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

(Even more here)

August 16, 2018


Members of the tribe say his death was the result of a fierce conflict provoked by the incursion of loggers into their land

Brazil, Venezuela

A Brazilian border state’s difficulties welcoming Venezuelans underscore a frequent challenge: communities hosting vulnerable refugees are often among their country’s neediest, too


El enfoque territorial se quedó en el discurso, mientras que la acción institucional adoptó un enfoque familiar de corto plazo, tal y como ha ocurrido con otros programas en el marco del Plan Colombia y el Plan Consolidación


The change to the “standard tour of duty” puts Cuba in league with countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan

El Salvador

Su confesión es una ventana a estructuras de corrupción que van más allá de su presidencia y sus lujos, y debe dar lugar a investigaciones que lleguen mucho más lejos

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

For migrant children and families, reintegrating safely back into their communities is more complicated than simply being sent home


Mexico’s deputy attorney general also told a joint news conference Wednesday that one priority is to capture the leader of the increasingly powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel

“Gangs and cartels go hand-in-hand,” Anthony Williams, the DEA’s chief of operations, told reporters. “They use each other in an effort to expand their independent business enterprises”

Familiares reclaman la falta de atención e incluso acoso de autoridades

Una célula de presuntos integrantes del Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) fue desmantelada hoy aquí, con la detención de 20 de ellos en Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, en los límites de México y Guatemala

Lo anunciado por López Obrador me deja con la sospecha de que no ha pensado mucho en el tema de seguridad, no le interesa demasiado y, por ahora, no planea grandes cambios

Alfonso Durazo Montaño, futuro secretario de Seguridad Pública, anunció que no será creada la Guardia Nacional, y en cambio será prioridad el combate a las finanzas del crimen organizado

Las madres agraviadas manifiestan su desconcierto sobre el tema de la amnistía y el perdón a los criminales. Así lo expresaron en los dos primeros foros realizados la semana pasada

Western Hemisphere Regional

There are reasons for optimism that the recent increases in overdose deaths will not continue

The day ahead: August 16, 2018

I’ll only be reachable in the late afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ll be at a Colombia-related meeting this morning at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Then I have an errand (time to renew my driver’s license after 10 years). Then I’ll be in the office, writing about Colombia. I have to leave a bit early for a “parents’ orientation” at the high school where my kid will be a freshman as of next week.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

August 15, 2018

El Salvador

Saca, who was arrested in 2016, had made a deal with the Attorney General’s Office: If he confessed, he would face a lighter sentence


Low coffee price and bottomed out salaries have decimated jobs for Guatemalans in the country’s highlands


As drug-fueled violence reaches unprecedented levels in Tijuana, the city’s top safety official calls for automatic detention of anyone caught with weapons—drawing criticism from advocates of Mexico’s new criminal justice system

The new plans include putting greater emphasis on attacking cartels’ financial infrastructure. Plans also call for a new enforcement group based in Chicago that will concentrate on international investigations of cartels

AMLO and his advisers have proposed sending drug war-fighting soldiers back to their barracks, pardoning nonviolent drug offenders, and boosting social programs

Azucena Rodriguez Zamora, who was elected to the lower house of Congress for the eastern state of Veracruz, was driving on a highway in the neighboring state of Hidalgo when gunmen in another car opened fire on her vehicle


Desde el 7 de julio, unos audios dejaron al descubierto que en vez de administrar justicia, unos jueces y fiscales se habían dedicado a delinquir


“Maduro is facing a divorce with the armed forces, which is apparent in the various rebellions that have taken place in recent months,” Borges said

Those fleeing — about 7 percent of Venezuela’s 32.8 million people — cite lack of food as the main reason for leaving. U.N. humanitarian officials report that 1.3 million of those who fled were “suffering from malnourishment”

The day ahead: August 15, 2018

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

I’m in the office again. Yesterday I finished a near-final draft of our third and final report on the state of the U.S.-Mexico border and migration, based on our June Arizona trip (here’s parts one and two). I’m sure colleagues here will suggest changes, then we’ll get it up next week. Today I hope to do a lot of overdue research and writing about Colombia.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

August 14, 2018


La primera cuestión que debe definirse con precisión, ya que el decreto no la aborda, es qué significado y alcance tiene el concepto de “apoyo logístico” provisto por las Fuerzas Armadas a las fuerzas de seguridad


These right-wing forces convicted me, imprisoned me, ignored the overwhelming evidence of my innocence and denied me habeas corpus only to try to stop me from running to presidency

Experts say militarised responses are associated with a rise in rights abuses rather than a drop in homicides

Brazil, Venezuela

Mattis told reporters that despite his discussions on the topic with South American defense ministers, the Venezuelan crisis is “not a military matter.”

