Adam Isacson

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

October 2017

The day ahead: October 12, 2017

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

This afternoon I’m helping interview two candidates for WOLA’s legislative liaison position, and then meeting with a visiting researcher of U.S. military aid.

In the morning, I’m in the office doing research through accumulated official documents about Colombia, and helping with last-minute tasks to organize Monday’s conference on Colombia’s peace process.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Raul Arboleda / AFP / Getty Images photo at IPI Global Observatory. Caption: “Dissident guerrilla leader who goes by the name Aldemar (L), member of the First Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and other rebels, patrol the jungle along the Inirida River in Guaviare Department, Colombia, on September 26, 2017. Aldemar is one of several dissident guerrilla leaders who rejected a December peace deal that saw FARC rebels disarm after a half-century of war against the state. Like other dissidents, he is now a man wanted dead or alive by military patrols combing the jungle. FARC officially became a political party at a special congress in September 2017 but Aldemar says his jungle holdouts ‘haven’t changed an iota of our ideology.’”

(Even more here)

October 11, 2017

Central America Regional

MS-13 is indeed a problem. For Central Americans


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

Several interlocutors underlined to Gilmour their concerns about corruption, with one senior state official indicating that it is by far the biggest underlying cause of human rights abuses in Colombia

A languid implementation of the accord, which seems to stem from bureaucratic obstacles, the absence of efficient institutions, and lack of political will, reflects a country that is yet to be convinced that what was negotiated in Havana was not a series of concessions to the FARC

Tras el hostigamiento del pasado domingo a una comisión de verificación de la masacre en Tumaco, donde seis campesinos murieron, los tumaqueños siguen buscando a personas desaparecidas

102 uniformados de la Policía Nacional serán relevados de sus trabajos en Tumaco, Nariño, para avanzar con las investigaciones por el asesinato de nueve campesinos la semana pasada

Como lo he dicho antes la erradicación manual es la peor de todas las posibles alternativas que tiene un estado para controlar ese problema. Incluso es mejor no hacer nada


Recent signals indicate the reforms may be stalled and that some of Cuba’s leaders are having doubts

Díaz-Canel has done everything he can to banish the myth that he could be the reformer within the government that would lead Cuba to democracy

“Why did it take so long to draw down, to get spouses and children out of there?” the individual who suffered the attack wondered


The country, he said, has faced several devastating blows — including flooding from Hurricanes Irma and Maria — since the initial designation in 2010


Until the end of October, citizens in the community of Mount Salem in Montego Bay will be liable to random searches or detention without a warrant, and will be obliged to present ID in order to leave or enter the area


Following the 2017 quake, civil society groups feel emboldened in their campaign for a truly autonomous attorney-general and a national anti-corruption prosecutor with teeth

The process of renegotiating the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement has turned increasingly acrimonious


Una vez más se ha puesto en tela de dudas la transparencia del Consejo Supremo Electoral en la custodia de las cédulas


So far the Trump Administration’s “debt sanctions” seem to have done little more than strengthen Venezuela’s ties to Russia and China

La exfuncionaria denunció, durante una conferencia sobre Derechos Humanos en la Universidad del Rosario, en Bogotá, que la grave situación del vecino país se ha venido incrementando por la constituyente

Five magistrates named by the opposition-run congress who had been holed up in the Chilean ambassador’s residence to avoid arrest fled in the early hours of Monday and escaped over the border to Colombia

Western Hemisphere Regional

Perhaps the greatest challenge to task forces is political interference – by their very nature, task forces hone in on the interests of powerful elites, including many in higher office and business

The day ahead: October 11, 2017

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

I’m back from our brief vacation as of Monday night. (Taking my 13-year-old daughter and her friend to a giant theme park was great fun, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing.) Yesterday was a day of conference organizing (we’ve got a big Colombia event scheduled for Monday), updating our tracker of border legislation, and generally trying to empty inboxes.

Today I’ve got a staff meeting in the morning and a meeting of groups who work Colombia in the afternoon. In between will be conference prep, a bit of Colombia research and writing, and clearing out my accumulated email from when I was away.

Join us this coming Monday

The Colombia conference we’ve been putting together is 6 days away. You can RSVP here.

“Hacking” the Peace Process: Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Accord Colombia


You are cordially invited to join the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the George Washington University’s Latin America & Hemispheric Studies Program to a conference with leading Colombian analysts and experts on the peace process and the future of post-accord Colombia

Panel 1
Coca: What to do about it?

