Adam Isacson

Defense, security, borders, migration, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. May not reflect my employer’s consensus view.


March 2017

11 Latin America longreads from March

Photo credit “Tomas Munita/The New York Times/Redux” from the Bloomberg piece listed below. Caption: “An illegal mine in Peru. The primary tools in this type of mining are fire hoses and mercury.”

Everything here is at least 3,000 words long, but worth your time.

March 31, 2017


Traveling back through his family’s history, a reporter struggles with whether to return to the land of his birth, now that the Communist government wants to reclaim those who left


Tensions between the two countries could undermine the close law enforcement and security cooperation achieved under the administrations of presidents George W. Bush (2000-2008) and Barack Obama (2008-2016)

March 30, 2017


Mexico has a deeply flawed judicial system, and its flaws become most apparent when cases are brought against the powerful and the wealthy

March 20, 2017


Plantaciones extensivas de esta mata, la guerra y la violencia sexual han pasado por Putumayo con más que sangre para las organizaciones femeninas


In the wake of the fire, the revelation that the Secretariat for Social Welfare had failed to respond to these orders led to widespread criticism of the department, and of Guatemala’s President

March 15, 2017


Chocó, Tumaco, Cauca, Buenaventura, el Bajo Cauca antioqueño, el eje Llanos Orientales-Orinoquia y Catatumbo se enfrentan a diversos tipos de violencias tras la salida de las FARC


The facts have become clear. Venezuela is in violation of every article in the Inter-American Democratic Charter

March 10, 2017


Unlike many parts of Arizona, New Mexico and California, where the border is an unseen straight line on the desert floor, the natural barrier of the Rio Grande made wall-building a frustrating experience

Chile, Western Hemisphere Regional

*Harold Vilches, a 23-year-old Chilean, exported $80 million in contraband gold. It all started with a Google search

March 3, 2017


The so-called “Tropical Spring” erupted, grabbed the attention of the world – and then disappeared (Or did it?). An in-depth look, nearly four years on

March 1, 2017


Most of those who attempt to climb the wall into the US will be arrested and sent back. If they survive, they will keep trying

New report: “Throwing Money at the Wall”

Report cover graphic

Here’s a 350-word summary of my 3,000-word report on what’s up with Trump’s border wall, which we just posted to WOLA’s website. But you should really ignore this and read the longer one: it’s better and has graphics and links to lots of sources.

How much would Trump’s proposed border wall cost? We’ve seen estimates ranging from $8 billion to $66.9 billion.

What would the wall look like? There are requests for proposals for two designs: concrete and “other.” The concrete one calls for something 18-30 feet high, going 6 feet underground. Nobody has any idea how many miles of wall might be built, though Customs and Border Protection staff gave Senate staff a figure of 1,827 miles. This amount would require some very difficult and costly wall-building along the winding Rio Grande in Texas.

What’s in the 2017 budget request? The White House wants $999 million in new 2017 budget money to get wall-building started and construct 62 miles. Right now, it only has $20 million on hand for this year, which doesn’t pay for much.

Will the 2017 money pass? For now, it looks like no, there won’t be any new border-wall money for 2017. The $999 million would go on a budget bill that has to pass by April 28th. Congressional Democrats, who have the power to block the bill in the Senate, are threatening to shut down the government rather than approve this money. Republican legislators, too, are either skeptical or want more information about the wall-building plan before they approve such a large amount. Polls meanwhile are also consistently showing 60-plus percent of respondents opposed to the border wall proposal.

What about 2018 funds? Information is vague, but the administration wants $2.6 billion to build about 75 miles next year. So the most intense debate on this may start mid-year.

Why is this such a bad idea? To build a wall would be to throw away a lot of money and a lot of international goodwill for nothing. A wall only slows a border-crosser for several minutes, which makes little difference in remote areas. Illegal migration is at nearly 45-year lows, while most drugs that cross the border (except marijuana) are low-volume substances that travel through ports of entry, not through areas where walls would be built. There are better ways to address remaining border security challenges.