Brazil, Western Hemisphere Regional

Speaking to reporters while traveling to Brazil Sunday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Russian and Chinese involvement in South America has had “zero impact” on military-to-military relationships with America’s Latin partners


Al menos 76 excombatientes de la antigua insurgencia han sido asesinados entre noviembre de 2016, mes de la firma del Acuerdo de Paz, y junio de 2018. Las muertes han ocurrido en 18 departamentos del país

Miguel Ceballos, nuevo comisionado para la Paz, y Emilio José Archila, nuevo alto consejero para el Posconflicto, serán los dos hombres encargados de sacar adelante el acuerdo de La Habana

Según informó la cartera de Defensa, el siguiente paso a la activación de los protocolos es la entrega, por parte del Eln, de las coordenadas para proceder a la liberación de las personas que se encuentran secuestradas

El exsubdirector del DAS fue encontrado responsable de instigar el crimen del periodista. Después de 19 años del asesinato, el juez séptimo penal de circuito lo encontró responsable en calidad de determinador


El ingeniero Francisco Herrera fue interceptado cuando conducía a su trabajo, en la ciudad de Tampico, Tamaulipas, en 2015; sus teléfonos registraron actividad en coordenadas que corresponden exactamente con la ubicación del Campo Militar Número 1

En el primer semestre de 2018 se registró un total de 109 mil 296 eventos de repatriación de mexicanos por parte de las autoridades migratorias estadounidenses


Cuatro estudiantes nicaragüenses que la semana pasada estuvieron en Guatemala participando de una actividad académica, explican desde sus posiciones en resistencia, los orígenes de la crisis política que vive Nicaragua desde abril pasado


Saab identified the two detained officers as Col. Pedro Zambrano Hernandez and Gen. Alejandro Perez Gamez of the National Guard

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The Brazilian defense minister said Monday after talks with Mattis that his US counterpart believed “the solution [in Venezuela] should be led by Brazil.”

Western Hemisphere Regional

The Senate will resume work Wednesday, and the U.S. House will return Sept. 4. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, giving Congress a short time frame to find a fix

the administration has an opening this week to demonstrate commitment to our core principles by stating its opposition to the militarization of law enforcement, which represents a challenge to liberal democracy across much of Latin America

“We all care about human lives,” said Stephanie Dixon, a Border Patrol agent and spokeswoman. “We are all a humanitarian group at the end”

The day ahead: August 14, 2018

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

Other than a morning conversation with a reporter, I plan to be in the office writing all day, polishing our next report on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

CAJAR photo at (Colombia). Caption: “A las afueras de la JEP, víctimas de otros casos de ‘falsos positivos’ pidieron justicia.”

(Even more here)

August 13, 2018


Las nuevas amenazas afectan especialmente algunas vulnerabilidades del Estado, ya sean estas deficiencias en los controles migratorios, la indulgencia ante tráficos ilegales, o la complicidad con actores violentos. Y ellas no se neutralizan con una fuerza armada

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia

El viaje de Mattis será el primero de un secretario de Defensa estadounidense por la región desde 2014, cuando Chuck Hagel visitó Colombia, Chile y Perú


La principal es es cómo armar los protocolos del mecanismo de verificación y veeduría del cese

Señaló que Colombia no se puede seguir dejando chantajear más del crimen y que si esa guerrilla quiere desmovilizarse, tiene que empezar por liberar a los secuestrados y cesar actividades criminales

Emiliano Trochez y Alejandro Jacanamejoy, líderes sociales de los departamentos del Cauca y Putumayo, respectivamente, fueron asesinados entre el jueves y viernes

Estos miembros de la Fuerza Pública se vieron cara a cara por primera vez en la justicia derivada del acuerdo de paz con las madres de cinco jóvenes de Soacha

Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela

In Ecuador, up to 20 percent will remain in the country and submit applications for asylum, refugee officials said. Others are expected to continue on to Peru or Chile


En una decisión inédita, un juez federal de distrito ordenó a la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) que rencause el expediente de la masacre de Tlatlaya ante la ineficacia y las omisiones cometidas en su investigación

A 4 años, el caso se mantiene en la impunidad debido a la ineficiencia de la PGR


El equipo de fuerzas especiales compuesto por efectivos del Ejército, la Marina y la FAP fue insertado la semana pasada en Canayre con el propósito expreso de ubicar y neutralizar definitivamente al grupo narcoterrorista


It is important that the “Lima Group” of 14 nations has emerged to pressure Venezuela. But there also needs to be a “group of friends” that can engage the Maduro government and facilitate a transition

Western Hemisphere Regional

This week, Sabraw seemed happier with the government’s progress, saying during a status conference on the case that it was clear the government had put “an enormous amount of work” into finding the parents over the past week

The day ahead: August 13, 2018

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

This morning, in addition to the weekly staff meeting and check-ins, I need to fix an authentication glitch in the server running, my database of things. Hopefully won’t take too long, but you never know. Otherwise, I want to edit and approve the draft of our third and final report on the state of the U.S.-Mexico border and migration, based on our June Arizona trip (here’s parts one and two).

The week ahead: August 13, 2018

With Congress (mostly) gone, universities out, and a fraction of people on vacation, August is one of the slowest times of the year in Washington, rivaled only by late December. It’s way easier to get a parking space, or a table in a restaurant, than it normally is.

At work, it’s a good time to catch up with people who are in town, to make plans and clear out inboxes, to do writing, coding, or other projects that require uninterrupted blocks of time, and to read books and reports that have been sitting in nearby piles for too long. I hope to do a bit of all of that this week, as long as no emergencies arise.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

August 10, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

The Trump Administration said 386 children had not been reunited because their parents were “outside the U.S.”

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia

“The White House declared 2018 the ‘Year of the Americas,’ and the Secretary’s trip underscores the Department’s strong defense ties with Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia,” the Pentagon said


His genuflections to the dictatorship make him a threat to democracy in a country where faith in it has been shaken by the exposure of graft and the misery of the economic slump

Data from the independent Brazilian Public Security Forum said that an average of 14 people died at the hands of police officers every day – an increase of 20%


La posible nueva directora de esa entidad muestra mensajes ofensivos contra las personas que debe proteger

El coronel (r) Gabriel de Jesús Rincón, junto a trece militares más, participarán de la primera gran audiencia sobre falsos positivos que adelanta la Jurisdicción Especial de Paz

Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela

Thousands of Venezuelans overwhelmed the Ecuadorean-Colombian border high in the Andean mountains on Thursday, as fears of border closings led to a sudden surge in migrants


Nájera’s response to the move by the US Congress fits into a broader pattern of elites accused of corruption trying to muddy the waters by impugning the reputations of others


Silvia Ortiz Solís, fundadora del Grupo Vida, agrupación de padres y madres buscadores “con pico y pala”, rechazó a nombre de las víctimas de violencia la petición de perdón que hizo el presidente

He described it as more of an “assistantship” than a bodyguard corps, and added he will also be protected by Mexicans of all stripes — police, soldiers, ordinary citizens

For several years, murders in the capital actually declined. Now though, killings are at a record –up 45 percent since 2014


Militares tras la pista del mando militar conocido como camarada “Antonio”, autor de la emboscada que acabó con la vida de 4 policías en Anco (Huancavelica). Terroristas responden con disparos a helicóptero


Julio Borges, living in exile in Colombia, attacks Maduro as other opposition leaders say apparent assassination bid was legitimate

Two speeches show the bipolar nature of Colombia’s new ruling party

President-elect Iván Duque and Senate President Ernesto Macías gave very different addresses at Duque’s inauguration on Tuesday. (EFE photo at El Espectador.)

Inauguration day in Colombia, August 7, will be remembered for two speeches that left observers scratching their heads about what direction the new government of President Iván Duque will take the country.

