Adam Isacson

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

June 2017

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Neoreich photo at Diálogo (U.S. Southern Command). Caption: “Colombia was the first South American country after Brazil to include the Super Tucano in its Air Force fleet.”

(Even more here)

June 30, 2017


With elections 16 months away and much of the political class discredited or under scrutiny, it’s hard to say who might emerge to squire the country to recovery

Long known for their violent tactics, Rio state police killed 383 people in first four months of 2017, 60% more than a year earlier

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador

Through a memorandum of understanding, the four countries laid out a cooperation agreement regarding the deployment and maintenance of the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft

Central America Regional

The goal of the meeting was to prepare reports that will be further expanded and approved at the Ordinary Meeting of the High Council scheduled for July 11th–14th in Tegucigalpa


While the peace processes with the guerrilla groups FARC and ELN dominate international headlines, just 5% of Colombians say those are the country’s top issues while 63% say domestic issues of unemployment, healthcare, and corruption are

El Salvador

José Luis Merino, alias “Ramiro Vásquez”, es considerado el arquitecto financiero del Grupo Alba en El Salvador


El número 18 de más de un metro de altura dibujado en uno de los pizarrones es imposible de no ver, así como los 18 escritos en números romanos en distintas partes del colegio

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

“The kids are basically being used as bait at this point”


La PGR recibió al menos cinco denuncias anónimas en las que se identifica a José Alfredo Casarrubias Salgado, capitán segundo de Infantería del Ejército Mexicano, como parte del grupo

In 2006, a brutal crackdown. Today, reports that spyware has been used against journalists, human right groups and lawyers in Mexico

Three senior Mexican politicians were targeted with infection attempts using spyware developed by the NSO group, an Israeli “cyber warfare” company

Aid workers say they can no longer guarantee a temporary shelter for migrants, after U.S. Border Patrol agents raided the camp and made arrests

Guatemala, Mexico

WOLA based its report on field research in the area surrounding Tenosique, Tabasco, along Mexico’s border with Guatemala


Perú destaca por tener un total de 120 mil miembros activos y 272 mil de reserva


Ortega Diaz, a longtime loyalist of the socialist government who recently broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro, said police and military officials are responsible for 23 protest deaths to date

The best song I washed dishes to tonight

“Get Lost” by Beach Slang (2014).

Just released: our latest report on the Mexico-Guatemala border

Report cover

Maureen Meyer, Hannah Smith, and I spent the third week of February in and around Tenosique, Mexico. We were in Mexico’s far south, by the border with Petén, Guatemala. We visited migrant shelters, which were busy, though emptier than before Trump’s inauguration. We heard grim accounts of the violence Central Americans were fleeing. We spoke to authorities about security, attacks on migrants, and U.S. aid programs.
And we published this big report today. It is our third deep-dive since 2014 on conditions at Mexico’s southern border. (See 2014 and 2015.)

Three years later, the La 72 shelter we saw in February 2017 was much different. Not only is it larger—with the support of donations and the UNHCR, Fray Tomás and his staff have built new dormitories, a health post, and other facilities to meet demand—it looked like a day-care center.
Children raced around paved courtyards and walkways, playing tag and make-believe. (As they ran past, a six-year-old confronted by a smaller child waving a stick like a saber conjured a “wall of Donald Trump” as an imaginary shield.) Babies and toddlers sat on their mothers’ laps. Teenagers played basketball, flirted, and stood around a muralsized map of Mexico and its train lines. (Three of them told us that they were going to try entering the United States via Mexicali, one of the farthest possible routes, on the unfounded belief that they faced a lower risk of being robbed or kidnapped.) Entire families, some with elderly relatives, sat at tables, talking and fanning themselves in the shade. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of children (both accompanied and unaccompanied) apprehended by INM agents in the state of Tabasco increased by 60 percent.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

June 29, 2017


Many Brazilians are tacitly choosing stability over rule of law. That, many observers say, may help Mr. Temer cling onto power


Santos estaba frente al resultado de su apuesta más arriesgada como mandatario de los colombianos: iniciar un proceso de paz

Los magistrados de la Corte revisaron el expediente del líder indígena y además, tuvieron en cuenta los argumentos de la Fiscalía y la Procuraduría, que habían pedido ya su absolución

Tras la dejación de armas de las Farc, las autoridades deben enfocar esfuerzos en otros grupos armados que aún cuentan con gran capacidad armada como el Eln, el Clan del Golfo y Los Pelusos