Read “Throwing Money at the Wall” here.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

March 31, 2017


Cunha, who drove the successful impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff, was forced from his position as speaker in July and arrested in October


The government’s ability to turn the 2016 peace accords struck in Havana into a reality could now hinge on Colombia’s capacity to reign in the coca trade

Sólo faltaba la llegada de Mujica y González para que la Comisión de Implementación pudiera marchar a todo vapor

Los dos generales firmaron el acta de compromiso este miércoles. El exfuncionario de Álvaro Uribe lo hizo este mismo jueves

En los próximos días espera recibir alrededor de mil armas, que tendrá bajo custodia en sus contenedores

El Eln tiene que abandonar la guerra para tener a toda la sociedad civil participando en la negociación. El paso hay que darlo ya, quitando todo estorbo que demore

La evidencia, según el ente investigador, es que sus marchas fomentan el “cambio social”


U.S. agents, acting on a federal indictment, said they arrested Edgar Veytia, nicknamed “Diablo” in court documents, as he crossed Monday into San Diego

Tensions between the two countries could undermine the close law enforcement and security cooperation achieved under the administrations of presidents George W. Bush (2000-2008) and Barack Obama (2008-2016)

There’s the world, there’s America, there’s Texas, there’s the border town and finally, within the town, there’s still another world, waiting to get in


A pro-Cartes senator seized a microphone, proclaimed himself senate president, and steam-rolled through the changes with a show of hands


With few protesters in the streets of Caracas on Thursday, it was unclear what popular support the opposition might get from the public

There was swift and widespread international condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015

Supone un mazazo institucional de una gravedad extrema, sin parangón desde que comenzara la crisis institucional en Venezuela

The Secretary General calls for the urgent convocation of the Permanent Council under Article 20 of the Democratic Charter

Venezuela has little chance of slowing the crime wave anytime soon. It is next to impossible to make effective public policy without reliable data

This sounds familiar

Washington Post on Rex Tillerson: "Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact."

From an article in today’s Washington Post about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

This brings back memories of the late ’90s and early ’00s, when we lived in an apartment next to the National Zoo.

I would work some weekends as a volunteer in the Great Ape House, where zookeepers gave us this exact same instruction for interacting with the big male silverback gorillas.

The day ahead: March 31, 2017

I should be reachable for a while late morning and early afternoon, but that’s about it. (How to contact me)

I’m about to do a final edit on what, with added graphics and interactive visuals from the great staff at WOLA, has become almost a full-fledged report on Trump’s border wall. And I hadn’t even started working on it 48 hours ago. (I say “almost” a report because it relies heavily on secondary sources, there’s not a lot of primary research like interviews and new data points. But it did make a lot of use of official government data and statements in my database, which you can see by going here and, on the left, clicking “Tags,” then “Border Security.”)

That report should go out in the morning. After that, I plan to drop in on a regular meeting of human rights NGOs. In the afternoon, I’ve got a meeting to discuss the workplan for our border security and migration work. And I hope to leave at or before 5:00 because DC public schools are closed today (“records day” whatever that means) and I have a request to go to the movies. So there won’t be a lot of time sitting at my desk today.

The best songs I washed dishes to in March

I’ve posted 14 musical results of my evening multitasking since starting this blog mid-month. Tomorrow is the last day of March, but I don’t plan to wash dishes on a Friday night, so here’s this month’s songs as Apple Music and Spotify playlists.

(Now my blog can play music to me at work tomorrow.)

The past week in U.S. border security

  • CNN got some details about the initial $999 million that the Trump administration’s Homeland Security Department is requesting from Congress to begin work on a border wall during the 2017 fiscal year, which ends September 30. That amount would pay for “14 miles of new border wall in San Diego, 28 miles of new levee wall barriers and six miles of new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley region and 14 miles of replacement fencing in San Diego.”
  • Congress seems unlikely to say “yes” to any wall-building money for 2017, though. Congress never passed a 2017 budget last year, and the government is operating near 2016 levels until April 28. By that date, Congress must pass a budget for the remainder of fiscal 2017, or the government will shut down. Democrats are threatening to force a shutdown over the Trump administration’s request for wall-building money, while leading Republicans want more details about the overall plan. So the big legislative debate over wall-building money may be put off for the 2018 budget, which committees will start considering in a few months.
  • This all means that there’s a general retreat away from President Trump’s oft-repeated promise that Mexico will “pay for” wall construction. CNN looks at three ways Mexico might be indirectly induced to pay the cost after the fact, but none of them look feasible or desirable.
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, put out a press release Tuesday estimating that the cost of building a border wall could reach $66.9 billion. The Senator’s estimate is extrapolated from information her staff gleaned from a briefing with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. On Wednesday, CBP released a brief statement warning that “any estimates of the total border wall cost are premature as there are many variables that are currently unknown.”
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may have suggested building a border wall on Mexico’s side of the Rio Grande rather than “cede the river to Mexico”, but he was probably just trying to discuss how difficult it is to build any fences or walls at all along the winding, flood-prone river.
  • More than 200” or “roughly 850” companies have expressed interest in the Trump administration’s requests for proposals on border wall designs. Amid confusion about some of the requests’ language, the application deadline has been extended, but CPB expects to build 10-by–10-foot prototypes in San Diego in June or July.
  • The New York Times and the Associated Press took separate looks at the Border Patrol’s union and “The Green Line,” its Hannity-esque podcast.
  • Two Arizona Republicans, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Martha McSally (chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security) introduced legislation to increase penalties for “cartel spotters,” which they define as individuals who engage in “transmitting information about the position or surveillance efforts of Border Patrol or destroying United States border controls.”
  • I’m enjoying “Tales from the Border,” a series of dispatches from the Associated Press’s Christopher Sherman and Rodrigo Abd, who are driving the entire border from Brownsville west.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

