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

AP photo. Caption: “Immigrants suspected of crossing into the United States illegally along the Rio Grande near Granjeno, Texas, are held by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents.”

(Even more here)

December 8, 2017

Bolivia

En entrevista con BBC Mundo el mandatario hace un recorrido por todos sus cargos que ha ocupado

Colombia

El general Ricardo Gómez asegura que reorganización de batallones permitirá fortalecer al Ejército

Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with his Colombian counterpart, chief prosecutor Nestor Martinez, and a delegation from Mexico in the Caribbean city of Cartagena Thursday

Fue hallado responsable de haber abusado de su cargo como oficial de la Fuerza Pública, de haber engañado a 12 civiles y de haber patrocinado su muerte

Según el Gobierno, esos congresistas están suspendidos bajo la figura de la “silla vacía” y no pueden ser reemplazados. Por tanto, el quórum debía ser calculado en 99 senadores, de los cuales 50 votaron a favor

Su imagen favorable es apenas del 6 por ciento, mientras que su desfavorable es del 63,8 por ciento. Y en intención de voto para las próximas elecciones apenas registró 2,1 por ciento

El Salvador

En una comunidad de San Salvador pandilleros del Barrio 18 obligan a un grupo de mujeres a cuidar a sus hijos mientras ellos, o sus parejas, están en prisión. Negarse implica la muerte

He didn’t look like an ex-colonel with a checkered past, or even like a politician spewing talking points; he had the alacrity of a retiree happy to have something to do

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

Border Patrol agents interviewed by The Associated Press say they expect the numbers to keep rising, which they see as a sign that families in Central America are testing the Trump administration

The Northern Triangle’s recent rise in U.S. immigration diverges from the pattern for Mexico, the largest source of U.S. immigrants

Honduras

The State Department took steps this week to allow Honduras to receive millions of dollars in U.S. aid while praising the Juan Orlando Hernández administration for “fighting corruption and supporting human rights”

Fulton Armstrong, who worked for the CIA in Honduras, criticized Tillerson for the endorsement of a government that he said has not done enough to protect human rights and for making it during a political crisis

Mexico

$1.25 million in U.S. security assistance will be withheld from Mexico

Venezuela

The State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations paid $900,000 to the Atlantic Council in September with instructions to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in Venezuela

Western Hemisphere Regional

Of the five countries with the highest death rates in 2016—Syria, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras, and Afghanistan—only two had active armed conflicts

The day ahead: December 8, 2017

I’ll only be reachable during the mid-afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ve got three meetings evenly spaced on the schedule today: one with a visiting Colombian scholar, one with a researcher/activist colleague who is in town, and a small celebration for a longtime co-worker who’s about to have her first baby. In between, I’ll be catching up on smaller tasks, emptying out my inboxes, and putting things in place for some longer stretches of weekend writing about Colombia.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images photo at Univisión. Caption: “Members of Honduras National Police and police officers belonging to COBRA Special Riot Command stand outside the COBRA headquarters as they refuse to crack down on demonstrators in Tegucigalpa, on Dec. 5, 2017.”

(Even more here)

December 7, 2017

Argentina

Russia has sent Argentina all the necessary materials for taking part in a tender for fighter jets with its Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft

Colombia

Villegas anunció que para el 2018 la meta de erradicación será de 63.000 hectáreas, de las cuales 23.000 se lograrán a través de apoyo de la Fuerza Pública a la sustitución voluntaria, y 40.000 hectáreas a través de la erradicación forzosa

Tras una reunión de evaluación, señalaron que solo el 7 por ciento de las víctimas registradas y reconocidas como tales – que son cerca de 7 millones– han recibido la indemnización económica

Los jueces han determinado que las ejecuciones extrajudiciales son un crimen relacionado con la guerra, por lo que tiene todos los chances de que la JEP revise sus procesos

Colombia, Venezuela

Entre los otros datos de este fenómeno también llama la atención el número de venezolanos que ven en el país una opción de destino. Estas personas son cerca de 470.000

Honduras

The Mission reserves the right to make any additional recommendations it deems pertinent on any aspect thereof, without ruling out the possibility of recommending a new call for elections

“I like to think that all the training had an effect. they seem to be acting in defense of the people”

The United States, which wields considerable influence in the country, shares some responsibility for creating the political landscape that laid the ground for the crisis

Mexico

Zarate may have illegally entered the country on at least three occasions — in February 1998, 2003 and 2009 — using established border checkpoints

The Department of Homeland Security’s announced this week a near-record decline in the number of people caught trying to enter the country illegally. Yet the Trump administration still wants to hire thousands of more border agents

The day ahead: December 7, 2017

I’ll be hard to reach today, except for the latter part of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

It was great to have a day to write yesterday. I completed what turned out to be a 4,000-word report on border security, with Trump’s border-wall prototypes and our May trip to San Diego/Tijuana as a jumping-off point. That will be in the WOLA editing process for the next couple of days, but will post it ASAP.

