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.


Get a weekly update in your email

June 2017

5 tweets that made me laugh this week

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, June 26, 2017

  • 12:00 at the Atlantic Council: Rising Chinese FDI in Latin America and the Implications for the United States (RSVP required).
  • 1:00–2:00 at CSIS: The Rule of Law in El Salvador (RSVP required).
  • 3:45–5:15 at the American Enterprise Institute: “Kingpins and corruption: Targeting transnational organized crime in the Americas” (RSVP required).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

  • 9:00 at the Wilson Center: Dying for a Story: How Impunity and Violence against Mexican Journalists are Weakening the Country (RSVP required).
  • 9:00 at the Atlantic Council: Building More Resilient Communities: Responding to Irregular Migration Flows (RSVP required).
  • 11:45–1:45 at the Hudson Institute: Mexico: A Leading Nation Battles Drug Cartels, Crime, and Corruption (RSVP required).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

  • 12:00–1:00 at the Heritage Foundation: Securing the Border and Protecting Our Communities (RSVP required).

Five links from the past week

Fernando Vergara / AP photo at The Nation. Caption: “A United Nations observer shakes hands with a rebel of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), March 1, 2017.”


Robert Karl, Greg Grandin, Will Last Year’s Peace Treaty Survive, or Is the Past Prologue in Colombia? (The Nation, June 23, 2017).

Two historians, Grandin and Robert Karl, look at Colombia’s hopeful but deeply worrying current moment, drawing on the country’s violent past.

La Politica Detras de la Sustitucion de Cultivos (La Silla Vacia (Colombia), June 19, 2017).

As the Trump administration tightens pressure on Colombia to eradicate more coca, La Silla Vacía visits several regions to see how the Colombian government’s “voluntary eradication” plan, foreseen by the November 2016 peace accord, is going. It’s really complicated.


Azam Ahmed, Nicole Perlroth, Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families (The New York Times, June 19, 2017).

A company licensed its anti-terror phone-hacking software to the Mexican government, and to no one’s surprise, the Mexican government has started using it on corruption investigators, journalists, and human rights advocates, effectively turning their phones into mobile bugging devices.

Ginger Thompson, Who Holds the Dea Accountable When Its Missions Cost Lives? (ProPublica, June 19, 2017).

In a follow-up to the previous week’s investigation of a massacre in Mexico triggered by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents sharing information with crooked Mexican cops, Thompson finds that “the DEA lit the fuse that triggered the slaughter, then stood mutely by — as if it had played no role.” Rather than just fan outrage, though, she suggests steps the agency must take to improve accountability.

Western Hemisphere Regional

Jim Rutenberg, Univision’s Urgent
Sense of Purpose: A Newsroom and a Lifeline
(The New York Times, June 18, 2017).

Univision’s news team includes many Latin American journalists who are exiled because of their work in their home countries. They see some ominous similarities between the Trump administration and the governments of the countries they fled. And now they’re at the vanguard of high-credibility U.S. journalism.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press photo at The Washington Post. Caption: “A demonstrator lights a candle during a vigil for a student who was killed during clashes between anti-government protesters and Bolivarian National Guard officers, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. The 17-year-old student was shot dead on Monday the Public Prosecutor’s Office said, bringing the death toll to 72 in two months of demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.”

(Even more here)

June 23, 2017


People who are afraid, angry, or who feel victimized look for enemies that can be eliminated, instead of searching for ways to fix a broken criminal justice system and a failed public security model


The referendum vote was not the fatal blow to peace that many feared at first, but the ensuing delay in the peace process may yet cause long-term ramifications

We are proposing the formation of 16 regional citizen committees to support and accompany the implementation of the peace agreement

Cuatro guerrilleros y ocho personas de sus círculos más cercanos han sido asesinados desde que arrancó la implementación del acuerdo de paz

‘Martín Sombra’ lideró en los 90 la columna Mario Hernández, encargada de vigilar a los cientos de secuestrados que caían en manos de las Farc

El plan para desmantelar organizaciones criminales es una nueva apuesta por Tumaco y Buenaventura. También es una prueba de fuego para el Vicepresidente

Colombia, Venezuela

Though many come from Venezuela’s lower and middle classes, Montilla and her friends have seen even skilled professionals like architects and engineers arriving in Colombia and sleeping in bus stations


The old-guard exiles gave their Cuba policy far less chance to succeed because they arrogantly alienated the rest of the world – and just as imperiously neglected the same island-dwelling Cubans

U.S. officials say day-to-day cooperation on halting U.S.-bound human trafficking and narcotics has improved significantly since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations

El Salvador

The killings occurred between 2014 and 2016. Some victims were alleged gang members while other killings appeared to be contract hits


Considering them a burden, even an embarrassment, the Guatemalan state and society are unable and unwilling to assist the thousands of migrants being sent back home


No incident has hardened feelings about illegal immigration in Arizona more than the unsolved 2010 killing of 58-year-old Rob Krentz, head of one of the oldest ranch families in southeast Arizona

In this short video, Corchado shows AQ Editor-in-Chief Brian Winter how integrated both countries are – and talks to Mexicans and Americans about how life has changed (and stayed the same) under President Donald Trump