March 30, 2017


U.S. President Donald Trump invited Temer for a visit during a March 18 phone call, when the two leaders discussed deepening commercial and business ties

Central America Regional, Honduras

*JTF-Bravo, located at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, is one of the task forces under U.S. Southern Command *


Son la mayor expresión de la degradación que tuvieron algunos frentes fruto del narcotráfico y que no son afines a los objetivos políticos de las Farc

Según Jean Arnault, jefe de la Misión de las Naciones Unidas en Colombia, el proceso de registro e identificación del armamento con el que los guerrilleros de las Farc ingresaron a las zonas veredales y puntos de normalización, “avanza en un 85 %”

Según los afectados, el ‘Clan Úsuga’ los señala de ser miembros activos de la guerrilla de las Farc y los declara objetivo militar

Con estos nombres ya son 1.074 casos de miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas que serán analizados para que se les otorgue este beneficio


Lasso’s use of the mining card exploits a key issue that has separated Correa from his indigenous support base and highlights the biggest policy U-turn of his presidency

El Salvador

The law sets a powerful example to communities that oppose large mining projects and bolsters the case against mining in environmentally delicate areas

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

La aprobación unánime de la resolución resalta una vez más el firme apoyo bipartidista a la lucha contra la corrupción y al liderazgo de la Fiscal General Aldana y el Comisionado Velásquez


“Nosotros hemos tomado la política de no trabajar con la Policía Militar porque para nosotros es mucho mejor enfocarnos en la reforma de la Policía Nacional”


La “donación” que pedía la Sedena era a cambio de una concesión de taxis para los dueños de los terrenos que ocuparía, pero la asamblea comunitaria de Macuilxóchitl lo analizó y decidió rechazar la propuesta

Mexico has a deeply flawed judicial system, and its flaws become most apparent when cases are brought against the powerful and the wealthy

“U.S. security and economic prosperity hinges on a strong relationship with our neighbor Mexico,” said Sen. McCain

Zinke’s suggestion? We build it on the Mexican side of the river so we don’t “cede” that territory to our southern neighbors. There are a few problems with that idea

Assuming no more deadline extensions, construction of border-wall prototypes in San Diego will begin in June or July

Let’s crunch the numbers on a few possible options that have made the rounds in Washington


The statements from Mexico and others suggest that there could still be some resolution and “good offices” diplomacy with regards to Venezuela, as laid out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter

Tuesday’s hearing at the Organization of American States did not result in a clear plan to address Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis. But the fact it was held at all was deeply embarrassing to Venezuela

There were a number of proposals that were floated yesterday, but that one in particular seemed to have gotten a lot of traction from member-states

The day ahead: March 30, 2017

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

I have a light meeting schedule today. I should’ve set up a meeting or two on Capitol Hill, but was reluctant because there’s plenty of program work to do in the six days before I go to Colombia with WOLA’s Board of Directors. Yesterday, I didn’t finish the introduction to our big military and police aid programs publication, because we had to get a memo to Armed Services committee members, and because I decided it was more urgent to produce an overview of where things stand with Trump’s border wall. (Yesterday’s list of border wall cost estimates comes out of the draft.)