Today is not a writing day. I’ll be meeting with a visiting European diplomat and Skyping with a researcher, both to talk Colombia. I’ve got a dentist appointment (just a cleaning), an internal WOLA meeting, and an early-evening event at my kid’s school. So I may be harder to reach today.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Eduardo Miranda photo at Proceso (Mexico). Caption: “Diputados protestan contra la Ley de Seguridad Interior en San Lázaro.”

(Even more here)

December 6, 2017

Brazil

Cristiana Bento, a detective who coordinated the arrest, said da Silva was responsible for the gang war which exploded in Rocinha favela

Colombia

Temor, confinamiento y tristeza es lo que se respira en la vereda Pueblo Nuevo de Magüí Payán, en Nariño, donde fueron masacradas 13 personas la semana pasada

Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan was replaced suddenly on Nov. 30, retiring with honors. What wasn’t mentioned is that his name had surfaced in numerous court proceedings

Cuba

The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, said three U.S. officials briefed on the investigation

Cuba, Venezuela

It already failed with Cuba – and could still work with Venezuela, if done smartly this time

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

En los últimos cuatro años, el número de solicitudes de refugio que México ha recibido se multiplicó por ocho, pasando de mil 296 peticiones durante 2013, a 10 mil 262 en 2017

Honduras

The OAS backed Nasralla’s petition to verify 5,174 ballot boxes that were not reported the night of the election and 1,006 more that were hand-counted due to apparent irregularities

Hondurans have sent an inspiring message of faith in the power of democracy to deliver a better future to their beleaguered country. They deserve U.S. support

Mexico

El presidente de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Luis Raúl González Pérez, anunció que si el Senado ratifica esa oprobiosa ley, podría ejercer sus facultades para interponer una acción de inconstitucionalidad

El proyecto de ley aprobado por la Cámara de Diputados contiene varios elementos inquietantes, entre otros el hecho de que, en determinadas circunstancias, las autoridades civiles podrían colocarse bajo el mando de las fuerzas armadas

La recomendación es por el cateo ilegal en agravio de cuatro personas; la detención arbitraria, desaparición forzada, tortura y violencia sexual de tres de ellas y la ejecución arbitraria de dos, ocurridas en Tepatitlán de Morelos, Jalisco

Venezuela

“Over the last four or five years, Ramírez did drop the occasional signal to us, indicating he would be willing to talk,” said a former senior U.S. official

U.S. sanctions have simply been framed as punitive, with less of an emphasis on how the measures could be lifted due to changes in behavior

Todd D. Robinson, the former U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, has been chosen to lead the embassy in Caracas

The day ahead: December 6, 2017

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

I’d thought I’d be spending half of today on a panel discussion on the other side of the city. That’s what my calendar said, anyway. But the organizers, whom I hadn’t heard from in a while, said no, sorry, I’m not on the agenda anymore. I’m not disappointed, because now I have a full day in which to write.

I’ll be finalizing a memo about the border wall prototypes, and pushing ahead on a big report about post-conflict Colombia. I’d wanted to write the Colombia report yesterday, but much time got devoted to CBP’s release of 2017 migration numbers and several calls/interviews about the Honduras election crisis.

WOLA: Migrant Apprehensions Along U.S.-Mexico Border at 46-year Low

This reaction to CBP’s 2017 migration statistics went up on WOLA’s website this afternoon.

New Data Shows Migrant Apprehensions Along U.S.-Mexico Border at 46-year Low, Despite Trump Administration’s Demands for “Massive” Security Buildup

Washington, DC — Data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on December 5 showed that the past fiscal year saw the lowest number of migrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border since 1971. The agency reported apprehending 303,916 individuals between ports of entry along the southwest border during FY2017 (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017). Of those apprehended, 39 percent were either families or unaccompanied children, statistics show. Some 53.5 percent of those apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, with another 42 percent from Mexico. The 127,938 Mexican nationals apprehended was the smallest annual total since at least 1969.