  • Duque gave an hourlong speech listing dozens of policy priorities. There were so many, it was hard to pick out those he viewed as most important. The speech’s tone, though, was conciliatory and optimistic. Duque is viewed as a center-right politician, one of the most moderate members of a mostly hardline conservative political party (ex-president Álvaro Uribe’s “Democratic Center”). The speech highlighted Duque’s centrism.
  • He was preceded, though, by a half-hour diatribe from Democratic Center politician Ernesto Macías, who for the next year will be the president of Colombia’s Senate. Macías’s speech bore little resemblance to Duque’s. It had lots of red meat for the far-right wing of Duque’s party: much of it was a lengthy, blistering attack on the outgoing government of ex-president Juan Manuel Santos. The speech was roundly criticized by Bogotá’s political establishment; some pro-Santos senators even got up and left the inauguration ceremony.

The two contrasting speeches showed the incoming government’s “good cop bad cop” or “Jekyll and Hyde” nature. A 42-year-old moderate president with a thin political resume is ruling with the support of a party, and a congressional bloc, that is well to his right and often seems more beholden to ex-president, now Senator, Uribe.

Here, translated into English, is what Duque and Macías had to say about several topics important for Colombia’s peace process and U.S. policy.

On “Correcting” the FARC peace accord

Duque: Out of respect for Colombia and for the citizen mandate that we have received, we will deploy corrective measures to assure the victims truth, proportional justice, that they may also receive effective reparation, and that there may be no repetition anywhere in the territory.

We will also correct structural failures that have become evident in the implementation [of the accords].

Macías: On the Havana Accords, we have to turn the page on the previous government dividing us between friends and enemies of peace. We Colombians are all friends of peace. During the plebiscite of October 2016, convened by the Government, the citizens mostly voted no to the Havana Agreements, but the government of ex-president Santos refused to modify them and, on the contrary, ignored the popular mandate.

This new Congress of the Republic has the responsibility to modify and adjust them to restore the rule of law and return to Colombians the trust lost in their institutions. We must recover legality. We always believed that, in order to sign this agreement, it was not necessary to tear the Constitution or the institutions to shreds, because in Colombia there has not been a civil war or an armed conflict, but a terrorist threat against the state. For this reason, it is urgent to move ahead with the necessary modifications, without falling into the fanaticism of destroying the accords.

Notes: Both Duque and Macías are outspoken critics of the FARC peace accord. Here, though, only Macías uses the inauguration as an opportunity to voice these criticisms. Both call for corrections or modifications to the accord without offering specifics, much less explaining how to “correct” it without destroying it. They are probably referring mainly to tightening the conditions of punishment for ex-FARC members found guilty of war crimes, and preventing FARC members from holding political office while facing war crimes trials.

On illicit crops:

Duque: We’re going to be effective in the eradication and substitution of illicit crops, together with communities, as well as in the launching of productive projects. We’re going to break narcotrafficking structures’ logistical supply chains.

Macías: Today you receive a country with the dishonorable record of being the number-one coca producer in the world, with more than 210,000 hectares planted and a production of 921 metric tons of cocaine. Regarding the worrying increase of illicit crops in Colombia, we celebrate your announcements, President Duque, to combat them decisively without contemplations. The mere act of doing away with voluntary eradication, which is not complied with, and if necessary returning to fumigation, is a hopeful advance.… We must assume decisively the policy of eradication and substitution of illicit crops, and to do it with the support of that great ally of Colombia: the United States. A country with which, in addition, we have to permanently strengthen our relations.

Notes: It’s interesting that Duque didn’t give specific mention to increasing forced eradication of coca crops, including through herbicide fumigation. He has been on record supporting that. Macías not only supports renewing the fumigation program that was suspended in 2015, he would abandon the voluntary eradication effort launched in 2017 in compliance with chapter 4 of the FARC peace accord.

On the ELN peace talks:

Duque: I want to be clear. During the first 30 days of our government we will make a judicious, prudent and analytical evaluation of the last 17 months of talks that the outgoing government has advanced with the ELN. We are going to meet with the United Nations, with the Catholic Church and the countries that have been supporting this process, so that in the framework of institutional independence they may give us their opinion about it.