By mid-morning, that border-wall piece should be drafted and being edited. Then I’ll polish off our giant publication and start moving the entire defense oversight database to, like I said I’d do yesterday.

My growing collection of Trump border wall cost estimates

(I put these together as part of a still-unfinished piece that WOLA will publish online… sometime after I finish it.)

What might it cost to fulfill Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border? Estimates of construction cost vary wildly. Here is a range culled from U.S. media:

  • $8 billion, says the National Precast Concrete Association, whose estimate doesn’t take into account the cost of acquiring land.
  • $12 billion, Trump has said.
  • $12 billion to $15 billion, say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
  • “Republicans expect the final price tag for the wall could be more than $20 billion,” according to Politico.
  • An internal Homeland Security Department report acquired by Reuters “estimated that fully walling off or fencing the entire southern border would cost $21.6 billion—$9.3 million per mile of fence and $17.8 million per mile of wall.”
  • “I’ve got, I don’t know, six or seven different papers on my desk,” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt. “I’ve got one that goes, starts at $8 million per mile. It goes up to about $25 million per mile. So again, it just depends on, when you’re talking about across 2,000 miles or so, what you decide to build in what areas.” The U.S.-Mexico border is just under 2,000 miles, but using that ballpark figure and that per-mile amount yields a border-wide cost of $16 billion to $50 billion.
  • After receiving a briefing from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, extrapolates the $36.6 million per-mile cost of the administration’s request for 2018, and comes up with $66.9 billion.

Seen any others?

The past week in U.S. policy toward Latin America

  • The OAS Permanent Council met on March 28 to discuss Venezuela for three highly contentious hours. The meeting, supported by the U.S. and other governments, did not end up invoking the OAS Democratic Charter to suspend Venezuela, as Secretary-General Luis Almagro has been urging. (The United States had been one of 14 governments to sign a letter calling on Venezuela to free political prisoners, respect the opposition-run legislature, and call local elections.) Before the meeting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) warned Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador that they might face U.S. aid cuts if they opposed the diplomatic effort against Venezuela; all three ignored Rubio and voted for Venezuela’s unsuccessful motion to cancel the OAS meeting altogether.
  • A Bloomberg editorial recommended that the U.S. government “lead from behind” on Venezuela, working with the region to push for a solution to the country’s political crisis. “Filling empty ambassadorial slots at the OAS and Argentina wouldn’t hurt,” Bloomberg notes.
  • Speaking of empty seats, both a New York Times editorial and a column from the Miami Herald’s Andrés Oppenheimer excoriated the Trump administration’s decision to boycott March 21 sessions of the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission examining U.S. migration policies. “The failure to send representatives puts the United States in ignominious company,” the Times wrote. “During the commission’s most recent session, only the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua chose not to face their critics.”
  • The commander of the U.S. Southern Command’s Marine component said that, for the third straight year, a contingent of about 300 U.S. Marines will spend the summer in Central America, working out of the U.S. facility at a Honduran military base in Palmerola.
  • The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, was in Washington last week. A Homeland Security Department press release about Hernández’s meeting with Secretary John Kelly gushed about Honduras’s “recent successes,” maintaining the admiring tone that Gen. Kelly adopted when he commanded U.S. Southern Command between 2012 and 2016. When Hernández visited the U.S. Congress, he was confronted by protesters, including friends and relatives of murdered human rights defender Berta Cáceres, chanting “murderer.” In November, Hernández will be on Honduras’s presidential ballot seeking re-election, although eight years ago he supported a coup that purportedly intended to prevent then-President Manuel Zelaya from seeking re-election.
  • The world’s fastest-strengthening currency since January 20, 2017 is the Mexican peso. “[T]he foreign exchange rates may be telling us that the Trump administration’s policies are no longer being viewed as quite so harmful to Mexico — and to other emerging markets,” Jeff Sommer explains in the New York Times.
  • The Economist explores policy options for dealing with Colombia’s booming coca crop, including the longtime U.S. government favorite, aerial herbicide fumigation. For now, though, “the Americans are not publicly advocating a return to spraying—not least because proposed cuts to foreign aid would make it hard to pay for.”
  • A Washington Post column by three historians compares Donald Trump to Argentine strongman Juan Perón. “By representing himself as the embodiment of the American spirit and its everyday people (despite the fact that he lost the popular vote), Trump has invented himself a popular mandate to turn the country upside down.” This is not encouraging since, 62 years after Perón’s first and longest period in power, Argentina still hasn’t gotten out from under his legacy.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

