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

Ross D. Franklin/Pool/File Photo from Reuters. Caption: “Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014.”

(Even more here)

October 18, 2017


“In some ways this has become a competition between Vidal and Cristina”


Lack of trust is feeding support for an authoritarian solution to the crisis – which could have serious consequences in next year’s presidential elections

Young reporters want to write about their reality and the positive news in their marginalized neighborhoods, not just about violence, drug trafficking and the bizarre


El crimen ocurrió a pesar de que contaba con esquema de seguridad de la Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP) y de que los líderes de ese territorio colectivo habían denunciado la situación extrema

Los muertos de Tumaco son solo uno de los muchos conflictos que está produciendo esta estrategia, que es además ineficiente y no se está aplicando en las regiones donde se debería

La presencia de diferentes expresiones armadas no necesariamente es el factor más preocupante

Indepaz las ha denominado narcoparamilitares, reconociendo su origen en el paramilitarismo de las AUC y otros grupos similares; prácticas y objetivos que aún conservan de éstas; y destacando las economías ilícitas

The Colombian government’s estimates of FARC dissidence fall well below those observed on the ground by InSight Crime, and these numbers will likely increase

Una de las razones por las cuales la disidencia podría estar creciendo es el incumplimiento de los acuerdos por parte del gobierno nacional y la lentitud para atender las necesidades

Antes estaba la idea de que las víctimas eran el centro del proceso, pero todos perdieron el norte relacionado con esa idea, lo cual es muy frustrante

Cortés era uno de los miembros del Consejo Comunitario del territorio de Alto Mira y Frontera, en el departamento de Nariño, fronterizo con Ecuador

El Salvador

In March 2017, a study by Florida International University (FIU) examined the dynamics behind the dangerous choice to abandon gang life and the challenges faced by ex-members seeking to reintegrate into society


The Guatemalan government has renewed the visa of the U.N. anti-corruption commissioner but instructed him to “refrain from interfering in the internal affairs” of the country

Called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to use his authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to put in place visa bans for those individuals in Guatemala who are committing or facilitating acts of corruption

El hijo del expresidente “tiene que ver con la muerte” del coordinador del Remhi, según una de las últimas conversaciones que el Capitán tuvo con su pareja, Reyes


Even these big warning slabs of concrete, the teeming construction site, and police and helicopters patrolling both sides of the border weren’t enough to stop a half-dozen would-be migrants from hopping the existing fence this month and landing smack in the middle of the project

Mr. Cervantes was viewed by anti-corruption activists as Mr. Peña Nieto’s attempt to shield the party’s power brokers from investigations into graft


“They are divided, confused and some of them are unwilling to tell their voters they failed twice”

Exhaustion has set in. Millions of people who had turned out to vote for the opposition in the past just didn’t turn out. The government cheated, but it also won. Both things are true

Western Hemisphere Regional

The difference between residency and deportation depends largely on who hears the case, and where

The day ahead: October 18, 2017

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

I’m very pleased with the Colombia conference that we hosted on Monday. We had a great turnout, there were great discussions and presentations, and a very good round of meetings with diplomats and congressional staff yesterday.

Everyone is flying home this morning. For me, today is a day of meetings, writing thank-you notes, and catching up on what I haven’t attended to the past several days. The meetings are interspersed throughout may day, making me hard to contact: with a visiting Colombia expert, with a Senate office, with staff to plan some distant-future travel, and a scholar who asked for an interview.

The day ahead: October 16, 2017

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

Today we’ve got a lot of guests from Colombia in town, and will be holding a conference all day to talk about how implementation of that country’s peace accord is going.

The conference, and accompanying our visitors for a schedule of side meetings, will keep me from updating this page often on Monday and Tuesday.

Five links from the past week

The military high command is making disturbing signals. And a large minority of the population, along with a leading presidential candidate, are OK with it.

Transparency International asked more than 22,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean about corruption in their daily lives. The survey also looks at how institutions are perceived and how corruption has been developing in each country

Data shows how surprisingly small MS–13’s footprint is in the United States. In Central America, though, it’s huge.

“Presión de grupos armados ilegales, erradicación forzada, contradicciones en la política antidrogas y falta de recursos pronostican un futuro adverso.”