Based on these apprehension numbers and the current number of active Border Patrol agents, the average Border Patrol agent captured just 18 migrants during FY2017, or one every 20 days. Despite migration levels hitting a 46-year low, the Senate is currently debating spending $100 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents next year, who would be stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border. The 500 agents would be a downpayment on 5,000 additional Border Patrol hires requested by the White House. (Border Patrol currently has just under 20,000 agents.) These apprehension statistics suggest that, in contrast to Trump administration rhetoric emphasizing the urgent need for a “massive” border security buildup, proposals such as the Border Patrol expansion and the White House’s $1.6 billion request for a border wall are unnecessary and wasteful, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy group that has carried out extensive field work along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“These numbers show that Border Patrol agents are stopping, on average, one or two people per month along the U.S.-Mexico border. Where’s the urgent need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on further expanding this agency? If Congress approves the wall-building and agent-hiring in the 2018 Homeland Security Bill, they’re wasting taxpayer money without actually addressing very real challenges that do need attention along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said WOLA Director for Defense Oversight Adam Isacson.

Read WOLA’s arguments for a common-sense border security policy — one that does not involve an across-the-board increase in Border Patrol staffing — in an op-ed published by The Hill.

The day ahead: December 5, 2017

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

This is my one day without meetings and events on the schedule. I hope to make substantial progress on a big report about Colombia, although the crisis in Honduras and the border debate in Congress could preempt that.

U.S.-Aided Units in Honduras

As a likely election theft proceeds in Honduras, the country’s security forces are playing a central role in putting down protest. Since the U.S. government has closely supported the Honduran military and police since the cold war, we need to know whether U.S.-aided units are backing authoritarian behavior and abusing protesters’ rights.

Here is a list of security-force units that we know have received U.S. assistance since 2015.

Units in red have been actively confronting protesters demanding a fair and transparent vote count, according to media reports and communications with sources inside Honduras. (Others may be equally involved, but information hasn’t confirmed it.) Source documents for the recipient unit list are linked at the bottom of this post.

Update 12:00 December 5: media are reporting that the U.S.-aided TIGRES and COBRAS units are refusing to participate in further suppression of protest. While I don’t know whether this is a nationwide phenomenon or how long it will last, for now I’m switching those units from red to black in the list below.

Recipients of U.S. Assistance

  • Honduran National Police
    • National Police Special Forces (TIGRES)
    • National Police Special Operations Command (COBRAS)
    • National Police NAGU (National Anti-Gang Unit)
    • National Police Tactical Special Operations Group (GOET)
    • National Police Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU)
    • National Police Intelligence Unit (SERCAA)
    • Special Investigations Unit (SIU)
    • Distrito Policial 6-1
    • Chamelcon, Cortés Unit
    • Unidad Metropolitana Prevención (UMEP-5)
    • Policía Preventiva (UMEP-6)
    • Policía Preventiva (UMEP-7)
    • Dirección Nacional de Policia Preventiva, San Pedro Sula Unit
  • Honduran Navy
    • Naval Special Forces (FEN)
  • Honduran Air Force
  • Public Ministry Technical Criminal Investigative Agency (ATIC)

Not Recipients of U.S. Assistance

  • Military Public Order Police
  • Honduran National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA) —though some units assigned to FUSINA are in the above “aid recipients” list
  • Special Units for Jungle and Night Operations (TESON)

 An April 2017 Defense Department response to a congressional inquiry reads, “No support provided has been provided to Military Police for the Public Order (PMOP), Special Units for Jungle and Night Operations (Teson). No support has been provided to Honduran National Interagency Security Force (FUSINA). FUSINA may request support from any unit within the Honduran Military, National Police, Attorney General’s office, and other investigative and law enforcement agencies. Therefore, any unit within the Honduran Military could feasibly be called upon to participate in FUSINA.”

Source Documents

The day ahead: December 4, 2017

I’ll be reachable in the latter half of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ve got 5 meetings or calls on the schedule today—interviews, lunch with an old colleague, two all-hands office meetings. These will make me hard to reach. Other than some writing about the border early this morning (and perhaps about U.S. aid to Honduras, time permitting), I’ll be spending the non-meeting time of this Monday answering email, putting research in the database, and trying to keep up with news.

The week ahead

I’ll be in Washington all week. My main goal is to finish part 1 of a 2-part report on Colombia’s post-conflict challenges. Part 1 will focus on the short term items, mainly reintegration, coca, and transitional justice. Part 2 will go into an especially thorny long-term item: bringing governance to historically ungoverned regions.

I’ve also got a close eye on the legislative debate over the 2018 budget, which must be passed by Friday and is hung up in part on Trump’s border wall and DACA. I aim to have a piece out by mid-week about the border wall prototypes just built in San Diego and how irrelevant they are. But the big legislative battle is likely to get postponed to the week of December 18-22.

When not writing, I’ve already got 15 meetings and events on the calendar, which is likely to fill up more. And the electoral crisis in Honduras also looms large.

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