Adam Isacson

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


April 2017

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, May 1

  • 10:00–11:30 at the Brookings Institution: Drugs and peace in Colombia: Which way forward (RSVP required).

Wednesday, May 3

  • 8:30–10:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Environmental Policy in Post-Conflict Colombia (RSVP required).
  • 9:00–10:00 at the Atlantic Council: A Conversation with Julio Borges, President of Venezuela’s National Assembly (RSVP required).
  • 2:00–3:00 at the Wilson Center: Book Launch: “The Corruption Cure: How Citizens and Leaders Can Combat Graft” (RSVP required).

Thursday, May 4

  • 9:00–10:30 at the Atlantic Council: A New Strategy for US Engagement in Central America (RSVP required).
  • 9:30–11:00 at the Migration Policy Institute: Recognizing Changing Enforcement and Crossing Trends at the U.S.-Mexico Border (RSVP required).

Friday, May 5

  • 8:45–10:30 at the Inter-American Dialogue: The Outlook for Oil and Gas in Brazil (RSVP required).
  • 11:00–12:00 at the Wilson Center: Changing Political Discourse in Mexico: A conversation with Senator Armando Rios Piter (RSVP required).
  • 6:00–7:30 at WOLA: Reception for the 2016 WOLA/Duke Human Rights Book Award Winner (RSVP required).

The WOLA firehose: April 2017

My colleagues at WOLA and I put out a lot of really good content this month. Check these out, share them, and if you want to make sure this work continues, please leave us a tip.

5 tweets that made me laugh this week

Five links from the past week

Central America Regional, Mexico

Planas looks at the vastly increased use of the federal criminal justice system to punish undocumented migrants who have been apprehended more than once. Fully a quarter of apprehended migrants now face criminal prosecution, in which they are tried en masse in procedures that fail to meet the definition of “due process.”


Anderson, one of the best writers covering Latin America, explores the complexities of the FARC peace process by profiling guerrilla leader Carlos Antonio Lozada.


A profile of Nemesio Oceguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” the leader of Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation cartel who has probably replaced El Chapo as the most powerful crime boss in the country. However, the article also hints that “El Mencho” may be more of a figurehead, with real power residing among the González Valencia brothers who run a Michoacán-based trafficking group called Los Cuinis.

“The nexus between organized crime and the authorities means that any effort to silence newspapers by one actor may work to the benefit of others,” Malkin writes, discussing the brave labor of journalists at local media outlets in the regions of Mexico hardest hit by violence.


“The MUD [opposition coalition] may not have succeeded in stopping the government’s march toward authoritarianism and militarization. But to its credit, the MUD has made this march costlier than Chávez or Maduro ever imagined.” I would’ve liked more discussion of how the elite-heavy MUD is trying to reach out to poor Venezuelans, a key part of the story that’s only mentioned in a paragraph here. But this is a solid argument.

Brookings post about coca and peace in Colombia

Screen shot of the Brookings blog post.

This just went up on the Brookings Institution’s “Order from Chaos” foreign policy blog. I’ll be talking about “drugs and peace” in post-conflict Colombia at a Brookings panel on Monday morning.

Colombia’s peace accords point the way to a solution. But will they be implemented?

The “illicit crops” part of the peace accord is more transactional than the “rural reform” part of the accord. Instead of addressing state weakness or absence, it says: “eradicate this much, and you’ll receive this benefit.” That its text has been public since 2014 has created a perverse incentive for farmers around the country to plant coca in order to qualify for cash benefits.

Read the whole thing at the Brookings website.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images photo at The Guardian (UK). Caption: “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo march against the military commanders who had planned the systematic murder of thousands.”

