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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September 2017

The day ahead: September 15, 2017

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

I’ve cleared my schedule for writing a big Colombia report all day today. Well, not all day, since I’ll be spending a few hours putting together a Colombia conference we’ve got planned for October 16. But I hope to make big strides on both projects today.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

September 14, 2017

Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela

The United States Government seriously considered designating Colombia as a country that has failed demonstrably to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements due to the extraordinary growth of coca cultivation and cocaine production


“Realmente está desconociendo lo que es hoy un mandato claro constitucional, en donde el Presidente de la República es el comandante supremo de las Fuerzas Armadas”

Las dificultades de avanzar en las investigaciones contra altos oficiales del Ejército implicados en ejecuciones extrajudiciales preocupa desde hace varios años a la Fiscalía de la Corte Penal Internacional

En materia de reincorporación de las Farc no hay nada. Absolutamente nada

‘Cadete’ parece ser el ejemplo perfecto de quien no encuentra posibilidades de movilidad horizontal o vertical en la transición; es decir, parece haber más condiciones para seguir en la guerra

Fatou Bensouda convocó a una rueda de prensa en la que aclaró que no recibió información clave por parte de la Fiscalía en el tema de la investigación de casos de ejecuciones extrajudiciales

Nadie se imaginaba que el tema ya había escalado a este nivel, y mucho menos que Trump -que se reunirá con el presidente Juan Manuel Santos en una semana en Nueva York-, preparaba semejante golpe

Nadie tiene que amenazarnos para enfrentar este desafío

No sólo para que el ELN suscriba el resto de peticiones del Acuerdo Humanitario sino para que la participación de la sociedad civil -que es uno de los pilares de la agenda de negociación con esa guerrilla- se cumpla, y en serio

Colombia, Mexico

Reuniones de alto nivel estratégico para fortalecer la seguridad binacional y la lucha antidrogas en el Caribe y el Pacífico, sostendrá el ministro de Defensa Nacional, Luis Carlos Villegas, durante su visita oficial a México


Los guatemaltecos no deberíamos ver este momento como un espacio para lamentarnos, sino como una oportunidad para solicitar con bases sólidas el cierre del Ejército de Guatemala


Nearly two-thirds of Mexicans (65%) express a negative opinion of the U.S., more than double the share two years ago (29%)


Outsiders have repeatedly underestimated Mr Maduro’s determination to cling to power at the expense of destroying his country. Yet in the long run his attempt to turn Venezuela into a communist dictatorship on Cuban lines is unlikely to succeed

Western Hemisphere Regional

$75.9 billion cleared by the department and announced by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in fiscal 2017

From what I can see, the Dems’ play here is pretty straight forward. Push forward for that deal: DACA plus “border security” minus the wall. If they get it, great. They save the Dreamers

The day ahead: September 14, 2017

I should be reachable much of the day, except around lunchtime. (How to contact me)

Well, yesterday ended up being more intense than expected. I wrote another 2,000-word piece about what kinds of “good border security” we might support as part of a deal to save the DACA program. And that became part of a big package, a lot of which I’d written in the past week, that WOLA posted at the end of the day. Then at the end of the day, the Trump White House said it “seriously considered” decertifying Colombia. (Thanks to the AP for letting me vent.)

And I’d thought I’d be spending yesterday catching up on email and unfinished commitments. Who knows what today has in store.

The calendar says all I’ve got is a mid-day meeting with some State Department officials. Otherwise I’ll spend the day attending to my teetering inbox, sending out speaker invites for an October 16 conference on Colombia (yes, we have a date), updating our new “tracker” of where border and migration legislation stands, and catching up Colombia peace-implementation research.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

September 13, 2017


The report could provide additional evidence for a second formal corruption accusation against Temer in as many months

Political scholars say Cunha has so much dirt on so many politicians that virtually all of Brazil’s political power brokers could be doomed


La salida del exjefe guerrillero revela la compleja situación que enfrentan los mandos medios que ni fueron jefes máximos, ni tropa rasa

La Fiscalía tenía a su cargo 2.760 procesos de ejecuciones extrajudiciales en los que estaban involucrados miembros de la Fuerza Pública, los cuales habían dejado 3.185 víctimas

La impunidad, el lado ‘oscuro’ de la inteligencia estatal y la incapacidad de otorgar medidas satisfactorias de protección, conforman la triada que tiene contra las cuerdas a los defensores de derechos humanos

El Salvador, Honduras

Democratic and Republican Members of Congress ask Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to renew program due to dire conditions in Honduras and El Salvador


Oscar Pérez, Director General de Prensa del Ejército confirmó a periodistas que desde enero de 2017 se entregan mensualmente 50.000 quetzales (unos 6.849 dólares) de “bono extraordinario de responsabilidad” a Morales por ser Comandante General del Ejército


