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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October 2017

Some articles I found interesting this morning

David Wallace / The Republic photo at USA Today. Caption: “Construction of the border wall prototypes continues near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry outside of San Diego, California, on Oct. 17, 2017.”

(Even more here)

October 23, 2017

Argentina

Los datos cambian por completo el panorama político argentino, dominado en los últimos 70 años, con altibajos, por un actor central, el peronismo

In Senate contests, the party with the most votes wins two seats, while the runner-up gets one, meaning that Mrs. Kirchner will get a seat in the chamber anyway

En una democracia normal, ambos casos estarían circunscritos al ámbito de la justicia y esas muertes no serían fichas de juego en el tablero político

Brazil

The World Bank estimates about 28.6 million Brazilians moved out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. But the bank estimates that from the start of 2016 to the end of this year, 2.5 million to 3.6 million will have fallen back

Colombia

Pardo está a cargo del plan de sustitución voluntaria de los plantíos ilícitos, mediante el cual el Gobierno aspira a erradicar 50.000 hectáreas

  • Alfredo Molano Bravo, ¿y Ahora Que? (El Espectador (Colombia), October 23, 2017).

Sin lugar a duda, lo que está pasando en Nariño se repetirá en Putumayo, Guaviare, Cauca y Catatumbo porque la gente no va a dejarse quitar el pan de la boca

Se asentaron cerca de 200 excombatientes que, luego de haber dejado las armas en este mismo territorio, construyeron sus casas, asignaron roles de trabajo y crearon una economía en la que los recursos son repartidos por igual

Solo en la región del Pacífico, representada por Valle, Cauca y Nariño, hay más de 160 disidentes de las Farc organizados en siete grupos

José Jair Cortés es el más reciente de casi un centenar de líderes asesinados este año sin que el Estado pudiera evitarlo.¿Cómo parar este desangre?

La última crisis de seguridad en el corregimiento Altavista, que entre junio y septiembre produjo 15 asesinatos, más de 80 desplazamientos forzados y zozobra por las balaceras diarias, es el reflejo de lo nocivas que han sido para los medellinenses

Creo que ese lenguaje fue pésimo, lamento que se usara y creo que los que saben lo que Colombia ha hecho en estos 20 años también piensan igual

Cuatro valientes cuentan cómo asumieron la búsqueda tras la desaparición forzada de sus familiares

Honduras

For a crucial piece of evidence that it asserted would exonerate its personnel, the D.E.A. kept the video under tight control

Mexico

En dicho encuentro, funcionarios de ambos países afianzaron la estrategia y operación para la atención de los delitos de trasiego de drogas, tráfico de personas, divisas, armas, lavado de dinero, indocumentado, ciberseguridad, entre otros

Yndira Sandoval asegura que si no se le hace justicia en México, acudirá a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Hasta el momento 5 personas han sido identificadas, mientras que el resto permanece en calidad de desconocido

Venezuela

International actors have responded with a combination of outright condemnation, statements of concern, and statements of support

Todo es chantaje. El delito es la nueva forma de la política. La democracia ya ni siquiera sirve como espectáculo

Western Hemisphere Regional

Experts and companies who submitted bids agreed – the border wall bidding process was rushed, and qualified candidates may have been overlooked for the sake of speed

The day ahead: October 23, 2017

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

Tomorrow night WOLA will be holding its annual human rights awards dinner, a pretty large-scale event. So there’ll be a long morning staff meeting today and probably a few other tasks involved with that. I’ve got a late-afternoon meeting with a foundation program officer. In the middle, I’ll be writing about Colombia when time allows.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Policía Militar photo from El Heraldo (Honduras). Caption: “Se realizan cateos este jueves en el centro penal de Santa Bárbara en busca de armas, droga y otros objetos prohibidos.”

