating the passage of drugs in and out of the country on hundreds of tiny, unmarked planes

Venezuela

After denying for years that Venezuelans were suffering a humanitarian crisis, the government allowed the Red Cross to send in 24 tons of medical equipment

Several Pentagon officials continue to say there is no appetite at the Department of Defense for using US military force against the Venezuelan regime to try to force it from power

The day ahead: April 17, 2019

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

Holy week is setting in, with Congress out of session and much of Latin America on vacation. Other than a long-ish phone interview with a reporter, I’m going to be in the office all day, catching up on tasks left undone because of last week’s travels, including updating my security database and our border statistics.

The day ahead: April 16, 2019

I’m reachable in late morning and late afternoon, and that’s about it. (How to contact me)

This is my first day back in the office since April 5, after a week of travel and a day off yesterday. (I paid my taxes on the deadline, and I’m not one of the multi-millionaires to whom Trump gave a cut.) I’ve filled up today with an internal meeting regarding Colombia work, lunch with a European diplomat, a meeting with lawyers working on border issues, and an in-depth interview with a journalist. In the moments when I’m not doing that, I’ll be following up on last week’s trip and putting together a panel discussion for late May.

Notre Dame

There’s my wife and (now-teenage) daughter in 2010, one of two times I actually got invited to give a talk in France. Looking at one of my favorite buildings in the world, which was horribly damaged in a fire today.

I hope they rebuild it, even if it takes another 200 years. The 21st century is seeing too many historic landmarks destroyed, and not enough created.

The day ahead: April 15, 2019

I’m out today. (How to contact me)

I’m taking a personal day today, to recover physically from traveling and a month of 60-plus-hour weeks. Also I need to finish doing my taxes, as today is the deadline in the United States.

Back to the border

I’m back from my third visit to the San Diego-Tijuana border so far this year. I spent much of Monday with U.S. authorities, CBP and Border Patrol. Tuesday was an excellent day-long meeting with non-governmental groups from all four border states. I went to Tijuana on Wednesday, and on Thursday met with civic leaders and experts in San Diego.

On Monday, an agent took me the entire length of the border wall between San Diego and Tijuana. Here, since the 2000s there’s been a double fence for much of the 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean to where the fence stops east of Tijuana, for a couple of miles, due to difficult terrain. I saw a lot of construction, as they’re replacing old fence very quickly, using money from the 2018 Homeland Security appropriation.

In one of the most densely populated areas of the entire U.S.-Mexico border, the need to spend minutes climbing a fence deters those border-crossers who’d want to avoid capture and disappear into San Diego’s southern suburbs. It doesn’t, however, deter asylum-seekers who do want to be apprehended, like thousands of children and parents from Central America. If your intention is to stand on U.S. soil, in the no-man’s land between the two rows of fencing, the outer fence is just a speed bump. The Border Patrol agent accompanying me said that the other day, a mother climbed over the 14-foot fence with a 1-year-old slung to her back.

The concertina wire that Trump’s military deployment put up can also be defeated. In this photo, it’s all tangled and pushed down by asylum-seekers climbing over. They shield themselves from the sharp edges by laying carpet over the wire, or simply risk cutting themselves.

Here’s that same spot viewed from the other side, in a hardscrabble Tijuana neighborhood not far from the San Ysidro port of entry.

The agent showed me the area where the fence ends, just east of the Nido de las Águilas neighborhood on Tijuana’s eastern periphery. Many asylum-seeking families come here too, but others have told me that this area is tightly controlled by organized crime, and migrants must pay a fee to access it.

Here’s the view behind my back when I took the previous picture. It’s the kind of terrain that resists fence-building. (And no markers to tell you where the border is.)

I went back to the Tijuana side of the San Ysidro port of entry, first thing Wednesday morning, around 7:00 AM when migrants gather to find out whether their numbers will be called from a notebook in which they’d inscribed themselves several weeks earlier. (Another line of newly arrived migrants waits to add their names.) The number denotes their turn to seek asylum the “proper” way, by entering the U.S. port of entry and presenting to a CBP officer. Last Wednesday, CBP allowed only 50 migrants to do this, which is a pretty typical number for San Ysidro.

Most asylum-seekers, though, are crossing elsewhere and turning themselves in to Border Patrol. After they process them and give them notices to appear before an asylum officer, CBP and ICE release asylum-seeking families into San Diego, where a network of charities (the San Diego Rapid Response Network) has set up a shelter to provide a short-term stay, meals, showers, clothing, and help arranging travel to where relatives or other contacts await them. (Those destinations, incidentally, tend to be agricultural areas and zones with a lot of construction—only sometimes the “sanctuary cities” where president Trump proposes to leave them.)

I pulled a few volunteer shifts with the San Diego shelter, mainly helping families get from the airport curb to their gates. The shelter was running low earlier in the week, with about 50 guests, but it had reached 300 the previous week, and by Thursday it was back up to 150. Nobody could explain the fluctuation.

I visited two Tijuana shelters, one run by a Catholic order and one by an NGO. Both were busy, but not full to capacity. Of the nine sectors into which Border Patrol divides the border, San Diego is fourth in arrivals of families and fifth in unaccompanied children. Despite news of “caravans” in Tijuana, far more kids and parents are coming right now to El Paso, south Texas, and Yuma, Arizona.

Homeless men along the paved-over Tijuana River, about a half-mile south of the border. Many are deportees from the United States.

After three visits to the same area in four months, the border feels much more familiar. I still don’t really understand much of what goes on here, though. I don’t have a feel for the rhythms of work and life. I don’t understand how some residents are totally binational while others rarely even think about the other country in plain view on the other side.

Like a lot of northeastern cities—Washington included—this place combines a transient and diverse population, vast differences in wealth, and a big security presence. But it’s starker here: this is a place where semi-skilled people on one side of the line make $8.80 per day, and those on the other side make at least that in an hour. Where 14 people were killed in one April day one one side of the line, but it took two months last year to reach that total on the other side. The photos help, but it’s still really hard to describe this place to people here in Washington.

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