“Corruption has allowed hundreds of structures to be built outside the rules atop the soft soils of Mexico City’s ancient lakebed.”

The so-recently unthinkable, now thinkable in Brazil

In The New Yorker, Alex Cuadros explains recent comments, in a Brasilia lecture, by one of Brazil’s top generals. Gen. Antonio Hamilton Martins Mourão told the audience that, as corruption scandals continue to mount, the top brass had discussed overthrowing the government for the first time since a brutal 1964-85 military dictatorship.

“Either the institutions solve the political problem through the courts, removing those elements involved in illegal acts from public life, or we will have to impose the solution,” he said. Wearing his official uniform, his chest laden with decorations, Mourão explained that his colleagues in the Army’s high command shared his view. “We have very well-made plans,” he went on, before ominously adding, “This solution won’t be easy. It will bring trouble, you can be sure of that.” When he finished, the audience broke into applause.

There was a moment, not so very long ago, when Brazil’s generals and right wing would have feared international consequences for pulling a coup. They would have felt certain that the United States would lead international efforts to isolate a military government, either reversing the coup or forcing new elections.

The tragedy of living in 2017 is that not only can’t we be sure that the U.S. would lead an international effort to make Brazil a pariah: we can’t even be sure that the Trump administration would oppose the coup in the first place.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo at Newsweek. Caption: “Construction crews build prototype models of the proposed wall along the Southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico, October 11, 2017.”

(Even more here)

October 13, 2017


Bolsonaro can be seen telling a fervent crowd in the city of Belém that the general is a patriot trying to keep his country from going under. The post has racked up half a million views

Brazil, Venezuela

On the recording, Mr. Azevedo says he gave $50 million, but then corrects himself to say the amount was actually $35 million


Días antes del asesinato de por lo menos seis campesinos en la zona rural, la guardia indígena awá había tenido choques con la Fuerza Pública. También se han negado a las presiones de disidencias de las Farc para protestar


The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks

“Mass hysteria” is the popular term for outbreaks among groups of people which are partly or wholly psychosomatic, but Hallett stressed there should be no blame attached to them

El Salvador

Las autoridades de Seguridad de El Salvador trasladaron este jueves a cinco líderes de la Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), acusados de ordenar más de 200 asesinatos entre finales de septiembre y los primeros días octubre, al penal de máxima seguridad


Kelly praised the Mexican government for its role in border security, saying the United States doesn’t pull its weight on fighting demand within the United States for the drugs

The mock ups are being built near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego by several companies that pitched designs to the Department of Homeland Security


No pedían la legalización del cannabis: pedían volver a cultivar mandioca o tomates en lugar de marihuana. Pero para eso necesitaban servicios públicos mínimos


While Maduro remains unpopular, with approval ratings hovering just over 20 percent, apathy and disappointment within the opposition’s base could play to his advantage

Algunos se sienten frustrados y dicen que no votarán para no legitimar al gobierno, otros… aún guardan esperanzas

Western Hemisphere Regional

Smart great powers ensure their safety by befriending smaller neighboring countries

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

October 12, 2017


Troops who are increasingly being pressed into service to fight urban drug gangs will face a military tribunal, rather than a civilian court, if they are accused of killing civilians, under the new legislation

Brazilians have remained trapped between a left that believes effective law enforcement is tantamount to dictatorship-style repression, and a right that believes it consists of sending shock troops into favelas to shoot things up

Central America Regional

“I do not see any evidence that the people making these policies are doing anything except taking advantage of people’s misconceptions about gangs to further their anti-immigration agenda”


The Development and Integral Action and Support Battalions (BAAID, per its Spanish acronym) were born, responsible for creating social change, reactivating the economy in areas where illegal armed groups had a presence, and strengthening institutions and governance

Eso, al menos, es lo afirma un documento del Departamento de Estado titulado ‘Certificación relacionada con el financiamiento militar extranjero para Colombia’

Dice que si una norma futura de implementación viola “los fines y el espíritu” del Acuerdo Final será declarada inexequible por la Corte

Las coincidencias entre estos protagonistas fueron posibles tras una reunión de más de seis horas