But I want to make clear, I want to make absolutely clear, that a credible process must be based on the total cessation of criminal actions, with strict international supervision, and defined time periods. We want to move forward, but in order to move forward we must make very clear that the Colombian people will not be intimidated by violence or be pressured by any form of violence.

Macías: (no mention)

Notes: This points to at least a slight softening of Duque’s line on whether to continue or break off the slow-moving ELN talks. Earlier, he had said he would only continue peace talks with the smaller guerrilla group if its members not only declared a cessation of hostilities, but concentrated its members into specific zones in order to verify that cessation. Here, Duque doesn’t repeat the “concentration into zones” pre-condition.

On reintegration of ex-combatants:

Duque: I believe in the demobilization, disarmament, and reinsertion of the guerrilla base. Many of them were forcibly recruited or separated from their surroundings by the intimidation of arms. I’m convinced and committed to seeking productive opportunities for these organizations’ base, and to look after their protection.

Macías: (no mention)

Notes: There is little doubt that Duque’s government will fund reintegration programs for ex-combatants who choose to demobilize individually. However, most ex-FARC fighters wish to demobilize collectively, staying together in a single, usually rural, location. The Santos government and the FARC didn’t really manage to arrive at a plan for collective reintegration. This has left thousands of ex-fighters unclear about their futures. Duque doesn’t talk about collective reintegration here.

On governance in post-conflict territories:

Duque: We will also strive to provide public goods in all regions of the country, starting with those that have been hit the most painfully by violence.

Macías: Today you receive a country, from a government that took on a commitment of 130 trillion pesos (US$44.5 billion), without the necessary resources existing, to finance the Havana accords during the next 15 years.

Notes: The lack of government presence and services in vast areas of the country is a key reason why coca cultivation is growing and criminal groups are expanding. Duque prioritizes providing “public goods”—something for which the peace accord’s first chapter offers a plan. But Macías complains about that plan’s price tag.

On the military and human rights:

Duque: Today I want to tell the soldiers and police of the fatherland that we are going to promote a serious and rigorous institutional and legal framework so that they can fulfill their constitutional duty in strict adherence to Human Rights, while feeling with all their hearts the affection of the people.

Macías: It is up to you, President Duque, as supreme commander of the security forces, not only to carry out changes in the high command, but to generate a change in the new commanders’ mentality in order to recover Colombians’ security and tranquility.

Notes: As we saw during the recent debate over the post-conflict transitional justice system’s procedural law, many in Duque’s party wish to shield the armed forces from human rights charges. We should view any talk of a new “legal framework” in light of that. Macías’s call for a new high command with a different “mentality” is especially ominous, as the high command of the past few years has been relatively moderate and supportive of the peace process.

On attacks on social leaders:

Duque: Legality means defending the lives of all Colombians and protecting the integrity of political and social leaders, and of our journalists.

Every homicide hurts us, every attack hurts us, every threat hurts us. And that is why we are going to work with the Ombudsman’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office to prevent violence against them and sanction exemplarily those who have acted as intellectual and material authors of the crimes and intimidations that cause mourning, that hurt, that eat away the feeling of love of country.

Macías: Ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, since the end of 2010, abandoned the Democratic Security policy, and today hands over the country immersed in a new war that to date has left more than 300 civic and communal leaders murdered, just in the last 2 years.

Notes: Duque’s words on the urgent crisis of social-leader killings are correct and encouraging. Let’s hope they’re followed up with actions, and with personnel choices better than the now-withdrawn nomination of Claudia Ortiz to head the Interior Ministry’s National Protection Unit. For his part, however, Macías cites the social-leaders crisis only for political reasons, as another line of attack against the outgoing Santos government.

On Venezuela:

Duque: (no mention)

Macías: Today you receive a country, President Duque, to which about 1 million Venezuelans have arrived, whom we welcome in a fraternal manner with solidarity; citizens displaced by a dictatorship that has subjected the people of that brother country to hunger, unemployment and despicable political persecution. A dictatorship that has been sustained by the permissiveness of several governments like the one that just ended in Colombia.

Notes: It’s not hard to imagine why Duque chose not to attack Venezuela’s authoritarian government in his presidential inauguration speech. But Duque’s position on how to approach Venezuela’s regime differs little from Macías’s.

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