(Even more here)

April 28, 2017


Decades after the military murdered thousands, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo warn that the current era of alternative facts poses a new threat

Argentina, Venezuela

Argentine President Mauricio says the governments of the region need to keep demanding elections and the release of prisoners in Venezuela


Nationwide strikes led by Brazilian unions to protest President Michel Temer’s austerity measures crippled public transport in several major cities


Lucy Lamble visits the rural Pacific coast in the west of Colombia, and the two biggest cities in the interior, Bogotá and Medellín, to explore the possible steps to a lasting peace

Restrepo se declaró “decepcionando” con este tipo de acciones y aseguró que “le ponen un freno muy grave y muy delicado” a la mesa de diálogo

The proper question for analysts and commentators is: Why do the poor do what they do? The forbidden question is: Why are they so poor?

De 4.410 exparamilitares que se presentaron al proceso solo continúan 1.943 postulados

Desde septiembre de 2015, ese grupo armado ilegal comenzó a copar diversas áreas pese a las alertas lanzadas por la Defensoría del Pueblo, organizaciones no gubernamentales y líderes de las comunidades

Colombia, Venezuela

As a peace deal helps end a long war in Colombia, Venezuela is descending into violence. What can Colombia teach its neighbor about healing and reconciliation?

Costa Rica, Nicaragua

Nicaragua hace bien en preocuparse por impedir el paso de las maras y otras formas de delincuencia desde el triángulo norte de Centroamérica, pero los tanques rusos no son un medio útil para lograr esa contención

Dominican Republic, Haiti

El alto mando militar manifestó que en los últimos días los soldados que se encuentran en la frontera han devuelto a cientos de haitianos que intentaron cruzar a territorio dominicano de manera clandestina


En pocos años, El Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación creó todo un feudo

The resilience of residents who have learned to survive?—?and coexist?—?despite outsiders’ efforts at division can be seen everywhere you travel in the borderlands

The secretary’s comments raise several questions about the threat of terrorists sneaking across the border with the aid of cartels, the connection between drug smuggling and the recent surge in overdoses, and marijuana as a “gateway drug”


If these demonstrations die down without Maduro backing down, he likely emerges stronger even if the country emerges more broken

“Suddenly, it was as if the people were no longer afraid to step out to the street and protest. Before, it would have been crazy to do so in this part of the city. I was shocked”

After 28 years…

The Simpsons can still make me laugh so hard my morning coffee comes out of my nose. (Trump’s hair did it to me here.)

The day ahead: April 28, 2017

I should be reachable in the late morning and early afternoon. (How to contact me)

Yesterday WOLA published two things that I co-authored: a huge resource about U.S. military and police aid around the world, and a brief analysis of the White House’s proposal to hire a lot more Border Patrol and ICE agents.

I’m going to spend much of today making sure that the right “audiences” are aware that these two products exist. This phase, which involves a lot of social media messages and handwritten, non-bulk e-mail, can be as important as the research and writing itself.

I’ll also be trying to nail down meetings for our upcoming research trip to the U.S.-Mexico border (week of May 8). And my e-mail inbox is full to bursting and needs to be cut back.

I’ll have about 5 hours to do all of this between a phone meeting with some Colombia scholars in the morning, and having to leave work early to chaperone an event with my daughter’s 7th grade class.

White House proposes 38.9 percent cut in economic aid to Latin America

Screenshot of aid table

On Monday, Foreign Policy reporters Bryant Harris, Robbie Gramer, and Emily Tamkin shared a draft 2018 budget document (PDF) that they somehow obtained from the Trump administration. It’s a printout of a table showing how the White House would cut economic aid to the world in its 2018 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

(The White House has not yet sent to Congress a full 2018 budget request in any detail, so this is a preview of what we expect to be released during the second half of May.)

This leaked information shows only economic aid through USAID’s three principal economic and development aid accounts. (These are Economic Support Funds or ESF, Development Assistance or DA, and Global Health Programs.) It doesn’t include some economic and institution-building aid that comes through the State Department’s large International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account. We have no idea yet whether the budget request would seek similar cuts to that aid.

For these USAID programs, every country in Latin America would see a double-digit-percentage cut from 2016 levels next year, if Congress were to grant the Trump administration what it wants. The region-wide cut would be a breathtaking 38.9 percent.