(Even more here)

October 20, 2017

Argentina

The Maldonado case became a thorn in the ruling party’s campaign, and the latest twist could raise questions in voters’ minds about the government’s handling of the investigation

Colombia

Coca production has surged dramatically in recent years and the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House has added to pressure on Bogotá

La meta de erradicación forzada de cultivos de coca de 50.000 mil hectáreas impuesta por el Gobierno a la Fuerza Pública se cumplirá antes de lo previsto, al lograr durante el fin de semana el exterminio de 40.000 hectáreas

Las versiones iniciales indicaban que se trató de un enfrentamiento entre disidencias de las Farc, pero el grupo exguerrillero desmintió esta versión oficial

Como medida prioritaria para retomar el control de ese territorio, el jefe de Estado anunció la creación de un comando de tarea conjunta con participación de todas las fuerzas que van a copar la zona

La reducción de municipios con registro de acciones violentas por parte de esta guerrilla es un hecho notorio

The Commission urges the State of Colombia to investigate these events with due diligence, clarify the circumstances in which they occurred, and identify and punish those responsible

Cuba

These actions are not only counter-productive to solving this mystery, but will inevitably punish the Cuban people, separate Cuban-Americans from their loved ones on the island, hurt U.S. companies interested in doing business in Cuba, and disrupt further progress

Ecuador

Where Mr Correa was a tub-thumping polariser, Mr Moreno is a soft-spoken consensus-maker

Haiti

Why should Haitians trust another group of U.N. “peacekeepers” who claim to promote the same human rights, justice, and rule of law that have been so blatantly violated by their colleagues?

Honduras

El comandante de la Fuerza Naval de Honduras dijo que el nuevo equipo logístico marítimo coloca a Honduras al nivel de la región

As with many stories regarding the Urbina Soto clan, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. The family has long been part legend, part reality in the region

Mexico

It was an homage to the victims of the magnitude-7.1 earthquake that slammed the national capital a month earlier, on Sept. 19

El priista admitió el fracaso de la estrategia federal que encabeza el Ejército desde hace cuatro años, porque “el problema de Guerrero –dijo– no es político, es la violencia”

Venezuela

Venezuela’s government on Thursday banned opposition governors from taking office in five states, replacing them with ruling-party substitutes, after the opposition released evidence it said proves electoral fraud

While claims of fraud have circulated after many a lost election, it’s never been possible to show actual tallying fraud with the actas in hand as evidence

The MUD is rattled. While Mr Maduro celebrated Venezuela’s “record-breaking” democracy, confusion reigned at opposition headquarters in Caracas

A sweeping government victory in the midst of profound economic and social unrest, after months of widespread protests against the Maduro government, beggars credulity

The opposition to Maduro’s regime will be displaced abroad, spreading the Venezuelan crisis throughout the region

The day ahead: October 20, 2017

I should be reachable much of the day, though replies could be delayed. (How to contact me)

I’ve been aggressively avoiding commitments today. After organizing a large conference and related activities all week, I need to catch up. My office is a giant mess still, from renovations that took place in August. I have receipts left undocumented from the conference and even from my late-August trip to Colombia. I need to spend an hour or two with my accumulated lists of projects and to-dos.

So while I’m in the office today, I’m trying to keep a low profile.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

October 19, 2017

Argentina

Polls predict Mr Macri’s coalition could win close to 40 per cent of the national vote, an improvement on the 34 per cent it won in the presidential race, and extend its control over congress

Colombia

Según informó la Defensoría del Pueblo, José Jair tenía medidas de protección de la Unidad Nacional de Protección. Aún así, fue asesinado después de que salió del casco urbano de Tumaco

El crimen ocurrió a pesar de que contaba con esquema de seguridad de la Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP) y de que los líderes de ese territorio colectivo habían denunciado la situación extrema

Given the history of government neglect, lack of infrastructure, a total absence of any level of technical support for the communities and ongoing threats from paramilitary groups operating in the area, the prospects do not look so good

