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: February 27, 2020

I’ll be reachable for a little while mid-morning, and at the end of the day, and that’s about it. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a dentist appointment in the late morning, a mid-day call with groups working on the border, and an internal meeting to talk communications strategy, then in the late afternoon I’m taking a train to New York, where I’ll be on a panel tomorrow morning at John Jay College.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Tal Cual (Venezuela).

(Even more here)

February 26, 2020

Brazil

“In difficult times, like during the era of dictatorship, Brazilian culture flourishes”

Central America Regional, Mexico

“Siempre hay un incremento en este momento del año (…) mientras las condiciones (de desarrollo) no se encuentren en los países de origen, las personas van a seguir buscando otras opciones”

Colombia

Miguel Ceballos, alto comisionado de paz, manifestó que varios frentes de la guerrilla del ELN han venido enviando mensajes en busca de espacios de paz

Guaviare es el departamento de Colombia donde hay más probabilidades de que una familia tenga un pariente víctima de desaparición forzada

La Fiscalía afirma que en una fosa común habría entre 450 y 500 cuerpos

Ante la idea expresada por las Farc de que las cadenas era una manera de proteger su vida, Betancourt es enfática en develar su cinismo

Colombia, Venezuela

It consists of the most vulnerable, including poor expectant mothers, unaccompanied children and the sick, people with no defence against the predations of armed bands

Costa Rica

The killing comes just two weeks after Mainor Ortiz Delgado, 29, a leader of the Bribri indigenous people in neighbouring Salitre, was wounded in a gun attack, and less than a year since Sergio Rojas Ortiz, 59, was shot dead

El Salvador

A better list would have focused on “high-level military personalities who were probably involved,” not on the soldiers who would have been killed themselves for not following orders

Honduras

Honduras is a trusted partner in efforts to combat illicit traffickers in Central America

Mexico

La gente de Arantepacua dice que se siente “traicionada” por un Estado y unas autoridades que enviaron a un “ejército de policías” a reprimir una protesta social

The increased pace follows a threat by President Trump to designate drug traffickers as terrorists and amid two visits by his attorney general to Mexico to push for more cooperation

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The teen, a Mexican national, was playing with three friends in the concrete culvert that separates the two cities. They dared one another to cross the unmarked border, run up and touch the fence on the U.S. side, then run back to the Mexican side

El Gobierno de México expresa su profunda preocupación por los efectos que esta decisión tendrá en otros casos similares

U.S.-Mexico Border

As of April 2019, only about 77 acres of land in Webb County was between a border barrier and the Rio Grande. That’s compared with more than 10,000 acres in Hidalgo County and more than 12,000 in Cameron County

Venezuela

La Dgcim permanece constantemente en la mira de Naciones Unidas y organizaciones no gubernamentales por las continuas violaciones de derechos humanos que se les atribuyen a los funcionarios, dentro o fuera de su sede

The business elites are suspected of paying hefty bribes to the government officials in exchange for making loans in bolivars to the national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., and then receiving repayments in dollars

The day ahead: February 26, 2020

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

This morning I’m meeting with a visiting group of Colombian human rights leaders and doing a phone interview about fumigation in Colombia. I’m having lunch with my new intern, and going to an NGO meeting at the UNHCR office in the late afternoon.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press photo at The New York Times. Caption: “En las últimas semanas se han organizado marchas para protestar contra la violencia de género en Ciudad de México.”

(Even more here)

February 25, 2020

Argentina

Sus palabras despertaron críticas, por ejemplo, de la madre de Plaza de Mayo Nora Cortiñas

Colombia

Las mujeres trabajan en los enclaves cocaleros como raspachinas, cocineras, cultivadoras y comercializadoras de la hoja o la pasta de coca. Pero, al contrario de los hombres que cumplen los mismos roles, siguen respondiendo por el cuidado del hogar y de sus hijos

Colombia may be entering a new and dangerous phase where insurgents again attempt to demonstrate their ability to establish a presence in mid-sized Colombian cities

En la lista de los parques donde los funcionarios fueron obligados a salir se encuentran Chiribiquete, Cahuinarí, Yaigojé Apaporis y La Paya

Estas son las historias de los pescadores de coca en Bahía Solano, Juradó y Nuquí; de Jaqué, el pueblo sin patria y de los emberá confinados por la guerra

Al mismo tiempo que la organización de las Farc sigue siendo parte de la lista de terroristas, porque, como sabemos, hay unas disidencias que todavía están involucradas en el narcotráfico y la violencia, apoyamos, como lo hicimos durante las negociaciones, la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz

Gonzalo Sánchez no deja de repensar la importancia de la memoria para el país, para el Estado, para la ciudadanía, pero principalmente para las víctimas

Cuba

Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution

Guatemala, U.S.-Mexico Border

“They’re basically removing the people from (the U.S.) with lies”

Honduras

Se dinamizará el proceso de interceptar a un avión que no cumpla con los requisitos legales para sobrevolar el cielo hondureño

Mexico

El fusil Barrett calibre .50 fue parte del armamento utilizado por el cártel de Sinaloa para liberar a Ovidio Guzmán el pasado 17 de octubre en Culiacán

Numerous reporters and editors with whom CPJ has spoken said that the threats and break-ins at homes and offices of journalists appear to be on the rise

Hasta ahora se han inaugurado 61 cuarteles para compañías de esta corporación, que están ubicados en Michoacán (22), Jalisco (23) y Guanajuato (16)

They were returning on the morning of Jan. 17 when members of a regional gang called Los Ardillos — the Squirrels — stopped their two trucks on a remote road, forced everybody out and attacked them with knives

Nicaragua

El problema con el Ejército ha sido el afán de Ortega de manipularlo, desvirtuando su independencia, junto con la complicidad en dicho esfuerzo de algunos cuadros superiores, en particular el general Avilés

U.S.-Mexico Border

The head of the powerful union representing border patrol agents nationwide said the FBI is working to identify who stole some $500,000 out of the coffers of the El Paso local

“The United States would expect no less if the situation were reversed and a Mexican government agent, standing in Mexico and shooting across the border, had killed an American child standing on U.S. soil.”

U.S.-Mexico Border

Pervasive symptoms and behaviors consistent with trauma; most met diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder

“Important Numbers”: a New Section at the Revived colombiapeace.org Site

When trying to understand peace accord implementation, security threats, and human rights in Colombia, we have to rely heavily on numbers to explain what’s happening. Whether you’re explaining reintegration of ex-combatants, pointing to coca cultivation trends, or advocating for more prosecutions of those masterminding social leaders’ murders, you often need numerical data. And the most current numbers can be hard to find.

In response to that need, a new section of our “colombiapeace.org” site—which I’ve been updating and improving over the past two weeks—just went live: a compendium of current numbers and statistics about peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. Each number has a link to the source document where we found it; the links are color-coded to indicate whether the source is an official document.

Right now, the page includes 85 individual bits of data, covering the following topics:

  • Attacks on Social Leaders
  • Child Combatants
  • Coca and Eradication
  • Crop Substitution
  • Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration
  • Displacement
  • Dissident Groups
  • ELN
  • FARC Political Future
  • Protection of Ex-Combatants
  • Public Security
  • Stabilization and Rural Governance
  • Transitional Justice

This page will never be “done.” It’ll need constant updating. It will also receive additions: there are some basic bits of public information still missing, and some topics will get added to the list above. But at this point, the “numbers” page is good enough to share.

Here, for instance, is what the page’s “Attacks on Social Leaders” section looks like right now. Visit the page to view all topics.

  • As of December 30, 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had verified 303 murders of human rights defenders and social leaders between the signing of the FARC peace accord and the end of 2019.
  • The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría) counts a higher number: 555 social leaders killed between January 1, 2016 and October 31, 2019. That is 133 cases in 2016, 126 cases in 2017, 178 cases in 2018, and 118 cases in 2019.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights counted up to 120 killings of human rights defenders and social leaders in 2019: as of January 14, 2020, 107 cases were verified and 13 more were undergoing verification.
  • Of these 107, 98% happened “in municipalities with illicit economies where criminal groups or armed groups operate.” 86% occurred “in villages with a poverty rate above the national average.”
  • In 2018, the UN High Commissioner’s office counted 115 killings.
  • More than half of 2019 social-leader killings occurred in 4 departments: Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, and Caquetá, though UN High Commissioner counted murders in 25 of Colombia’s 32 departments.
  • “The single most targeted group,” the UN High Commissioner reports, “was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and specific ethnic groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians. The killings of female human rights defenders increased by almost 50% in 2019 compared to 2018.”
  • The UN High Commissioner’s office counted at least 10 killings during the first 13 days of January.
  • The NGO INDEPAZ counts 51 social leaders murdered between January 1 and February 18, 2020.
  • INDEPAZ counted 23 murders of social leaders in the month of December 2019.
  • On December 17, 2019, the Colombian Presidency’s human rights advisor, Francisco Barbosa (who is now Colombia’s Prosecutor-General) said that 84 social leaders were murdered in 2019, which he said was a 25% reduction from 2018.
  • As of January 2020, 59 participants in coca crop substitution programs had been killed, according to the National Coordination of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana Cultivators (COCCAM).