Congress will undo this radioactive budget request—somewhat. But even if the actual cuts end up being half of what is shown here, the impact on U.S. goals, on humanitarian situations, and on specific outcomes—peace accord implementation in Colombia, reducing migration from Central America—will be severe. These cuts are an astonishingly bad idea.

The table shows the economic-aid cut that the draft Trump budget would foresee for each country in Latin America. I suppose we can assume that the countries whose cuts are lower than the regional average are “priority” countries.

Economic aid in 2016 was: The request for 2018 is: That’s a reduction of:
Western Hemisphere $1,083,580,000 $662,081,000 -38.9%
Haiti $177,630,000 $149,200,000 -16.0%
Colombia $133,000,000 $105,000,000 -21.1%
Honduras $93,000,000 $67,100,000 -27.8%
El Salvador $65,000,000 $45,500,000 -30.0%
Guatemala $125,000,000 $79,900,000 -36.1%
Peru $37,300,000 $22,191,000 -40.5%
Barbados and Eastern Caribbean $25,713,000 $15,000,000 -41.7%
State Department Western Hemisphere Regional $209,177,000 $121,390,000 -42.0%
Mexico $49,500,000 $25,000,000 -49.5%
Dominican Republic $20,988,000 $10,000,000 -52.4%
USAID Latin America and Caribbean Regional $28,360,000 $11,800,000 -58.4%
USAID Central America Regional $39,761,000 $10,000,000 -74.8%
Brazil $12,000,000 $0 -100.0%
Cuba (democracy programs) $20,000,000 $0 -100.0%
Ecuador $2,000,000 $0 -100.0%
Jamaica $4,500,000 $0 -100.0%
Nicaragua $10,000,000 $0 -100.0%
Paraguay $8,151,000 $0 -100.0%
Venezuela (democracy programs) $6,500,000 $0 -100.0%
USAID Caribbean $4,000,000 $0 -100.0%
USAID South America Regional $12,000,000 $0 -100.0%

Launched! “Putting the Pieces Together”

Screencast from "Putting the Pieces Together"

I’m delighted to announce that WOLA has just launched “Putting the Pieces Together: A Global Guide to U.S. Security Aid Programs.” This is an epic, sprawling, deep-in-the-weeds attempt to get a handle on all the ways that the U.S. government can work with, give weapons to, train, advise, or otherwise support about 160 countries’ militaries and police forces around the world.

We call it “Putting the Pieces Together” because figuring out how the U.S. government aids foreign militaries is a lot like trying to put together an intricate jigsaw puzzle. The big contribution of this project is that it gives you all the pieces in a nice neat box, even if we don’t yet have the big picture in detail.

I hate to admit it, but this is the product of more than four years of work. (Although this project spent a lot of time on the back burner between late 2012 and now.) The original plan was to document the way these aid programs were migrating out of State Department / civilian control and into the U.S. military’s threat-based, un-transparent management. I thought we’d be producing a guide to 30, maybe 40 programs. But as we intensified our research, it became clear that the scale and the scope were increasing way beyond what we had planned to work with.

In the end, we found 107 programs. Of these, only 14 are managed by, and funded by, the civilian diplomats at the U.S. State Department. Nearly all of the rest—87, plus two that are jointly managed—are part of the U.S. Defense Department’s mammoth budget. The Pentagon is calling most of the shots, now managing 57 percent of military and police aid funds, often with programs it is very hard to get information about.

To manage this huge body of programs, we made a database that allows you to sort and filter them, to see the laws that govern them, and to find out how to learn more about them. (I think this database is the coolest part—and we can quickly update it whenever programs change.) We also wrote a 2,600-word report with some nifty graphics, highlighting the trends that we found while compiling all of this.

Put the report and the database together, make a single publication out of them, and you get a 188-page PDF. (I find this terrifying: I can’t believe we wrote this much over the last few years without really noticing.)

Here’s the text of the landing page for “Putting the Pieces Together,” which explains what this report-plus-database does. (If you prefer the landing page in Spanish, está aquí.) Bookmark it if you care about the U.S. relationship with the world’s militaries, I think you’ll find yourself referring back to it.