Según OCHA y fuentes gubernamentales, las acciones armadas se presentaron un día después de los confusos hechos del 6 de octubre en una zona rural de Tumaco

La intensificación de la erradicación forzada y el ataque de la fuerza pública a los campesinos cocaleros le asestan un golpe mortal a este propósito. Lo más grave es que esto puede ocurrir en otros 10 sitios claves

Honduras

The accusations about political ties to drug trafficking will undoubtedly play a key role in the run-up to the late November vote

Mexico

Cuellar has long sought $92 million in funding over five years for Operation Border SMART (Strategic Mobile And Response Team), a virtual wall that uses technology and boots on the ground as an alternative to a wall

There are indeed border security policies that are cost-effective, reasonable, humane and deserving of support from both parties. Congress would do well to pursue these

Purchase documents link the home to Javier Duarte, the former governor of the state of Veracruz in southeastern Mexico, a confidential source confirmed

Venezuela

This is Venezuela, where even feckless leaders have an afterlife, and opponents must convince their rank and file that casting a vote isn’t a fool’s errand

President Nicolás Maduro’s opponents must decide whether the ballot box can still serve as an effective tool against the regime

By appealing to opposition supporters who abstained Sunday, Ms. Machado and her allies could create a parallel opposition coalition to rival Democratic Unity

The day ahead: October 19, 2017

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

It’s another appointment-heavy day: a couple of phone interviews, lunch with a visiting European diplomat, and a meeting with a group that’s verifying Colombian peace-accord implementation. I also need to finish a brief article about post-conflict Colombia for another publication, and to get started planning a late-November field research visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

So I won’t be very available for other things today. Tomorrow is looking clearer because I’ve been deliberately avoiding scheduling things for then.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Ross D. Franklin/Pool/File Photo from Reuters. Caption: “Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014.”

(Even more here)

October 18, 2017

Argentina

“In some ways this has become a competition between Vidal and Cristina”

Brazil

Lack of trust is feeding support for an authoritarian solution to the crisis – which could have serious consequences in next year’s presidential elections

Young reporters want to write about their reality and the positive news in their marginalized neighborhoods, not just about violence, drug trafficking and the bizarre

Colombia

El crimen ocurrió a pesar de que contaba con esquema de seguridad de la Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP) y de que los líderes de ese territorio colectivo habían denunciado la situación extrema

Los muertos de Tumaco son solo uno de los muchos conflictos que está produciendo esta estrategia, que es además ineficiente y no se está aplicando en las regiones donde se debería

La presencia de diferentes expresiones armadas no necesariamente es el factor más preocupante

Indepaz las ha denominado narcoparamilitares, reconociendo su origen en el paramilitarismo de las AUC y otros grupos similares; prácticas y objetivos que aún conservan de éstas; y destacando las economías ilícitas

The Colombian government’s estimates of FARC dissidence fall well below those observed on the ground by InSight Crime, and these numbers will likely increase

Una de las razones por las cuales la disidencia podría estar creciendo es el incumplimiento de los acuerdos por parte del gobierno nacional y la lentitud para atender las necesidades

Antes estaba la idea de que las víctimas eran el centro del proceso, pero todos perdieron el norte relacionado con esa idea, lo cual es muy frustrante

Cortés era uno de los miembros del Consejo Comunitario del territorio de Alto Mira y Frontera, en el departamento de Nariño, fronterizo con Ecuador

El Salvador

In March 2017, a study by Florida International University (FIU) examined the dynamics behind the dangerous choice to abandon gang life and the challenges faced by ex-members seeking to reintegrate into society

Guatemala

The Guatemalan government has renewed the visa of the U.N. anti-corruption commissioner but instructed him to “refrain from interfering in the internal affairs” of the country

Called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to use his authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to put in place visa bans for those individuals in Guatemala who are committing or facilitating acts of corruption

El hijo del expresidente “tiene que ver con la muerte” del coordinador del Remhi, según una de las últimas conversaciones que el Capitán tuvo con su pareja, Reyes