GAESA’s revenue constitutes 21% of total hard currency income from both state enterprises and the private sector, 8% of total state revenue, and just 4% of GDP (Anuario Estadístico 2015). That’s a long way from 60%


A CBP draft briefing to Congress had previously stated June as an intended start date for prototype construction, but in recent weeks the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, has said “summer”

The amendment was originally introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Calif.), but Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) introduced a substitute to Gallego’s amendment, and then O’Rourke introducing a perfecting amendment

South America Regional

Influential social scientists have long warned of the perils of presidentialism, with its tendency toward zero-sum politics and regime breakdown


Some suspect the brazen swoop over the Supreme Court building was cooked up by the government as a pretext for more crackdowns

In private, opposition leaders say they fear Mr. Maduro will use the alleged chopper attack to further crack down on dissent

The day ahead: June 29, 2017

I’ll be hard to reach again today. (How to contact me)

I counted it up—I’ve spent 22 hours in meetings, trainings, and events during the first three days of this week. Today won’t be much better: interviews continue for our program assistant position (PDF), and I have another internal meeting in the morning.

Then, around 1:00, I am officially on vacation. We go to New York to retrieve my daughter, who went on a trip with her grandmother, and will be visiting relatives for the following week (which includes a U.S. national holiday).

While I’ll be harder to get in touch with during vacation, I expect to post more frequently here. After all, I won’t be in any meetings.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo by Efraín Herrera, Presidency of Colombia. Caption: “Una escultura que simboliza el paso de la guerra a la construcción de un país en paz fue exhibida durante el acto final de la histórica dejación de armas de las Farc, liderado por el Presidente Juan Manuel Santos.”

(Even more here)

June 28, 2017


The indictment itself was blistering in its assessment of Temer, saying he showed a total disregard for his office and that his actions, including secret meetings not on his official calendar, showed he was trying to cover up “criminal actions.”


Rodrigo Londono, the FARC’s top commander, complained about the bureaucratic, legal and political “traps” in a sternly worded speech in which he called on the government to live up to its end of the bargain

The election is thus all but assured to be a referendum on the peace initiative, though analysts say the accord will be hard to overturn

At Tuesday’s ceremony, rebels dressed in T-shirts instead of combat fatigues received plastic ID cards qualifying them for post-conflict aid programs

A partir de ese día, las zonas se convertirán en Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación, donde los desde ahora exguerrilleros harán todas las actividades necesarias para reincorporase a la vida legal

In exchange for 100 million Colombian pesos, Moreno and Pinilla offered to give the cooperating source copies of sworn statements taken from cooperators who had testified against the CS


President Obama got dozens of political prisoners freed from Cuban prisons and a dozen criminal fugitives repatriated to the United States. The score thus far for President Trump is zero


It seemed to be bypassing the wealthy and the politically connected while targeting those who could least afford to fight the federal government in court


Venezuela’s government said in a communique the helicopter was stolen by investigative police pilot Oscar Perez, who declared himself in rebellion against Maduro

Few in Venezuela saw Tuesday’s attack as having any chances of immediately succeeding in its stated goals

Western Hemisphere Regional

Implementing the changed Cuba policy, overseeing the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and playing a role in the Colombian peace process are the three issues likely to command immediate political attention

Anybody who has touched the Leahy Law has an opinion about it, but it’s hard to find anybody fully satisfied by the way it is interpreted or implemented

The day ahead: June 28, 2017

Again, I’ll be hard to reach today. (How to contact me)

I’m going to be in an all-day media training with WOLA colleagues. While I appreciate the staff development opportunity, this means I’ll be hard to contact today, and won’t be posting here.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

June 27, 2017


Even stalwart allies have begun to bail on Temer


As of today, the Mission has stored the totality of individual arms of the FARC-EP that were registered: 7132 arms

Aunque la propuesta inicial contemplaba que las Vicealcaldías fueran dirigidas por oficiales activos de las Fuerzas Militares, al final se definió que serán coroneles en retiro del Ejército

En total fueron cinco hombres y cuatro mujeres aprehendidos luego de meses de investigación, pero que se aceleraron tras el ataque del pasado fin de semana en Bogotá

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

If indeed there is a connection to immigration by unaccompanied minors, all that may have changed was MS-13 found more vulnerable youth to prey upon in a country where the leadership wants to hold them up not as refugees, but as potential criminals