March 29, 2017


El ataque fue perpetrado por integrantes de la comisión “Omaira Montoya Henao” del Eln, cuando las tropas se desplazaban en desarrollo de operaciones de escolta militar a caravanas de transporte público


The National Interagency Security Force of Honduras maintains continuous surveillance of nearly 200 high-crime districts and neighborhoods across the country


Para el mandatario, ‘‘quienes denigran la labor de nuestras fuerzas armadas, denigran a México; quienes las lastiman, lastiman a México; quienes desacreditan su trabajo, desacreditan a México’’

Mexicans were told that energy prices would fall as investment poured in. So far, the opposite has happened

La esposa de Joel Sebastián Casino, quien apareció calcinado después de ser detenido por la Marina, denunció hoy que fue agredida y amenazada de muerte por presentar su caso a los medios y exigir justicia

En seis años, la institución encargada de investigar estos casos, la Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra de la Libertad de Expresión (Feadle) ha resuelto tres casos de 800 carpetas

Al menos 120 organizaciones de la sociedad civil, aglutinadas en el colectivo #SeguridadSinGuerra, llamaron a autoridades civiles a asumir su responsabilidad en la inexistencia de la profesionalización de las corporaciones policiacas

Staff-level briefing from Customs and Border Protection says $2.6B request for 2018 would result in less than 75 miles of wall

Republican leaders, wary of this, are considering a plan that would not directly tie the border wall money to the April 28 government funding deadline

Engineering and infrastructure companies that have worked on previous government projects could capture a chunk of the multibillion-dollar work


Las Fuerzas Armadas sólo pueden movilizarse en base a hechos consumados y no a hipótesis. Expresó que los militares sólo pueden salir a las calles después de decretarse un estado de excepción


Como hemos advertido la justicia se presta al servicio de la destrucción de la democracia, restringiendo los derechos constitucionales en miras de preservar la permanencia en el poder

The three-hour meeting ended with a declaration on behalf of 20 nations pledging to take concrete steps toward a diplomatic solution, but provided few details on what that would involve

Western Hemisphere Regional

Unless Latin Americans can not only encourage but protect their refuseniks, however, these gains will ephemeral

The day ahead: March 29, 2017

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

I tried to avoid scheduling meetings today. I’m going to Colombia with WOLA’s Board of Directors in one week, and need a day to finish some writing, coding, correspondence with legislative staff, and smaller things that have been on my to-do list for a while. After today, I don’t expect to have much more to do on our big military and police aid programs publication.

Today, I hope to take the first steps toward moving the publication, and the massive database of which it is a part, off of (a domain I’ve owned for many years and use to develop projects) and onto

Internet privacy just lost big. Start using a VPN.

The legislation I was warning about last night passed today. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

Make no mistake, by a vote of 215 to 205 a slim majority of the House of Representatives have decided to give our personal information to an already highly profitable cable and telephone industry so that they can increase their profits with our data. The vote broke along party lines, with Republicans voting yes, although 15 Republicans broke ranks to vote against the repeal with the Democrats.

Should President Donald Trump sign S.J. Res. 34 into law, big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent. This breaks with the decades long legal tradition that your communications provider is never allowed to monetize your personal information without asking for your permission first. This will harm our cybersecurity as these companies become giant repositories of personal data. It won’t be long before the government begins demanding access to the treasure trove of private information Internet providers will collect and store.

My sincere advice is to get used to using a Virtual Private Network to mask that information. I’ve been using Private Internet Access for a year now, and it can be a pain sometimes—occasional slowness or stopped connections—but most of the time I don’t even notice it’s there. For more, see:

