Adam Isacson

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


May 2017

Some articles I found interesting this morning

John Vizcaíno / Reuters photo at El Tiempo (Colombia)> Caption: “En las zonas veredales, los guerrilleros han hecho los registros de sus armas, pero no las han entregado en su totalidad a la ONU.”

(Even more here)

May 31, 2017


EL TIEMPO explica en esta y en la siguiente página los elementos claves de los decretos con fuerza de ley que expidió el Presidente para cumplir los acuerdos de paz, y el nuevo cronograma del desarme

If war was waged with military precision, everything from rain to poor roads seems to be derailing carefully laid plans for peace


When will the Armed Forces stop supporting the National Civil Police?


A kilogram of opium gum can earn the impoverished farmers about $800 from the drug traffickers who purchase it. After the gum is processed, a kilogram can sell for about $50,000 on the streets of Chicago

The complex business of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without papers is changing profoundly. Here are the stories of human smugglers in Mexico and would-be immigrants looking to illegally cross

“Yes, I do have information from the grassroots about the bosses, but my work has been more about people who have had to suffer the narco”


In my view it is entirely legitimate for Almagro to have invoked the Democratic Charter with respect to Venezuela. However, I felt he did it about a year too soon

Five links from the past week

From David Smilde’s WOLA blog report from Caracas. Caption: “Marchers from Caurimare arriving to Los Ruices.”

A devastating 400-page report details how DEA and State Department officials lied to or obstructed superiors and investigators, including the U.S. ambassador and Congress, about controversial use-of-deadly-force incidents during 2012 counter-drug operations in Honduras.

After eliminating Brazilian legislators accused of corruption, then those “who don’t show up for debates, don’t vote or don’t sponsor legislation,” The Globe and Mail “wound up with just a dozen names” and interviewed five of them for their opinions about what it would take to fix Brazil’s endemic corruption.

The Cochabamba-based NGO brought to Bolivia a group of Colombian coca-growers involved in their country’s post-peace accord effort to negotiate voluntary crop eradication. This report looks at some lessons the group could take from Bolivia’s experience, including “how bringing community members to the fore of policy formulation
and eliminating eradication as a requirement for aid can improve conditions in coca growing areas.”

David attends a large opposition march in Caracas and finds an encouraging degree of unity. He is concerned, though, by a lack of poorer participants and at least a tacit acceptance of violent tactics.

This is a shamefully mistitled article–the former guerrillas profiled here are working for peace in Cali’s crime-ridden slums, and are “endangered,” not “dangerous.” The article and videos themselves, though, offer a good glimpse into the challenges of ex-combatants’ reintegration, and of securing communities of displaced people, like Cali’s vast Aguablanca neighborhood.

The day ahead: May 31, 2017

I will be difficult to contact today. (How to contact me)

I’m taking the day off, as my daughter competes all day in the preliminary rounds of the National Spelling Bee outside Washington. I’ll be cheering her on (or consoling her) and spending little time on my phone and computer.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at El Colombiano (Medellín, Colombia). Caption: “Henrique Capriles, líder de la oposición en Venezuela.”

(Even more here)

May 30, 2017


Ahora, a cruzar los dedos, para que el D+180+20 sí se concrete pues de esa fecha está colgada la expectativa de que una vez los colombianos vean a los guerrilleros sin armas comiencen a finalmente creer en el acuerdo

A partir del 1 de junio y hasta el 20 de junio, la totalidad de los integrantes de las FARC-EP, incluyendo las milicias, habrán hecho dejación de armas y tránsito a la legalidad

Diez policías asesinados y 37 heridos, en 35 ataques contra la Fuerza Pública, perpetrados en nueve departamentos del país, es el saldo que deja hasta ahora el plan pistola ejecutado por la organización criminal “los Urabeños”

Someone stole Mueller’s work laptop and iPhone 6 as well as McDuffie’s iPhone 6, all government-issued equipment. Mueller’s personal iPad and iPhone were also stolen


Kavulich said that the administration will enact “increased enforcement relating to travel,” and “a focus upon discouraging transactions with entities controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of the Republic of Cuba”


The discovery of coca plantations and drug laboratories in Honduras could be a sign that the country’s role in the region’s drug trade is changing


El líder opositor venezolano Henrique Capriles denunció qu fue “golpeado” por “efectivos de la (militar) Guardia Nacional” cuando se retiraba afectado por gases lacrimógenos

The day ahead: May 30, 2017

I will be difficult to reach today. (How to contact me)

It’s a complicated day, schedule-wise: my daughter has a few hours of preliminary competition at the National Spelling Bee, then I’ll be in the office for a few hours of meetings (a foundation, a journalist). Any other time will be spent with the family here at the Spelling Bee venue, or tucked away doing a bit of writing. I may not be able to respond immediately to any effort to get in touch with me, and tomorrow may be similar.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Verdad Abierta (Colombia). Caption: “Pasadas las 9:30 de la mañana del miércoles, la marcha indígena salió del Campus Meléndez de la Universidad del Valle, ubicado en el sur de Cali, hacia el centro de la capital vallecaucana. En ese sitio instalaron sus campamentos el día anterior y pasaron la noche.”