Putting the Pieces Together: A Global Guide to U.S. Security Aid Programs

Since the “Global War on Terror” began, the Defense Department has been driving assistance to militaries and police forces worldwide. WOLA’s new guide explains how that happened and what it looks like.

The Trump administration is proposing to cut funding for U.S. diplomacy, and foreign aid programs run by diplomats, by an incredible 29 percent in 2018. But since it promises to grow defense spending, it may not end up cutting military aid. The result could be a giant leap toward the Pentagon shaping U.S foreign policy.

A major part of how U.S. foreign policy gets carried out is through security assistance programs, which aim to further U.S. interests and bolster national security goals by providing aid to military and police forces in around 160 countries.

There are now so many of these programs carrying out this type of assistance, with so little public reporting, that nobody really has a full picture of what the U.S. government is doing with the world’s military and police forces. No public, authoritative, regularly updated list of all U.S. military and police aid programs even exists.

Not until now, that is.

WOLA is pleased to launch a new resource to fill this big gap in our knowledge: a searchable online database listing all 107 programs that currently provide military or police aid across the globe, accompanied by a short report laying out what we found and why it matters. We also have an analysis of U.S. security assistance over the past 15 years to Latin America.


Of these programs, 87 are run by the Defense Department. 14 are run by the State Department. 2 are run jointly, and 4 are managed by other cabinet departments. More than half of the Defense programs are less than 15 years old.

We explain what each program can do, who runs it, who oversees it, how much the military can spend on it, and how researchers and oversight professionals can find more information about it. The online version also includes the complete, amended text of the law governing each program, links to official reports, and links to yearly aid amounts at the Security Assistance Monitor database.

WOLA’s new tool doesn’t solve the problem of the lack of transparency over military aid. It is unclear exactly which programs the Trump administration will support and which ones it will cut. There is not even a precise dollar total of worldwide U.S. military assistance.

But we hope that this guide provides congressional staff, journalists, analysts, and activists with an easy-to-use tool as we work to improve oversight over a high-risk government function, and to turn the tide of militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

Why did a research and advocacy organization focusing on Latin America make this?

WOLA first got to know the “patchwork” of Defense Department-run aid programs in Latin America in the 1990s, when it was far smaller. The War on Drugs brought about the first time the Pentagon got primacy over a big foreign aid program. Twenty years ago, we were surprised to learn that, suddenly, the second-largest military aid program in Latin America wasn’t even in the foreign aid budget. We have followed this issue closely ever since.

How do I use the database?

Go to You’ll see all 107 active programs listed in alphabetical order, spread out over six pages.

  • To read more about an aid program, click “Show Additional Information” under each program’s name. Or to see all of them, click the checkbox at the top of the page that says “Show the Full Program Descriptions.”
  • Viewing the entire program description yields another button you can click to reveal all laws governing that program, with current law at the top.
  • Use the search box at the top to find matching programs.
  • You can sort the list alphabetically, by the year the programs were created, by their expiration date (if any), and by the maximum authorized amount.
  • You can list only active programs, only programs that can operate in Latin America, only programs with or without reporting to Congress, only programs that do or do not involve the State Department, and 15 more categories.
  • Use the column on the left to find programs by Latin American country, by category of aid, or by the agencies that carry them out.

Will the database be updated?

Yes, we intend to update the aid programs and reports whenever relevant legislation passes.

How can I find government reports about these programs?

If the programs are relevant to Latin America, they are in this database’s Reports Library at If we have obtained the report, it is there as a PDF. If we have not yet obtained the report, it is listed alongside the date it was due.

It’s not just the wall: the 2017 budget has other bad ideas on border security

David McNew / Getty photo at Newsweek. Caption: “U.S. Border Patrol agents carry out special operations near the U.S.-Mexico border fence.”

Even though Donald Trump has put off, for now, his push for a border wall, the budget request that Congress is considering this week includes money to start hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 ICE agents.

This is as unnecessary as a border wall, and we just posted a new commentary at WOLA’s website explaining why.