La misión de la ONU desplegará sus observadores internacionales en 33 municipios de los más afectados por el conflicto con el Eln. Mientras tanto, la Iglesia católica tendrá el papel de dar acompañamiento a través de 20 diócesis

Colombia, Venezuela

Durante los últimos tres meses, en la frontera de Cúcuta se ha presentado una balacera cada seis días

According to Colombia’s migration authority, the number of foreigners entering Cucuta, the first major city across the bridge, more than doubled this summer. Over 50,000 came in August, up from 22,700 in June


The perpetrators of the alleged attacks on U.S. officials apparently wanted the U.S. and Cuban people to drift apart again


El comisionado presentó el décimo informe de labores con una sola idea en mente: continuar junto al MP el proceso de erradicación de las mafias en el Estado de Guatemala

Ríos Montt will not be present in the courtroom, since he has been found to suffer from dementia. As a result, the court has applied special provisions to his case


Mexico’s economy and foreign ministers have flagged that Mexico will reconsider U.S.-Mexico cooperation on security and migration, if the United States abandons NAFTA and relations become unbalanced

The State of Mexico officially ranks second to the nation’s capital with 346 killings classified as femicides since 2011, according to government statistics


As often happened during the reign of former president Hugo Chávez — who named Maduro his successor before his death in 2013 — food baskets are being doled out to hungry voters at pro-government rallies

Including Venezuela in the otherwise unrelated travel ban fits with this unilateral trend and adds to the sense that a frustrated White House is throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick

The day ahead: October 12, 2017

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

This afternoon I’m helping interview two candidates for WOLA’s legislative liaison position, and then meeting with a visiting researcher of U.S. military aid.

In the morning, I’m in the office doing research through accumulated official documents about Colombia, and helping with last-minute tasks to organize Monday’s conference on Colombia’s peace process.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Raul Arboleda / AFP / Getty Images photo at IPI Global Observatory. Caption: “Dissident guerrilla leader who goes by the name Aldemar (L), member of the First Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and other rebels, patrol the jungle along the Inirida River in Guaviare Department, Colombia, on September 26, 2017. Aldemar is one of several dissident guerrilla leaders who rejected a December peace deal that saw FARC rebels disarm after a half-century of war against the state. Like other dissidents, he is now a man wanted dead or alive by military patrols combing the jungle. FARC officially became a political party at a special congress in September 2017 but Aldemar says his jungle holdouts ‘haven’t changed an iota of our ideology.’”

(Even more here)

October 11, 2017

Central America Regional

MS-13 is indeed a problem. For Central Americans


Presión de grupos armados ilegales, erradicación forzada, contradicciones en la política antidrogas y falta de recursos pronostican un futuro adverso

Several interlocutors underlined to Gilmour their concerns about corruption, with one senior state official indicating that it is by far the biggest underlying cause of human rights abuses in Colombia

A languid implementation of the accord, which seems to stem from bureaucratic obstacles, the absence of efficient institutions, and lack of political will, reflects a country that is yet to be convinced that what was negotiated in Havana was not a series of concessions to the FARC

Tras el hostigamiento del pasado domingo a una comisión de verificación de la masacre en Tumaco, donde seis campesinos murieron, los tumaqueños siguen buscando a personas desaparecidas

102 uniformados de la Policía Nacional serán relevados de sus trabajos en Tumaco, Nariño, para avanzar con las investigaciones por el asesinato de nueve campesinos la semana pasada

Como lo he dicho antes la erradicación manual es la peor de todas las posibles alternativas que tiene un estado para controlar ese problema. Incluso es mejor no hacer nada


Recent signals indicate the reforms may be stalled and that some of Cuba’s leaders are having doubts

Díaz-Canel has done everything he can to banish the myth that he could be the reformer within the government that would lead Cuba to democracy

“Why did it take so long to draw down, to get spouses and children out of there?” the individual who suffered the attack wondered


The country, he said, has faced several devastating blows — including flooding from Hurricanes Irma and Maria — since the initial designation in 2010


Until the end of October, citizens in the community of Mount Salem in Montego Bay will be liable to random searches or detention without a warrant, and will be obliged to present ID in order to leave or enter the area