(Even more here)

May 29, 2017


Every week seems to bring reports of a new atrocity committed against indigenous people in some remote part of the country. But nothing seems to shock our society anymore

The forces lined up against conservation have deep roots. The post-colonial history of Brazil is, to a large extent, the history of deforestation


Esa decisión de la Corte podría incluso llegar a ser positiva pues puede ser una oportunidad de fortalecer la legitimidad democrática de la implementación del acuerdo de paz

En septiembre el presidente Juan Manuel Santos presentará a la ONU la intención que tiene para expandir la participación militar en misiones internacionales

Colombia, Mexico

El trabajo es en zonas rurales y urbanas, en selvas y montañas. Y por aquellas remotas tierras, en cualquier momento puede escucharse una ranchera mexicana interpretada por algún artista de México


Goldman Sachs bought about $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds that had been held by the oil-rich country’s central bank, a lifeline to President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled government

The day ahead: May 29, 2017

I will be mostly out of contact today. (How to contact me)

Today is a national holiday in the United States. Bizarrely, I’m writing from a hotel about 20 minutes’ drive from home: my daughter is in the National Spelling Bee, an event that lasts all week. Some days this week, I’ll probably be home: I can’t imagine staying in this hotel when we have a perfectly good house nearby with better internet and a fridge full of food. But today, with the opening ceremonies coming and a daughter who is thrilled to be competing, we’re spending Memorial Day at the event.

The week ahead

Bizarrely, I’m writing from a hotel room about 20 minutes from my house. My daughter is one of 290 contestants in the National Spelling Bee. As she’s representing the District of Columbia, we’ve come the shortest distance to compete. It’s nice, though, that we’ve been given a hotel room at the site of the event, just like all the other kids.

After Monday, which is a national holiday in the United States, I’ll be splitting my time this week between the Spelling Bee, our home, and the office. On the calendar I have meetings with funders and several meetings on Capitol Hill to discuss what we’re working on with legislative staff. I’ll post things here when I get a chance.

The past week in U.S. border security

Doug Mills photo at The New York Times. Caption: “United States Border Patrol agents listened to President Trump at the Department of Homeland Security in January. Mr. Trump plans to increase the number of agents along the Mexican border.”

  • The Trump administration’s 2018 budget request for Homeland Security includes $1.57 billion to build 74 miles of new border wall/fence in south Texas and near San Diego, California. (That’s $21.2 million per mile.) It would also fund the hiring of 500 new Border Patrol agents (toward an eventual goal of 5,000, expanding the force to 25,000) and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement and removal agents (toward an eventual goal of 10,000, expanding the deportation force to about 15,000).
  • Acapulco, Mexico-based journalist Martín Méndez Piñeda had to leave Mexico after receiving repeated death threats in a country where six journalists have been murdered in early March. Méndez made the mistake of trying to seek asylum in Donald Trump’s United States, where ICE officials decided he was a flight risk and shipped him to await a ruling in a filthy, overcrowded private detention facility in Sierra Blanca. Méndez ultimately gave up his claim and went back to Mexico, where he says he fears for his life.
  • ICE’s apprehensions of undocumented migrants in the U.S. interior shot up 38 percent in the first three months of the Trump administration, compared with the same period in 2016. This owes to less focus on undocumented people with criminal record. The 41,318 people detained, or 400 people per day, is still a lower rate than ICE detentions during Barack Obama’s first term. (They declined afterward.)
  • At Vox, Dara Lind and Tara Golshan have updated their encyclopedic overview of “How Donald Trump Could Actually Build the Wall — and Who Would Pay the Price.”
  • The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow explores the reduction in migration to the United States after Trump’s inauguration. He finds that many would-be migrants from Central America, including those fleeing violence, are putting their plans on hold to see how Trump’s hard-line approach plays out. Others are coming, but no longer seeking out U.S. border authorities once they arrive on U.S. soil.
  • The New York Times’s Ron Nixon looks at corruption in U.S. Border Patrol, a phenomenon that could worsen if hiring standards are loosened to speed an expansion of the force. Nixon discusses the well-known case case of Texas-based agent Joel Luna, an emblematic example of the corruption risk.

5 tweets that made me laugh this week

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

May 26, 2017

Bolivia, Colombia

In February 2017, a delegation of 8 coca growers from across Colombia traveled to Bolivia to learn about the country’s shift from forced eradication and conditioned alternative development to community coca control and integrated development


The deployment of soldiers shocked a capital already shaken by the day’s violence and an investigation into corruption allegations against the president

Central America Regional

The officials placed particular emphasis on the White House’s threat to cut federal funds for local law enforcement bodies should they refuse to support the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement


Para doblegar a los ‘gaitanistas’ se requiere entender mejor esta amenaza. Aspecto en el que, por el momento, hay más sombras que luces

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

Tens of thousands of firearms smuggled from the United States help to fuel extreme rates of violence


Venezuelan photographers who have watched their society crumble reflect on the images that have moved them most

What Venezuela needs now is many more Luisa Ortega Díazes. The attorney general did not switch sides. She merely signaled that, from now on, she will act impartially

The day ahead: May 26, 2017

I’m taking today off work. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a series of errands to run this morning and an article to write for another publication this afternoon. I wish my U.S. readers a good Memorial Day weekend.

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