I wrote the Border Patrol section. I lay out two big reasons why it makes no sense to increase the agency’s size by another 25 percent.

  1. Undocumented migration across the U.S.-Mexico border was at 40-year lows even before it plummeted further after Trump’s inauguration. This hardly warrants a wave of new hires.
  2. Another round of fast hires could compound Border Patrol’s management issues and further erode protections against corruption and rights abuses.

Read the whole thing at WOLA’s site.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

April 27, 2017


Brazilian Senators, two dozen of whom are being investigated for corruption, pushed through a bill on Wednesday that many prosecutors and judges say curbs their ability to carry out probes, mainly those targeting the politicians themselves

Um estudo da Polícia Militar revela que, em cinco anos, os confrontos em áreas com Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPPs), como o Complexo do Alemão, aumentaram 13.746%


La denominada Caravana de la muerte, fue la comitiva militar que recorrió el país tras el golpe de Estado de septiembre de 1973


Análisis y recomendaciones sobre la forma en la cual se está avanzado en la implementación del acuerdo de paz sobre “solución al problema de las drogas ilícitas” y, en particular, sobre el plan de sustitución de cultivos

En menos de dos meses han sido asesinados un guerrillero indultado, un miliciano y cinco familiares de guerrilleros de las Farc que se han acogido al proceso de Paz

Cuba, Venezuela

A near-constant refrain is that Cubans can tolerate deep deprivation, but would not stand for a repeat of the Special Period


The crime has become such a central part of life in this region of Puebla that it has been celebrated in song, much as drug traffickers and their exploits have been lionized in narcocorridos

The White House announcement came hours after administration officials said Trump was considering a draft executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the deal

Under other circumstances, the United States could be a force for the rule of law, human rights and civilian control over the military in Mexico

Central America Regional, Mexico

“It’s going to break the bank in terms of paying for the jail and prison beds that these people are going to occupy if they are prosecuted”


In order to withdraw, the country would have to wait two years and pay a debt of $8.7 million under O.A.S. rules

The move comes after OAS member states voted Wednesday to convene an emergency meeting of their top diplomats to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis and deadly political violence

Withdrawing from the OAS is a two-year process, but Rodriguez said Venezuela would immediately stop participating

The day ahead: April 27, 2017

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

I have a long-ish meeting today of the selection committee for the Institute for Policy Studies’ Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. It’ll be nice to see everyone on that group. When not there, I’ll be in the office dashing off dozens of e-mails and messages, for two events.

First, at 9:00 this morning we’re launching our report and database of 107 U.S. military and police aid programs. This is the culmination of a project I’ve been working on for years—it’s been the ultimate “on the back-burner” endeavor for most of those years, but it’s also a resource that, if printed out, totals more than 150 pages. It reflects hundreds of hours of work. You can see the database now; the report is coming this morning. While I don’t expect a giant compendium of military aid programs to make a big media splash today, there are a lot of people out there who are going to find this intensely useful: congressional staff who oversee these programs, journalists who cover defense, human rights and arms control advocates, and even some folks at State and Pentagon. I’ll be sending out a lot of personal notes today to make sure these people see it and know how to use it.

Second, the week of May 8 we’re going to San Diego and Tijuana for more border-security and migration research. We’ve split up our requests for meetings, and I’ve got four people or organizations to track down.

Also I note that after several days of chilly rain, it’s going to be sunny and 85 degrees today in Washington. This makes me happy.

“What Now in Venezuela?”

Screenshot: “Presidente Nicolás Maduro: He ordenado el inmediato retiro de la OEA”

Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States deepens the country’s political crisis still further. Meanwhile, at least three people died today in mounting protests against the country’s definitive turn toward authoritarianism.

It’s really hard to predict where this is headed. I found useful, though, a column published Monday by Luis Vicente León, a widely cited analyst who runs Venezuela’s Datanálisis polling firm.

León sees two scenarios. Here’s an English translation of the key excerpt. Highlights are mine.