Mexico

Even these big warning slabs of concrete, the teeming construction site, and police and helicopters patrolling both sides of the border weren’t enough to stop a half-dozen would-be migrants from hopping the existing fence this month and landing smack in the middle of the project

Mr. Cervantes was viewed by anti-corruption activists as Mr. Peña Nieto’s attempt to shield the party’s power brokers from investigations into graft

Venezuela

“They are divided, confused and some of them are unwilling to tell their voters they failed twice”

Exhaustion has set in. Millions of people who had turned out to vote for the opposition in the past just didn’t turn out. The government cheated, but it also won. Both things are true

Western Hemisphere Regional

The difference between residency and deportation depends largely on who hears the case, and where

The day ahead: October 18, 2017

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

I’m very pleased with the Colombia conference that we hosted on Monday. We had a great turnout, there were great discussions and presentations, and a very good round of meetings with diplomats and congressional staff yesterday.

Everyone is flying home this morning. For me, today is a day of meetings, writing thank-you notes, and catching up on what I haven’t attended to the past several days. The meetings are interspersed throughout may day, making me hard to contact: with a visiting Colombia expert, with a Senate office, with staff to plan some distant-future travel, and a scholar who asked for an interview.

The day ahead: October 16, 2017

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

Today we’ve got a lot of guests from Colombia in town, and will be holding a conference all day to talk about how implementation of that country’s peace accord is going.

The conference, and accompanying our visitors for a schedule of side meetings, will keep me from updating this page often on Monday and Tuesday.

Five links from the past week

The military high command is making disturbing signals. And a large minority of the population, along with a leading presidential candidate, are OK with it.

Transparency International asked more than 22,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean about corruption in their daily lives. The survey also looks at how institutions are perceived and how corruption has been developing in each country

Data shows how surprisingly small MS–13’s footprint is in the United States. In Central America, though, it’s huge.

“Presión de grupos armados ilegales, erradicación forzada, contradicciones en la política antidrogas y falta de recursos pronostican un futuro adverso.”

“Corruption has allowed hundreds of structures to be built outside the rules atop the soft soils of Mexico City’s ancient lakebed.”

The so-recently unthinkable, now thinkable in Brazil

In The New Yorker, Alex Cuadros explains recent comments, in a Brasilia lecture, by one of Brazil’s top generals. Gen. Antonio Hamilton Martins Mourão told the audience that, as corruption scandals continue to mount, the top brass had discussed overthrowing the government for the first time since a brutal 1964-85 military dictatorship.

“Either the institutions solve the political problem through the courts, removing those elements involved in illegal acts from public life, or we will have to impose the solution,” he said. Wearing his official uniform, his chest laden with decorations, Mourão explained that his colleagues in the Army’s high command shared his view. “We have very well-made plans,” he went on, before ominously adding, “This solution won’t be easy. It will bring trouble, you can be sure of that.” When he finished, the audience broke into applause.

There was a moment, not so very long ago, when Brazil’s generals and right wing would have feared international consequences for pulling a coup. They would have felt certain that the United States would lead international efforts to isolate a military government, either reversing the coup or forcing new elections.

The tragedy of living in 2017 is that not only can’t we be sure that the U.S. would lead an international effort to make Brazil a pariah: we can’t even be sure that the Trump administration would oppose the coup in the first place.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo at Newsweek. Caption: “Construction crews build prototype models of the proposed wall along the Southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico, October 11, 2017.”