The past week in Colombia’s peace process

  • Colombia’s draft law creating a transitional justice system to try war crimes, two elements of which WOLA strongly critiqued last week, has not yet passed. The legislature failed to reach a quorum last Wednesday night. A new vote will be attempted the night of Tuesday the 28th.
  • FARC and government representatives met in Bogotá over the weekend to review the peace accords’ implementation so far. It was the two teams’ first formal meeting since the accords’ November 24 signing. A joint communiqué commits the government to finishing construction of disarmament zones by April (finally), and to speed up mechanisms to guarantee security for political activists. The FARC promised to turn over its final list of all its members.
  • Two former presidents, José Mujica of Uruguay and Felipe González of Spain, will be named on March 30 as international representatives to the FARC peace accords’ Committee of Oversight, Stimulus, and Verification of Implementation. This body, with the Spanish acronym CSIVI, will produce regular evaluations of both sides’ compliance with their accord commitments.
  • According to government estimates, about 5 or 6 percent of the FARC’s membership refused to demobilize and are considered “dissidents.” Another 2 percent are deserters from the demobilization process. This is considered low by the standards of post-conflict processes, but there are many months to go.
  • One of the main FARC dissidents, Carlos Carvajal alias “Mojoso” of the 14th Front in Caquetá, turned himself in to authorities. He had led a group of dissidents of unknown size: estimates run from eight to sixty. “Mojoso” will be tried within the regular justice system. He may have yielded in the face of dogged pursuit by his former comrades in the FARC, even though the guerrillas have purportedly been observing a ceasefire.
  • Women in the FARC were the subject of feature stories at The Intercept, The Guardian, and Agénce France Presse, while the Miami Herald portrayed guerrilla painter Inty Maleywa.
  • The acting mayor of Tumaco, the Pacific coast port that is the seat of Colombia’s number-one coca-growing county, alleged that undemobilized FARC members were illegally campaigning in favor of a candidate for an upcoming special mayoral election.

Updated border graphic

Here’s a homemade graphic ranking Border Patrol’s nine sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to 13 measures. Some takeaways:

  • Heroin and meth trafficking are west coast phenomena. Cocaine flows down both coasts, while marijuana flows favor south Texas and Arizona.
  • Most migrants, especially Central American kids and families, come to south Texas or Arizona.
  • The Rio Grande Valley sector, along the Gulf of Mexico, is first in many measures–but still second in number of Border Patrol agents. (A pretty distant second, too: 3,834 agents to 3,135.)
  • The correlation is weak between miles of fencing and crossings of migrants and drugs. (Heavily fenced California has fewer migrants but lots of drugs that cross through ports of entry. Arizona is heavily fenced but crossings continue in wilderness areas. West Texas has little fencing and little activity because it is so remote.)

A “Trump Effect?”: New WOLA Podcast on migration and the border

I recorded a new WOLA Podcast this morning with colleagues Maureen Meyer and Hannah Smith from WOLA’s Mexico and Migration programs:

U.S. statistics showed a sharp drop in migration from Mexico, and especially from Central America, in February. WOLA’s Adam Isacson, Maureen Meyer, and Hannah Smith talk about what is happening and what now awaits migrants who seek asylum or refuge. They discuss observations from February and March travel to southern Mexico, the U.S.-aided Southern Border Plan, and the increasing number of Central Americans who, fleeing violence, are deciding to seek asylum in Mexico rather than enter the United States. They weigh the grave impact that the Trump administration’s proposed policies are having on refugees even before they go into effect.

(Here’s the mp3 file. And here’s the podcast feed.)

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

March 28, 2017


Instead of thinking of the process of demobilisation as a way of breaking up the Farc, the women in this camp plan to stay in close contact, developing what they refer to as their own brand of Farc feminism

The most serious vulnerability lets anyone with the device’s phone number remotely disable it and surreptitiously take control

Quieren volver a la selva, pero las minas que dejó la guerrilla y cultivadores de coca los frenan

Varias dudas flotan en el ambiente, entre ellas cómo será la participación de las víctimas y qué tanto se les tendrá en cuenta, por ejemplo, en las decisiones judiciales que tome la JEP

El Salvador

La Presidencia se asesora de una experta colombiana en ‘justicia transicional’. Arena celebra la iniciativa del primer gobierno de izquierdas. Las víctimas exigen justicia, reparación y verdad


87% de ciudadanos estuvo a favor de los motivos de las manifestaciones contra la corrupción y la impunidad, que las dos instituciones por las que la gente volvería a salir a manifestar son la CICIG y el Ministerio Público

Chile, Haiti

Chile’s government announced last year it would begin withdrawing its peacekeepers, and Bachelet’s office now says the gradual pullout will begin April 15


Mexican authorities should take immediate steps to ensure that armed attacks, such as the cases documented during the first three months of the year, do not continue to occur