The government’s “exit costs” are almost infinite, which makes it a sort of “kamikaze.” Added to this is the very low possibility of a successful negotiation to lower these exit costs, because the opposition still needs to perform two tasks in order to get there. First, it needs negotiating power, something to offer in exchange that is compelling enough for the government to either to accede or to find itself obligated to exit from power. Second, it needs a valid interlocutor, someone with enough internal control and power to commit the opposition to uncomfortable accords with a government that has explicitly violated its rights.

The first need can be filled with pressure from the street, which—rather than a single “epic” march—would have to become an unstoppable demonstration in all the country and of all the country, making the nation ungovernable. But this would still leave the second variable without a response: who can negotiate to lower the exit costs?

With this in mind, these are the two most probable scenarios.

1. One in which opposition pressure continues to grow, but the government remains willing to repress it brutally and tirelessly, even amid international repudiation and sanctions, because it sees only one outcome: that its leaders’ heads get cut off if they give in. With a military sector also committed to the government side, this scenario could be prolonged. This would lead to the formation of paramilitary and guerrilla groups around the country, which would become part of the nation’s everyday life—but with the government remaining in power.

2. Another in which pressure from the opposition reaches its maximum level and fractures Chavismo and the military internally, due to fear of what could happen to them in the future, with the likelihood of being held accountable for brutal and evident human rights violations. In this case, it will probably be the military that decides to seek and coordinate negotiations to reduce and control exit costs. That negotiation would take place with an opposition leader who has managed to capitalize on the struggle and become the unquestioned spokesperson for those pressing for change.

Here’s Luis Vicente León discussing this “exit costs” theme on a November 2016 WOLA panel.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Archivo Semana photo from Verdad Abierta (Colombia). Caption: “Líderes indígenas y afros se unieron desde el año pasado para pedir ser escuchados en la Mesa de Negociaciones de Paz en La Habana.”

(Even more here)

April 26, 2017


The demonstration was peaceful until police blocked some of the indigenous people, their bodies painted and wearing colorful headdresses, from climbing a ramp that led into the congressional building

Brazil, Paraguay

the Paraguayan authorities said they suspected a Brazilian prison gang, commonly referred to as the P.C.C., or Primeiro Comando da Capital in Portuguese, of carrying out the crimes


A pesar de los protocolos, reglas de juego, mecanismos de rendición de cuentas, cronogramas, entre otros, establecidos en el Acuerdo Final, quedan sobre la mesa las siguientes preguntas

Uno de los puntos controversiales del Acuerdo con las Farc son las circunscripciones especiales de paz, sobre cuya localización el Gobierno ha mantenido el tema bajo gran sigilo. La Silla finalmente conoció cuáles serán

Varios líderes indígenas han sido abordedados por desconocidos en diferentes municipios de esa región agroindustrial y les repiten como una letanía que si no se van de la región ya saben lo que les pasará

A pesar de que el Gobierno tiene suspendidas las fumigaciones aéreas con glifosato desde octubre de 2015, la Corte encontró necesario prohibir el retorno de la aspersión de esa sustancia


“There is no evidence to say that it came from the government,” he said. “But I have elements to say that it wasn’t a common crime”

La cifra de homicidios dolosos en lo que va de la administración del presidente Enrique Peña se ha incrementado 12 mil 476 casos respecto al mismo periodo del presidente Felipe Calderón

“Tough talk about the wall right now, right after Trump backing down, is low risk and comes without cost”


The MUD may not have succeeded in stopping the government’s march toward authoritarianism and militarization. But to its credit, the MUD has made this march costlier than Chávez or Maduro ever imagined

Two Venezuelan men died on Tuesday from gunshots at political demonstrations, bringing to 26 the number of fatalities

Venezuela is in great danger. This stand-off can only be resolved if both sides make some big and difficult decisions

The fact that the U.S. State Department chose not to take on an assertive, public role at the OAS allowed Latin American countries such as Mexico and Peru to take the lead. It also made it politically palatable for countries usually reticent to pressure Venezuela to get involved

The day ahead: April 26, 2017

I won’t be in my office at all today, except for a brief period in the late afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ve got an interview with Voice of America, a planning meeting for our border work, a meeting with a journalist, and an event at the National Defense University where Colombia’s military is talking about peace accord implementation. Then I’ve got to run out at 5:00 for a family commitment. So there probably won’t be many updates to this site today.