La autorización garantiza el ingreso de naves y aeronaves de las Fuerzas Armadas y ejércitos de la Conferencia de las Fuerzas Armadas Centroamericanas (CFAC), Estados Unidos, Rusia, México, Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, República Dominicana


Benavides, who the U.S. government sanctioned in 2015 for alleged human rights abuses during a previous wave of unrest, will now lead an agency created by Maduro to oversee the capital, whose opposition mayor was jailed two years ago

“Viene una decisión muy importante de los componentes de nuestra FFAA”

At least two soldiers shot long firearms through the fence from a distance of just a few feet at protesters who were throwing rocks

“The tragic situation in Venezuela calls out for action,” Haley said in a statement in which she complained about the lack of action from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States

Western Hemisphere Regional

The decision not to send Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and for the U.S. not to attend the Commission’s 161 hearings on U.S. cases may likely have hurt U.S. candidate Doug Cassel’s chances

The day ahead: June 23, 2017

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

I’ve avoided scheduling meetings today, and the result is 12 hours of time for writing and research. If all goes well, I’ll have prepared a Colombia presentation I’ll be giving to a State Department audience on Monday, recorded (or at least scripted) a podcast about the current state of U.S. policy toward Colombia, and drafted a memo about the same.

No you won’t

I’ve had about two dozen meetings since April to talk with congressional staff about border security. I’ve met about equally with Democrats and Republicans, in both houses.

What can I say. It’s been weeks since I’ve even bothered to open a meeting by talking about the border wall. It just gets dismissed out of hand. A few miles may get built here and there—maybe some levee wall in south Texas—but I don’t see interest in hundreds of miles, much less a coast-to-coast wall.

Homeland Security funds are scarce, and more fencing is way down serious people’s list of priorities for securing the border. I’m concluding that Congress is about as willing to pay for it as Mexico is.

The day ahead: June 22, 2017

I am difficult to reach today. (How to contact me)

I’m posting this later than usual: I wrote an article about coca eradication and the Trump administration, which I hope to link to soon—but I jumped right into it when I woke up this morning and forgot to do this daily update.

With that done, I’m in the office for a bit, then I’ve got a lunch meeting with a Colombian journalist, a meeting with a member of Congress to talk about border security and migration, and a meeting with another legislative staffer about Colombia. As that means another day without touching a computer keyboard very often, this site won’t get updated much.

WOLA Podcast: Colombia’s FARC demobilizes, but new challenges await

Here’s a half-hour conversation with Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA’s senior associate for Colombia.

On June 20, 2017 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ceased to be an armed group. But as Gimena makes clear, the hard part awaits.

In a wide-ranging discussion about the current moment, we discuss next steps in the FARC demobilization, the ominous appearance of armed groups in zones of previous guerrilla influence, recent social protests on the Pacific Coast, Colombia’s ability to implement its accord commitments, civil society’s role in making it happen, and our growing concerns about where the Trump administration is headed.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

William Widmer photo for The New York Times. Caption: “United States Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended a man seen crossing the Rio Grande near Roma, Tex., last month.”

(Even more here)

June 21, 2017


If Brazil’s top prosecutor agrees with the federal police recommendation, Congress will decide whether Temer should be investigated by the Supreme Court

General Etchegoyen’s staff mentioned the official by name and described the official’s position as the C.I.A.’s “chief” in Brasília in a publicly available agenda of the spymaster’s meetings


During his visit to Colombia, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, visited the Transitory Point of Pondores – La Guajira

Se han registrado 42 desplazamientos masivos en la costa pacífica, Norte de Santander y Arauca. Son 7.371 personas, 2.056 familias afectadas


If all these people are now to be considered “prohibited officials,” then a quarter of the Cuban labor force will no longer be eligible to receive remittances


A video shown in court shows Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez on the ground when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz fired through the border fence

The equipment is provided to the Department of Homeland Security under the Defense Department program established to repurpose military equipment previously used in Afghanistan and Iraq


The United States attorney’s office submitted a motion urging the court to keep Mr. Martinelli in jail until the extradition case is decided


Brazil and Mexico were thwarted by a handful of leftist nations and Caribbean island states which voted against the OAS draft resolutions or abstained

The process itself produces shared understandings, expressed commitments and diplomatic networks that go beyond the actual meetings and can lead to actions beyond the multilateral body

The government-stacked court in a statement Tuesday it had approved a request from a socialist party lawmaker to lift prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz’s protection from prosecution for allegedly committing “grave errors”

The day ahead: June 21, 2017

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

After seven meetings with congressional staff yesterday, I’ve got another this morning. Then a few hours in the office doing actual work. Then around 3:00 I’ll record a podcast with a colleague, followed by a meeting with NGOs that work on Colombia.

At 4 Common Misconceptions about U.S.-bound Drug Flows through Mexico and Central America

Graph of cocaine seizures showing Mexico far down the list.

This brief piece at wola’s website is for anyone who seems to think that you can fight opioids by aiding Central America, that a border wall can stop drugs, that gangs like MS-13 ship drugs to the United States, or that Mexico stops a lot of northbound cocaine.

I leaned heavily on my database to cite facts that aren’t, but should be, well known about how the drug trade works in the Mexico-Central America “transit zone.”

View it here.

Newer Posts
Older Posts
Get a weekly update in your e-mail:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.