Recibió un disparo en la espalda cuando el automóvil Malibú en el que circulaba con otras personas fue baleado por marinos, luego de que el conductor desobedeció la orden de detenerse en un retén

En varios ayuntamientos el crimen organizado logró cooptar, además de los jefes policiacos, a directores de obras públicas y hasta alcaldes, confirma el secretario general de Gobierno de Chihuahua

Cualquiera que sea la causa de la escalada reciente, es urgente que todos los actores relevantes, del secretario de Gobernación a los alcaldes, pasando por el gobernador del estado, reconozcan lo obvio

En las últimas semanas las autoridades de Puebla han revelado los vínculos entre algunos alcaldes y el crimen organizado en el robo de combustible

The $999 million requested by the White House in its budget supplement for just defense and border security spending would cover just 48 miles of new wall, according to justification documents

Cuba, Mexico

Some of the Cubans have been stuck here since then-President Barack Obama on Jan. 12 ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy that had given Cubans a privileged path to the U.S.

Guatemala, Mexico

Cada día decenas de migrantes y refugiados bordean la costa de México por la noche en lanchas ante la presión migratoria en la ruta terrestre


Rodriguez, in a speech to the OAS panel, said Venezuela’s “revolution” continues strong. She accused Almagro of being a stooge of the U.S. government

Even though regional disquiet is growing, diplomats believe Almagro lacks the two-thirds of votes necessary to trigger a suspension of Venezuela

Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Venezuela

The vote would even affect the assistance that Washington provides to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, he added

Western Hemisphere Regional

The failure to send representatives puts the United States in ignominious company. During the commission’s most recent session, only the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua chose not to face their critics

The day ahead: March 28, 2017

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

Today we’ll be recording a WOLA Podcast about the U.S.-Mexico border and migration, which I hope to post by mid-day. I’ve also got a call with a funder, and we’re sending out some materials to legislative staff ahead of next week’s hearing and visit from Northern and Southern Commands. (I’ll be in Colombia with our board and will miss the hearing.)

In the afternoon I’ll be finishing the introduction and fixing a few bugs on our upcoming publication detailing all U.S. military and police aid programs which, on first attempt to lay it out, is well over 120 pages. We ended up writing a book.

U.S. citizens, make this call ASAP

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

We are one vote away from a world where your ISP can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder. Call your lawmakers now and tell them to protect federal online privacy rules.

…The Senate voted last week 50-48 on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules. Now the resolution heads over the House, where it’s scheduled to get a vote on Tuesday.

This bill is headed to the floor tomorrow, after House Republicans sent it through the Rules Committee on a party-line vote this evening.

EFF has a handy phone call-generating tool to put you directly in touch with your congressional office. Just read the brief script to the intern who answers the phone. Do it first thing in the morning.

Ugly calls for military rule in Brazil

Brazil saw a new round of protests yesterday in favor of aggressive anti-corruption measures. But as the New York Times’ Dom Phillips notes, they were not only smaller than in the past, they were harder to the right in their politics.

[M]any marchers in Rio de Janeiro said they would vote in the 2018 election for Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right lawmaker from the city who has praised dictatorship-era torturers and attacked gay rights.

In a December 2016 poll by the Datafolha polling institute, 9 percent said they would vote for Mr. Bolsonaro in some scenarios.

Most disturbing are these photos from the Brazilian magazine Veja of protestors holding placards calling for the country’s military, which ruled brutally between 1964 and 1985, to re-intervene in politics.

Protest sign reads "SOS Forcas Armadas!!! Salve o Brasil desses Bandidos!!!"

Protest sign reads "Eu Quero Intervencao Militar Ja"

 I don’t know what this guy’s message is. Great outfit, though.

Guy in a Brazilian Captain America outfit

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

March 27, 2017


In addition to voicing support for the inquiry into the scandal, many of those protesting in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo also called for more freedom to bear arms and even advocated military intervention in the government


Los representantes de las Farc y del Gobierno estuvieron reunidos por separado en la tarde. Ya se dio la primera reunión de los equipos pero el balance se dará mañana

Las cifras oficiales de deserciones y disidencias en las Farc no superan el 6%, pero expertos advierten que no se está contando con la cantidad de milicianos, de quienes aún poco se sabe

After 50 years of warfare, the FARC guerrilla movement has reached a peace accord with the Colombian government. But demobilization is not easy, particularly for women fighters