The day ahead: February 25, 2020

I should be reachable, intermittently, in the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m out of contact this morning, lecturing to the Andean Republics class at the Foreign Service Institute, then having coffee with someone from the State Department. Except for a couple of interview calls with people doing research, I’ll be in the office this afternoon, mainly working on the renovated colombiapeace.org website, which is far along now.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from La Silla Vacía (Colombia). Caption: “Pintura de una de las casas en el espacio territorial de Planadas, en Tolima.”

(Even more here)

February 24, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

For decades, many Latin American countries had military dictators. In recent years, democratically elected civilians took control. Now, those civilian governments are bringing back the army

Bolivia

Candidates are supposed to be residents of Bolivia, and Morales has taken refuge in Argentina while he faces charges in Bolivia connected to October’s allegedly fraudulent election

Brazil

“To the people who are committing crimes,” Bolsonaro said, “they have to understand that the men in green are coming, and it’s going to get ugly”

Chile

For decades, Chilean women have gathered to stitch political works of art. Today, Chilean women are denouncing President Sebastián Piñera and the Chilean state with embroidery specifically responding to the nationwide protests

Colombia

Los reportes de la Oficina de Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito – UNDOC- dan cuenta de la sostenibilidad de la sustitución. En realidad, constituyen pruebas contra la fumigación con glifosato

El general Montoya tiene derecho a guardar silencio y a defenderse. ¿Pero tiene sentido su actitud en una sala destinada a aportar a la verdad y reconocer las responsabilidades?

“No se dejen matar, véngase para acá, aquí tendrán un refugio seguro. De las montañas podrán regresar algún día a continuar la lucha por sus sueños, pero de la sepultura, nunca”, dice la carta

La Fiscalía señala al excombatiente, reinsertado en la sociedad hace décadas y destacado gestor de paz, de tener cuentas pendientes por un secuestro masivo ocurrido hace veinte años

Lezcano era un campesino de 23 años, casado y con tres hijos, que había sido asesinado y desaparecido por los militares el 18 de mayo de 2002

More than 40 human rights defenders and community leaders have been killed in Colombia since January, including a national park ranger and several indigenous rights and environmental advocates

Pobladores de 12 veredas se refugian en el casco urbano del municipio debido a las amenazas de muerte

Aunque se publicó un comunicado al respecto en ese entonces, al interior del alto tribunal había diferencias sobre el contenido del auto final

Miembros de la Policía Nacional y particularmente del Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (Esmad) deben ser investigados por violaciones a los derechos humanos, cometidas contra civiles durante las protestas del paro nacional

Cuenta que el 2019 fue uno de sus años más duros. Recibió una docena de sufragios fúnebres y le pusieron una lápida en su automóvil para acallarlo

Hasta ahora se han recuperado 27 cuerpos, uno de ellos identificado y entregado a sus familiares. El magistrado que adelanta el caso cuenta detalles de este hallazgo

When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shockwaves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary

Haiti

The gun battle between cops — some of them in uniform and others hooded and dressed in civilian clothing fighting alongside civilian protesters — and members of the newly revived Armed Forces of Haiti took place shortly after 1 p.m. on the Champ de Mars

Mexico

“El triple levantón apenas apareció perdido (publicado) en un periódico local”

En junio de 2018, la Policía Federal (PF) adquirió un software a una empresa de origen israelí por 500 millones de pesos, sin que se efectuaran estudios de mercado y a un sobreprecio de 480 mdp

Las acciones emprendidas por el Gobierno, desde las ofensivas militares hasta las de inteligencia policial y financiera, no logran frenar la operación de los grupos dependientes de este cártel

What looks like a “drug war” from afar has long mutated into something much more complex – and dangerous

Before Remain in Mexico went into force, immigration officials were required to provide care for sick asylum seekers in their custody. That changed when the administration began returning migrants

U.S.-Mexico Border

In Nogales, Sonora, early this month, 40 percent of the people waiting for asylum appointments with U.S. officials were from Guerrero

Venezuela

Una de las actividades protagónicas de la maniobra fue el lanzamiento del misil Otomat, de largo alcance, el cual se hizo desde la fragata misilística F22 “Almirante Brión”

The story behind Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Maduro’s truce, sealed in a previously unreported meeting in mid-2018, describes the rapprochement between Venezuela’s self-styled revolutionary government and the business class it waged war against

The day ahead: February 24, 2020

I’m in near-constant meetings today. (How to contact me)

I’ve spent a lot of the last few days and nights making some big improvements to our underutilized “colombiapeace.org” website (read about those here).