President Trump hasn’t always been exacting and consistent in expressing his vision. Yet a lot of confusion is being caused by media reports

The visit by Mattis also comes amid signs of improving U.S.-Mexican cooperation in cracking down on the heroin trade

The United States should not release this portion of aid to Mexico, given the country’s lack of progress in meeting the human rights requirements included in the assistance package

Un comparativo que hizo Proceso con el primer año de gobierno de los priistas Javier Duarte y Fidel Herrera, revela que el gobierno de Yunes Linares tiene mayores índices delictivos en homicidios, secuestros y robo de autos


William Brownfield told the U.S. Senate’s international drug caucus that trafficking organizations in Venezuela have “completely penetrated virtually every security, law enforcement and justice-related institution”

Faced with this multitude of challenges and limited resources, Varela adopted a new policy to fulfill her mission. She simply befriended the most important pranes and started making deals with them.What they wanted, and got, was power

The collapse of the judiciary has left victims of torture, killings and disappearances and their families without recourse to justice after months of violent street protests, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said

The opposition’s main coalition issued a tepid statement warning that no new dialogue had begun, but saying it was sending a delegation after an invitation from the Dominican president

Western Hemisphere Regional

Not only would these tools endanger the privacy rights of Americans living near the border, but they would do nothing to curb illegal immigration

The administration does not “want to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible.”

President Donald Trump is sending public and private signals that he is ready to deal on legislation protecting young undocumented immigrants and won’t demand funding for a border wall

It makes you want to grab them by the shoulders: Don’t you know you can’t do this anymore without getting caught?

The day ahead: September 13, 2017

I’ll be most reachable in the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’d expected yesterday to be a quieter day, but it actually got filled with a big research/writing project that WOLA may launch today, a few interviews, and an evening get-together with some of our supporters. I got home after 9:00 last night.

So today, with less on the schedule, I hope to do some of the catching up on smaller commitments that I’d expected to do yesterday. I’d also like to do most of a brief piece on Colombia’s ex-combatant reintegration program (or lack thereof), and start putting together in earnest a mid-October conference on Colombia’s peace implementation effort.

2016 suspect trafficking maps

These U.S. government maps were on display at today’s Senate Colombia hearing, but weren’t in anyone’s published testimony. Click on them to see them enlarged.

That route from southwest Colombia and Ecuador to Mexico and Guatemala is really striking.

Also striking is the relative absence of vessels headed to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, and Haiti.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from El Periódico (Guatemala). Caption: “Un grupo de ciudadanos manifestaron ayer a las afueras del Palacio Legislativo para exigir 105 votos a favor de retirar el antejuicio de Jimmy Morales.”

(Even more here)

September 12, 2017


With campaigns in full swing, actors on both sides of the political divide are finding Sala’s story a useful tool with which to attack their opponents


Advocates for stricter protective measures say the suspected massacre is evidence that the Brazilian government isn’t doing enough to safeguard the more than 100 vulnerable tribes


El vicepresidente de Colombia, Óscar Naranjo, confirmó el lunes que 25 narcotraficantes trataron de colarse en los listados de integrantes de las Farc, con la intención de obtener los beneficios jurídicos

Édgar Mesías Salgado Aragón, alias Rodrigo Cadete, excomandante del frente 27 de las Farc, quien decidió regresar a la lucha bélica pese a haber participado en todo el proceso de dejación de armas y conformación del partido político

Se trata de una larga historia de acuerdos, incumplimientos e insatisfacciones que, vistos en retrospectiva, despiertan serias dudas sobre la verdadera voluntad de sometimiento del temido capo

Al parecer eran tan conocidas las funciones de este organismo al interior del DAS que el G-3 tuvo que ampliar su espacio físico para contener su nueva planta de personal y disponía de vehículos y gastos reservados

El alto tribunal le enviará a la Comisión de Acusación de la Cámara de Representantes varias pruebas para que sean evaluadas con el expresidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez

El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua

All told, more than 440,000 people in the United States are protected by the program


The vote to protect Morales from possible prosecution was lopsided, with only 25 of the 158 members of Congress voting to strip Morales’ of his legal protections

El bloque de la Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE), quien hasta hace unas semanas mantenía un discurso de apoyo en la lucha contra la corrupción, ahora se perfila como otra bancada que rechazará la intención del MP y la CICIG


El Ejército Mexicano jamás ha peleado fuera del territorio nacional, y si en el Siglo XIX estuvo destinado a la defensa de la soberanía, es en el combate a sublevaciones y “enemigos” internos en lo que se especializó

The catastrophe has thrown Mexicans’ simmering distrust of their government into sharp relief as suspicions mount that aid will be diverted for political gain — or simply siphoned off

How bad could it get? The first item off the table would likely be cooperation on issues of migration

While Trump never responded to Mexico’s offer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state would accept the country’s aid


“My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said

Western Hemisphere Regional

In a shift from how it operated during the Obama administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is cracking down on relatives who let undocumented kids stay with them after entering the U.S.