En oficinas de congresistas de Estados Unidos encontramos que existía más conocimiento sobre el genocidio e interés por recibirnos para hablar de él que en cualquier instancia colombiana

La incursión de hombres armados en el Litoral de San Juan provocó el desplazamiento de al menos 52 personas. Más de 3.549 han dejado sus tierras en lo que va corrido del año

Colombia, Venezuela

A Colombian official briefed on the call between the two leaders described it as tense. He said that during the conversation Maduro complained about Santos’ support for a diplomatic intervention by the Organization of American States

Fueron trasladadas seis tanquetas, cuatro camionetas doble cabina y patrullas motorizadas del Ejército nacional con 120 soldados de la Décima Octava Brigada del Ejército


Ismael Moreno Coto es un sacerdote jesuita que se ha convertido en uno de los principales líderes opositores de Honduras, el país más violento de Centroamérica. Melo es periodista y dirige Radio Progreso, uno de los pocos medios que hace frente al presidente Juan Orlando Hernández


Cientos de trabajadores de medios de comunicación de Chihuahua, Sonora, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Querétaro, Morelos y Oaxaca encabezaron ayer una serie de protestas

De acuerdo con la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional suman 3 mil 921 en los últimos 10 años entre personal militar y presuntos agresores

Es poco probable que se logren los consensos porque al actual periodo le restan tres semanas y la discusión está atorada en la Cámara de Diputados

In a provocative editorial, the country’s biggest Archdiocese sought to increase pressure on the government to take a tougher line on companies aiming to profit from the wall

Links from the past month about: Politics and security in Latin America


  • A judge has ordered former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to stand trial for employing fraudulent means to prop up the peso before the November 2015 presidential election. The alleged scheme may have drained US$3 billion from Argentina’s economy. It is the first of several accusations for which Fernández has been brought to trial.


  • Prosecutor Carlos Lima, who is investigating corrupt practices by Odebrecht, a disgraced construction company with contracts all over Latin America, said that testimonies gathered so far may lead to 350 prosecutions against top officials. More than 950 depositions of 77 Odebrecht executives, which may be public soon, could “topple President Michael Temer’s government,” Reuters speculates. The New York Times noted that Brazilian lawmakers have a response to mounting scandals: “They are scrambling to give themselves amnesty.”
  • Rather than fizzle out, Brazil’s massive 2013 street protests lit a spark that continues to burn, contends Americas Quarterly’s Brian Winter, a longtime Brazil watcher.


  • A rare survey of Cuban public opinion, carried out by NORC last fall, finds nearly seven out of ten respondents wanting to move to the United States.


  • Two current and two former members of Guatemala’s Congress were arrested for their alleged role in creating fictitious staff posts in the congressional leadership in order to collect their salaries. The investigation against them was spearheaded by the CICIG, the UN-led prosecutorial body.


  • Three Mexican journalists have been murdered in March, in the organized crime-plagued states of Veracruz, Guerrero, and Chihuahua.
  • Legislators from the ruling PRI party, the New York Times reports, are pushing security and criminal-code reform legislation that “is quietly trying to rip up basic legal protections for its citizens at home and gut longstanding efforts to fix the nation’s broken rule of law.”
  • The Wall Street Journal profiles some of Mexico’s deeply corrupt state governors who, with a recent devolution in power to states with weak institutions, are now “worse than potentates.”
  • The Tijuana-based Revista Zeta counts a staggering 90,694 homicides in Mexico in the 50 months since Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as president. The states with the most homicides are Mexico state, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Sinaloa.


  • International pressure on the Maduro government increased. OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro issued a new report to the Permanent Council contending that “Venezuela is in violation of every article in the Inter-American Democratic Charter” and “repeated attempts at dialogue have failed.” Almagro wants Venezuela suspended from the OAS. Fourteen governments, including the United States and the next six most-populous Latin American countries (excluding Venezuela), wrote a statement calling suspension a “last resort” and preferring dialogue, but also calling for release of political prisoners, recognition of the opposition-majority National Assembly’s decisions, and the holding of postponed local elections. The OAS Permanent Council is to meet this week about Venezuela.
  • WOLA’s David Smilde has been urging a multilateral response to Venezuela’s crisis. See his March 14 column in the New York Times and letter to the Washington Post, which notes that “Mr. Almagro’s latest invocation of the [OAS Democratic] charter has a greater likelihood of success.”
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