(Even more here)

October 13, 2017

Brazil

Bolsonaro can be seen telling a fervent crowd in the city of Belém that the general is a patriot trying to keep his country from going under. The post has racked up half a million views

Brazil, Venezuela

On the recording, Mr. Azevedo says he gave $50 million, but then corrects himself to say the amount was actually $35 million

Colombia

Días antes del asesinato de por lo menos seis campesinos en la zona rural, la guardia indígena awá había tenido choques con la Fuerza Pública. También se han negado a las presiones de disidencias de las Farc para protestar

Cuba

The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks

“Mass hysteria” is the popular term for outbreaks among groups of people which are partly or wholly psychosomatic, but Hallett stressed there should be no blame attached to them

El Salvador

Las autoridades de Seguridad de El Salvador trasladaron este jueves a cinco líderes de la Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), acusados de ordenar más de 200 asesinatos entre finales de septiembre y los primeros días octubre, al penal de máxima seguridad

Mexico

Kelly praised the Mexican government for its role in border security, saying the United States doesn’t pull its weight on fighting demand within the United States for the drugs

The mock ups are being built near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego by several companies that pitched designs to the Department of Homeland Security

Paraguay

No pedían la legalización del cannabis: pedían volver a cultivar mandioca o tomates en lugar de marihuana. Pero para eso necesitaban servicios públicos mínimos

Venezuela

While Maduro remains unpopular, with approval ratings hovering just over 20 percent, apathy and disappointment within the opposition’s base could play to his advantage

Algunos se sienten frustrados y dicen que no votarán para no legitimar al gobierno, otros… aún guardan esperanzas

Western Hemisphere Regional

Smart great powers ensure their safety by befriending smaller neighboring countries

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

October 12, 2017

Brazil

Troops who are increasingly being pressed into service to fight urban drug gangs will face a military tribunal, rather than a civilian court, if they are accused of killing civilians, under the new legislation

Brazilians have remained trapped between a left that believes effective law enforcement is tantamount to dictatorship-style repression, and a right that believes it consists of sending shock troops into favelas to shoot things up

Central America Regional

“I do not see any evidence that the people making these policies are doing anything except taking advantage of people’s misconceptions about gangs to further their anti-immigration agenda”

Colombia

The Development and Integral Action and Support Battalions (BAAID, per its Spanish acronym) were born, responsible for creating social change, reactivating the economy in areas where illegal armed groups had a presence, and strengthening institutions and governance

Eso, al menos, es lo afirma un documento del Departamento de Estado titulado ‘Certificación relacionada con el financiamiento militar extranjero para Colombia’

Dice que si una norma futura de implementación viola “los fines y el espíritu” del Acuerdo Final será declarada inexequible por la Corte

Las coincidencias entre estos protagonistas fueron posibles tras una reunión de más de seis horas

La misión de la ONU desplegará sus observadores internacionales en 33 municipios de los más afectados por el conflicto con el Eln. Mientras tanto, la Iglesia católica tendrá el papel de dar acompañamiento a través de 20 diócesis

Colombia, Venezuela

Durante los últimos tres meses, en la frontera de Cúcuta se ha presentado una balacera cada seis días

According to Colombia’s migration authority, the number of foreigners entering Cucuta, the first major city across the bridge, more than doubled this summer. Over 50,000 came in August, up from 22,700 in June

Cuba

The perpetrators of the alleged attacks on U.S. officials apparently wanted the U.S. and Cuban people to drift apart again

Guatemala

El comisionado presentó el décimo informe de labores con una sola idea en mente: continuar junto al MP el proceso de erradicación de las mafias en el Estado de Guatemala

Ríos Montt will not be present in the courtroom, since he has been found to suffer from dementia. As a result, the court has applied special provisions to his case

Mexico

Mexico’s economy and foreign ministers have flagged that Mexico will reconsider U.S.-Mexico cooperation on security and migration, if the United States abandons NAFTA and relations become unbalanced

The State of Mexico officially ranks second to the nation’s capital with 346 killings classified as femicides since 2011, according to government statistics

Venezuela

As often happened during the reign of former president Hugo Chávez — who named Maduro his successor before his death in 2013 — food baskets are being doled out to hungry voters at pro-government rallies

Including Venezuela in the otherwise unrelated travel ban fits with this unilateral trend and adds to the sense that a frustrated White House is throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick

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