After post-Trump slump, cross-border migration is increasing

Chart of migrant apprehensions since October 2011

Customs and Border Protection released data yesterday showing a 22.5 percent one-month jump in the number of undocumented migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the fourth straight, and largest, increase since migration bottomed out to decades-low monthly levels following Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The August statistic is double April’s. April used to be a significantly heavier month: August is a terrible time to cross the border because of the intense desert heat. But in the past few years, August has been a bit higher. But never twice as high, as in 2017.

The number of unaccompanied children, most of them Central American, has tripled since April. The number of members of family units, also mostly Central American, has quadrupled since April.

Likely reasons for this:

  • Central America remains one of the most violent places on the planet. After a few months of delaying travel, in “wait and see” mode as the anti-immigration hardline President took over, people are still fleeing that violence. They’re not doing so in the same numbers as before, but more of them are risking the journey.
  • Smugglers may have adjusted to the new reality and are increasing their sales pitches to people who want to leave Central America. In May, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that smugglers, perceiving risk under the Trump administration, had raised their rates to $12,000-$15,000. (Migrant shelter personnel had been citing up to $10,000 after Mexico started its “Southern Border Plan” in mid-2014, and about $5,000-6,000 before that.) Such a price hike would have depressed the number of people able to afford the trip, or willing to risk their savings. I wonder if smugglers have lowered their prices since Kelly’s statement.
  • News of immigration raids inside the United States, along with Trump’s rhetoric, has probably kept many would-be migrants in “wait and see” mode, even if they are facing danger at home. But by now it’s probably clear that the United States still respects international standards for those seeking asylum, and that family/child detention remains very rare inside the United States during the years it often takes for immigration courts to make an asylum decision.

The day ahead: September 12, 2017

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

This morning I’ll be attending the Senate Drug Caucus’s hearing on Colombia in person. In the afternoon I’ll be in the office catching up on a list of small tasks that I didn’t get to yesterday. (Instead, I got a substantial amount of writing done yesterday; I’ll link to the products of all that when we post them.)

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Ramón Espinosa – AP photo at The Miami Herald. Caption: “People walk through flooded streets in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in Cuba.”

(Even more here)

September 11, 2017


They want to abolish Funai (the Indian Protection Service, a government department) and get rid of, as they put it, “NGOs and anthropologists”. Temer needs the support of this bancada

he gold miners went to a bar in a near the border with Colombia, and bragged about the killings

Caribbean Regional

The French government denied the rumors about the alleged prison break on Sunday. But some residents spoke of witnessing violence

Central America Regional, Nicaragua

En Nicaragua recientemente se han disparado las alarmas por la captura de Sergio Umaña, un presunto miembro de la Mara Salvatrucha


Fueron creadas dos brigadas de acción integral con las que esa institución unificó todos sus servicios como los recreativos, los médicos y de infraestructura, entre otros

El objetivo es someter a la justicia al grupo más importante de los reductos que dejó la desmovilización paramilitar, tal y como quedó consignado en el Acuerdo de Paz con las Farc

Indagan si ex-Auc dieron sobornos para no ser sacados de Justicia y Paz y frenar extradiciones

Dada la naturaleza de la mayor banda criminal del país, hay razones para no ser demasiado optimistas

Dar ‘el primer paso’ que pidió el Papa para conseguir la paz total en Colombia, sería hoy, para el Eln, dejar en libertad a esos secuestrados y respetar integralmente los acuerdos con el Gobierno

Ballesteros, abogado litigante de 40 años y quien representaba en varios procesos a víctimas del conflicto armado, contaba con un esquema de seguridad asignado por la Unidad Nacional de Protección


Authorities have not yet assessed the full extent of damage caused by Irma. But preliminary reports indicate the storm affected housing, power lines, tourism and agriculture


The Americans “took off their mask,” she said. “It’s time to defend ourselves”

The day ahead: September 11, 2017

I’ll be most available in the latter part of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

The only meeting on today’s calendar is a weekly staff meeting in the morning, and a meeting to put together a mid-October conference on Colombia. I want to get a short memo to Senate staff ahead of a hearing on Colombia drug policy tomorrow. Then I want to shut the door and finish an “explainer” piece about four border security items we’re keeping our eyes on. I expect to spend the latter part of the day doing more planning and unpacking my office from August’s renovation—it’s still all piles of books and boxes in there.

Also, today’s my birthday. Turning 47 on a Monday. Hooray.

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