Claiming he was the target of rock throwers, Mesa — who was standing on the U.S. side — pulled his handgun and shot 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez Guereca in the head as he peeked out from behind a concrete pillar

El INAI avaló que el Ejército mantenga en secreto el historial de servicio de Alfredo Casarrubias, hermano del presunto líder de Guerreros Unidos, Sidronio Casarrubias, señalado como autor intelectual del ataque contra los normalistas de Ayotzinapa

Salvador Adame was director of local cable Channel 6 TV. Armed men grabbed him on May 18 and forced him into a vehicle in the city of Nueva Italia in violence-plagued Michoacan state

In addition to 43 municipalities with hidden graves publicly reported in 2016—mostly in the states of Veracruz and Guerrero—the model identified 45 other municipalities as having a 70% or higher chance of containing unreported graves

The day ahead: June 27, 2017

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

I just finished my part of a memo on what is up with U.S.-Colombian relations, which has run to 4,000 words and kept me up until 3:00 AM, so I’m getting a bit of a late start.

This morning I’m interviewing candidates for our soon-to-be-open Citizen Security/Border program assistant position (PDF). There are a lot of really good applicants. By 2:00 or so I should be at my desk, writing more and reachable until the end of the day.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Michael Robinson Chavez / The Washington Post photo at The Chicago Tribune. Caption: “A bus originating in Mexico is inspected by Border Patrol agents, including Capt. L. Rinker, center, at a checkpoint south of Falfurrias, Texas, on June 2, 2017. Border Patrol agents check the identification of passengers on northbound buses.”

(Even more here)

June 26, 2017


De no mediar hecho anómalo, para ese día los cerca de 7.000 integrantes de esta guerrilla, ubicados en los 26 puntos de concentración, habrán culminado el proceso de entrega de sus armas

Hoy, que estamos a horas de que las Farc dejen de ser guerrilla después de 53 años, conviene recordar que su aterrizaje en la política y en la vida productiva será un proceso gradual y nada fácil

El viernes se difundiera un vídeo en el que el opositor gritaba que estaba siendo torturado

MRP, an anti-government militia, is believed to have been created in 2015. Since then, they have pronounced themselves against President Juan Manuel Santos and the ideals of former President and current senator Alvaro Uribe Velez

Entre las personas capturadas hay varios egresados de la universidad nacional y defensoras de DDHH de amplia trayectoria como Natalia Trujillo a favor de quien ya se han escuchado varios pronunciamientos

There are at least three reasons that the U.S. should continue its support for Colombia at current levels, even if it decides to make some course corrections

El Salvador, Mexico

Along the border, the impacts of Trump’s immigration policies are visible everywhere

Honduras, Nicaragua

La misión de la denominada Fuerza de Tarea Morazán Sandino, en su cuarta fase, será resguardar la frontera entre Honduras y Nicaragua, combatir el crimen trasnacional y el narcotráfico


The list of targets also included the two Americans, political strategist Christian Ferry, and retired U.S. Army colonel Richard Downie , as well as staff at the U.S. embassy


La ausencia en el último momento del secretario de Estado, Rex Tillerson, fue un jarro de agua fría. Su participación, coinciden los consultados, incluso entre los críticos, hubiese podido cambiar el panorama

A group of young Venezuelan lawmakers has risen to prominence on the violent front line of anti-government marches

Western Hemisphere Regional

The US president speaks loudly and carries a small stick

The day ahead: June 26, 2017

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

I’m spending most of the day at a non-public State Department event where they invite in a few outside experts to talk about the current moment in Colombia. My panel is in the morning. In the latter part of the afternoon I’ll be attending an AEI event on transnational organized crime and corruption in Latin America: I’m interested in hearing how conservatives are taking on this issue so central to my work.

The week ahead

This is sort of a truncated week, followed by some vacation. I leave town mid-day Thursday, visiting family for the July 4 week. I’m taking off the following week as well. This is the first extended time off since Christmas, and while I plan to post to this site as often as always, I look forward to the slower pace.

While I’m here this week, I won’t be in my office very much. On Monday, I’m speaking on a panel at a non-public State Department about Colombia, which goes nearly all day. On Tuesday we’re interviewing several program assistant candidates. And on Wednesday we’ve got an all-day media training. I’m doing a few more interviews Thursday, then it’s off to New York.

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