Podcast: “The Border Wall and the Budget”

The Trump White House came dangerously close to shutting down the U.S. government over funding for its proposed wall along the border with Mexico. Here I explain the budget process, what we know of the administration’s wall-building plans, and why it’s a bad idea.

I think this one came out pretty well.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Alexandre Cassiano photo in O Globo (Brazil). Caption: “Anoitecer no Complexo do Alemão.”

(Even more here)

April 25, 2017


O Batalhão de Operações Especiais (Bope) e o Batalhão de Choque fazem uma operação na manhã desta terça-feira no Complexo do Alemão

Brazil, Paraguay

Paraguayan authorities said the gunmen were Brazilians, and news reports suggested this was possibly the work of a Brazilian criminal organization, First Capital Command


Ya es un hecho que los guerrilleros se quieren quedar a vivir, si pueden, en todas las zonas

“We have a Marxist way of interpreting society, but that doesn’t mean it’s our only reference,” he said. “As to what our new model will be, that’s something we have yet to invent”

León Valencia, director de la fundación Paz y Reconciliación, le entregó al vicepresidente, Óscar Naranjo, y a las Farc un informe que revela que cese al fuego se ha cumplido en un 99%

A new set of Chiquita Papers, made possible through the National Security Archive’s FOIA lawsuit, has for the first time made it possible to know the identities and understand the roles of the individual Chiquita executives who approved and oversaw years of payments

Costa Rica, Nicaragua

Una delegación rusa acordó con el gobierno de Daniel Ortega, la primera semana de abril, efectuar entrenamientos conjuntos para enfrentar el terrorismo

El Salvador

El 62.4 % de los jóvenes que se han unido a las pandillas o maras en El Salvador lo hicieron por “ocio” o “amistad”


Hoy, como desde el 26 de septiembre de 2014, las madres, los padres y los normalistas de Ayotzinapa necesitan del acompañamiento de todas y todos, de nuestro cobijo

Esto ya es una crisis de grandes proporciones. Ojalá el país y sus autoridades no se tarden mucho tiempo en reconocerlo y actuar en consecuencia

Identified as “high priority” in the document are the border sectors of the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas — encompassing Rio Grande City, McAllen and Weslaco — as well as El Paso, Tucson and San Diego

“If I were to go to your home and say, ‘you know what … I should build a wall from your home to your backyard and you can’t cross to your backyard unless you come through me’”

Although he thinks eradication in Mexico is important, Quiñones added that the “market has rapidly evolved in the last couple years, as Mexican traffickers have looked for new non-plant alternatives to heroin


When the world stops paying attention and international pressure begins to wane, so too do the crowds and the cycle begins anew. Time therefore is on Maduro’s side

Following a familiar daily pattern, the demonstrations were largely peaceful until mid-afternoon, when scattered skirmishes broke out and the shooting incidents occurred

Western Hemisphere Regional

According to a detailed 15-page State Department budget document obtained by Foreign Policy, the overhaul also includes rechanneling funding from development assistance into a program that is tied closely to national security objectives

The day ahead: April 25, 2017

I won’t be in my office at all today. (How to contact me)

I’m giving a talk about Colombia this morning to a classroom full of diplomats-in-training at the Foreign Service Institute. Then I hope to stop at home on the way to the office and record a podcast.

This was going to be about Donald Trump’s insistence on funding the border wall in the 2017 budget, which Congress needs to pass this week, even if it meant shutting down the government. However, the news last night is that Trump is backing down, which may put off the border-wall funding debate until the 2018 budget, which Congress must try to pass in the summer and fall. (The 2018 budget year starts on October 1, but Congress is nearly always late in approving it.)

So anyway, the podcast needs adjusting. Hopefully I’ll have that done in time to go back to WOLA for a couple of meetings with staff. In particular, we’re going to the U.S.-Mexico border in two weeks and need to start nailing down meetings.


Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

April 24, 2017


El hallazgo de una caleta de armas de las Farc en Putumayo demuestra que estos depósitos clandestinos serán el gran desafío que tendrá la ONU durante la dejación de armas

No he encontrado un documento sistemático en donde el ELN desarrolle sus argumentos para sostener que el secuestro extorsivo no viola el DIH. Lo que existen son distintas declaraciones, cartas y trinos


Incredibly, an agency under Mr. Kelly’s purview has recommended that some 50,000 Haitians now living legally in the United States be expelled en masse next January


Podemos escribir muchas más alternativas, pero en estas dos se concentran las mayores probabilidades de que se pare en ellas la bolita de esta ruleta rusa

From labor disputes with unions to student demonstrations on university campuses, colectivos are appearing almost anywhere the government sees citizens getting out of line

Colombia, Venezuela

The military desertions are believed to be the first since Maduro came to power in 2013 and could indicate weakening support for the embattled President within the armed forces

The day ahead: April 24, 2017

Other than a narrow window around mid-day, I am in meetings all day today. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a weekly staff meeting, and there’s a lot to plan for this week, with Trump’s border wall playing a central role in the debate over the federal budget, which expires Friday. (That’s the last weekday of Trump’s first 100 days, and we have a lot to say about his border security policies so far.) We have a visit from a Latin America-based International Committee of the Red Cross official whose work overlaps a lot with ours. We’re bidding farewell to our interns. And we’re joining the team of Security Assistance Monitor to brainstorm improvements to their revamped website.

When not in meetings today (which is about 2 hours), I want to sew up the introductory text of our military and police aid programs publication and website. If there’s any time left over, I’ll work on a podcast about border security and also a “links” post on this blog.

On the home front, this evening an exchange student from Spain (in whose home my daughter stayed in February) arrives to stay with us for the next two weeks. So if posting here is less frequent over the next several days, it’s because I’m out showing off the wonders of Washington instead of sitting in a chair typing into a computer.

The week ahead

It’s going to be one of those weeks: it’s Monday morning and there’s already nearly 20 hours of meetings and events on the calendar. These include a visit from the ICRC, giving a talk at the Foreign Service Institute, a National Defense University event on Colombia’s military and the post-conflict, and a meeting to nominate recipients of an annual human rights award.

I expect the border security work to be big this week, as the federal budget expires on Friday and a fight over Trump’s wall proposal may bring the U.S. government to (or close to) a shutdown. We’ll have a lot to say as the week progresses. First, by tomorrow, I hope to put out a personal podcast explaining where all of that stands.

For now, though, my first priority is getting our giant compendium of military and police aid programs out the door. This also requires me to iron out some bugs from the transfer of our website to (which, frustratingly, have kept me from posting news links this morning).

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, April 24

  • 11:30–1:30 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Fighting Corruption and Improving Business Climates in Latin America (RSVP required).

Tuesday, April 25

  • 1:00–5:30 at the U.S. Institute of Peace: Demining War Zones: Opening Space for Building Peace (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 26

  • 9:00–10:30 at the Washington Post: 2017 World Press Freedom Index (RSVP required).
  • 10:30–12:00 at the Wilson Center: Feeding the World in a Sustainable Way: Brazil’s Agricultural Challenge (RSVP required).
  • 1:30–3:00 at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies: Command Update: Military and Police Operations During the Colombian Peace Process (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 27

  • 10:00 in Room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building: Hearing of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security on “The Border Wall: Strengthening Our National Security.”
  • 1:45–2:30 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: Argentina at a Turning Point: An Address by President Mauricio Macri of Argentina (RSVP required).

Friday, April 28

  • 10:00–11:30 at the Brookings Institution: Crime, conflict, and regime transitions: Colombia, Nigeria, and Myanmar (RSVP required).
  • 12:00 at the Inter-American Development Bank: D.C. Political Economy Seminar: Voting Corrupt Politicians Out of Office in Paraguay (RSVP required).
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