Following the 2017 quake, civil society groups feel emboldened in their campaign for a truly autonomous attorney-general and a national anti-corruption prosecutor with teeth

The process of renegotiating the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement has turned increasingly acrimonious


Una vez más se ha puesto en tela de dudas la transparencia del Consejo Supremo Electoral en la custodia de las cédulas


So far the Trump Administration’s “debt sanctions” seem to have done little more than strengthen Venezuela’s ties to Russia and China

La exfuncionaria denunció, durante una conferencia sobre Derechos Humanos en la Universidad del Rosario, en Bogotá, que la grave situación del vecino país se ha venido incrementando por la constituyente

Five magistrates named by the opposition-run congress who had been holed up in the Chilean ambassador’s residence to avoid arrest fled in the early hours of Monday and escaped over the border to Colombia

Western Hemisphere Regional

Perhaps the greatest challenge to task forces is political interference – by their very nature, task forces hone in on the interests of powerful elites, including many in higher office and business

The day ahead: October 11, 2017

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

I’m back from our brief vacation as of Monday night. (Taking my 13-year-old daughter and her friend to a giant theme park was great fun, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing.) Yesterday was a day of conference organizing (we’ve got a big Colombia event scheduled for Monday), updating our tracker of border legislation, and generally trying to empty inboxes.

Today I’ve got a staff meeting in the morning and a meeting of groups who work Colombia in the afternoon. In between will be conference prep, a bit of Colombia research and writing, and clearing out my accumulated email from when I was away.

Join us this coming Monday

The Colombia conference we’ve been putting together is 6 days away. You can RSVP here.

“Hacking” the Peace Process: Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Accord Colombia


You are cordially invited to join the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the George Washington University’s Latin America & Hemispheric Studies Program to a conference with leading Colombian analysts and experts on the peace process and the future of post-accord Colombia

Panel 1
Coca: What to do about it?

Bo Mathiasen,
Representative in Colombia,
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Juan Carlos Garzón V.
Associate Researcher, Ideas for Peace Foundation

Pedro Arenas,
Coordinator, Observatory of Crops and Cultivators Declared Illicit (OCDI)


Panel 2
Reintegrating Ex-Combatants into Civilian Life

Ariel Ávila*,
Deputy Director, Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (via Skype)

Maria Eugenia Mosquera*,
Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ) (via Skype)

Mariano Aguirre,
Senior Peacebuilding Advisor, Office of United Nations Resident
and Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombia

Victoria Sandino*,
Alternative Common Revolutionary Force (FARC) (via Skype)


Speaker: Jared Kotler,
Team leader for Colombia, United Nations Department of Political affairs

Panel 3
Transitional Justice and Victims

Juan Méndez,
Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence, American University Washington College of Law
Member of Selection Committee to Appoint Magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and Truth Commission

Carolina Villadiego B.,
Director of Judicial System Thematic Line, DeJusticia

Ariel Palacios,
Representing the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) and Ethnic Commission,
Coordinator of political and legislative advocacy, National Conference of Afro-Colombian Organizations (CNOA)

9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Monday, October 16, 2017
The George Washington University
City View Room
1957 E Street NW, 7th Floor

Nearly a year ago, Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla group signed a historic peace accord ending 52 years of fighting. The FARC has since disarmed, a ceasefire has largely held, and talks have begun with the smaller ELN guerrillas.

Implementing the November 2016 accord, though, may be harder than negotiating it was. Progress on many fronts has been halting and frustrating. Three panels on October 16 will discuss aspects of Colombia’s post-accord reality, determining what is running well, what needs to be “hacked,” and what may need a total reboot.

Each panel will last one hour and forty-five minutes. There will be a 45-minute lunch address. A simple lunch will be provided. Simultaneous translation will be available.

*U.S. visa processing complications will prevent three panelists from presenting in person.

The day ahead: October 5, 2017

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

Six months ago, when my daughter won Washington DC’s spelling bee, one of her prizes was plane tickets to anywhere in the country. She chose Orlando because she’s a big Harry Potter fan. So that’s where I’ll be today through Monday, taking some vacation days.

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