I’d like to add more to it this week, but might not do much: it’s one of those “high season” weeks with 12 meetings (so far) and two speaking engagements on the calendar. I’ll be in New York on Friday giving a talk at John Jay College.

Today, I’ll be hard to contact because I’ll be in a morning staff meeting, a board meeting of the Andean Information Network, a coffee with the director of a Latin American think tank, and dinner with visiting Colombian human rights leaders who are giving a presentation at USIP.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, February 24, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

5 links from the past week

  • The National Security Archive reveals documents showing that the CIA was the true co-owner of a supposedly Swiss cryptography company, whose equipment encrypted the communications of Latin American military regimes participating in “Operation Condor” in the 1970s. This means that the U.S. intelligence community had knowledge about the human rights abuses these regimes were committing—including a notorious 1976 car bombing in Washington—but did and said nearly nothing.
  • Colombia’s Semana magazine produced a detailed, richly photographed and videoed report about the humanitarian situation in Chocó. This predominantly Afro-Colombian and indigenous department in the country’s far northwest is convulsed by fighting between the ELN and the Gulf Clan paramilitary groups, with thousands of vulnerable community members caught in the middle and the armed forces largely at the margins. I was in Chocó in October and this report aligns with what I saw and heard.
  • The International Crisis Group produced a good report about the proliferation of armed groups throughout Venezuela. Outside of Caracas, the dominion of irregular groups now rivals that of rural Colombia. Except unlike Colombia, nearly all of these groups have tacit or explicit state support.
  • Also in Venezuela, Sarah Kinosian and Angus Berwick at Reuters zoom in on an extrajudicial execution in Miranda and find that the Maduro government’s most feared enforcer, the FAES police unit, has taken ex-convicts into its ranks to carry out brutal acts with impunity.
  • The Washington Post offers an on-the-ground update about what the Trump administration’s denial of the right to asylum at the border looks like right now. Arelis R. Hernández and Kevin Sieff find that the cruel “Remain in Mexico” program is being eclipsed by cruel flights to Guatemala and fast-track, zero due-process immigration hearings. The account of the Honduran man who felt compelled to send his 3-year-old son across the border bridge alone is heartbreaking.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images photo at The Washington Post. Caption: “Mexicans seeking asylum at the U.S. border protest last year outside the Foreign Ministry office in Tijuana, Mexico.”

(Even more here)

February 21, 2020

El Salvador

El mandatario reiteró sus señalamientos a la oposición ante soldados que estarán apoyando en su lucha contra el crimen organizado

Guatemala, Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Instead of allowing Central American migrants access to U.S. courts and having them wait in Mexican border towns, thegovernment instead is quickly sending them to Guatemala to pursue asylum claims there

Mexico

Una media mensual de 93 asesinatos diarios, apenas por debajo de la media anual del 2018 que era de 94 casos por día

Nicaragua

El general Julio César Avilés habrá cumplido casi 12 años al frente del Ejército cuando se realicen las próximas elecciones

U.S.-Mexico Border

Roughly 5,000 troops are currently stationed on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a mission that began in late 2018, and officials have said that will wind down as new barriers secure hundreds of miles

To date, the House Oversight and Reform Committee said, CBP has not provided any information about the punishments meted out to any of the employees involved

Additionally, the Administration released two counternarcotics strategies, outlining priorities in stopping the flow of drugs along both the Southwest and Northern borders

Uruguay

The homicide rate in Uruguay, a traditionally safe country of about 3.5m, shot up by 46% in 2018, to 11.8 per 100,000 people, lower than Brazil’s but higher than Argentina’s

Venezuela

Canada hosted the gathering of foreign ministers from the coalition, minus the United States, which are trying to solve the Venezuela crisis

For residents opposed to the socialist regime of President Nicolas Maduro, the 2019 rise of opposition leader Juan Guaido offered a moment of hope that has yet to deliver

  • Javier Ignacio Mayorca, Escudo Bolivariano (Tal Cual (Venezuela), February 21, 2020).

Las últimas maniobras de la Fuerza Armada colocan a una buena parte de la población como “enemiga” del régimen y, por ende, susceptible de ser objetivo militar en un contexto de conflicto

Power in Venezuela is slipping away from state institutions and concentrating in the hands of criminals, guerrillas and other non-state actors. Any new negotiations between government and opposition must consider how to defang these armed irregulars

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