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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March 2017

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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