Bo Mathiasen,
Representative in Colombia,
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Juan Carlos Garzón V.
Associate Researcher, Ideas for Peace Foundation

Pedro Arenas,
Coordinator, Observatory of Crops and Cultivators Declared Illicit (OCDI)


Panel 2
Reintegrating Ex-Combatants into Civilian Life

Ariel Ávila*,
Deputy Director, Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (via Skype)

Maria Eugenia Mosquera*,
Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ) (via Skype)

Mariano Aguirre,
Senior Peacebuilding Advisor, Office of United Nations Resident
and Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombia

Victoria Sandino*,
Alternative Common Revolutionary Force (FARC) (via Skype)


Speaker: Jared Kotler,
Team leader for Colombia, United Nations Department of Political affairs

Panel 3
Transitional Justice and Victims

Juan Méndez,
Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence, American University Washington College of Law
Member of Selection Committee to Appoint Magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and Truth Commission

Carolina Villadiego B.,
Director of Judicial System Thematic Line, DeJusticia

Ariel Palacios,
Representing the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) and Ethnic Commission,
Coordinator of political and legislative advocacy, National Conference of Afro-Colombian Organizations (CNOA)

9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Monday, October 16, 2017
The George Washington University
City View Room
1957 E Street NW, 7th Floor

Nearly a year ago, Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla group signed a historic peace accord ending 52 years of fighting. The FARC has since disarmed, a ceasefire has largely held, and talks have begun with the smaller ELN guerrillas.

Implementing the November 2016 accord, though, may be harder than negotiating it was. Progress on many fronts has been halting and frustrating. Three panels on October 16 will discuss aspects of Colombia’s post-accord reality, determining what is running well, what needs to be “hacked,” and what may need a total reboot.

Each panel will last one hour and forty-five minutes. There will be a 45-minute lunch address. A simple lunch will be provided. Simultaneous translation will be available.

*U.S. visa processing complications will prevent three panelists from presenting in person.

The day ahead: October 5, 2017

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

Six months ago, when my daughter won Washington DC’s spelling bee, one of her prizes was plane tickets to anywhere in the country. She chose Orlando because she’s a big Harry Potter fan. So that’s where I’ll be today through Monday, taking some vacation days.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Dolores Ochoa – AP photo at The Miami Herald. Caption: “Demonstrators hold photos of Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa and current Vice President Jorge Glas outside the Supreme Court in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Ecuador’s Supreme Court has ordered Glas held in jail while he is investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a Brazilian construction giant involved in a sprawling regional graft scandal.”

(Even more here)

October 4, 2017


With the legendary figure now behind bars, InSight Crime looks at what might come next for Brazil’s criminal landscape

Central America Regional

Public transportation is particularly vulnerable in the Northern Triangle, with 50% of Hondurans, 47% of Guatemalans, and 42% of Salvadorans avoiding it for fear of crime


El proceso de reintegración podría complicarse, lo que se traduciría en nuevos escenarios de riesgo

Se trata de un grupo al mando de alias ‘Mordisco’, ex integrante del Frente 6 de las Farc

Evidenció por primera vez los estragos que ha dejado la minería ilegal en la salud de las comunidades que viven a orillas de los ríos Inírida, Atabapo y Guanía


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protests and condemns this unfounded and unacceptable decision as well as the pretext used to justify it, for it has been asserted that the Cuban Government did not take the appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of the alleged incidents


Glas, who was also Correa’s vice president, has always been seen as something of a political placeholder — the man charged with guarding Correa’s reputation until he could retake the presidency


Manuel Baldizón duplicó su patrimonio acumulando propiedades por al menos Q280 millones (US$30 millones) durante sus dos campañas presidenciales


“Any potential deal on DACA has to include robust border security, and by that I don’t mean a wall,” Grassley said during a Judiciary Committee hearing

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who attended Monday night’s White House meeting, noted there was no “specific discussion” of tying a border wall to a DACA fix

Esta cifra es la suma de todas las inconsistencias detectadas por esta dependencia desde 2001 y no aclaradas hasta el momento

Experts are divided about the possibility of a political awakening in a nation where the vast majority of citizens, according to polls in both the United States and Mexico, already view politics and their leaders dismally


Demus sostiene que su informe contiene pruebas que no habían sido consideradas hasta ahora por la Fiscalía para demostrar el carácter irregular o forzoso de las esterilizaciones

Puerto Rico

The president told residents to be “very proud” they hadn’t endured a “real catastrophe” like Katrina

General Honoré said that by this point, he would have moved 50,000 troops to Puerto Rico


Time and again, the opposition has faced dire challenges from the government, bravely confronted them, and failed

Western Hemisphere Regional

Latin American people believe that left-wing governments were good at distributing the wealth generated in the years of the fatty cows, but they have yet to be convinced that right-wing governments can provide solutions in the years of skinny cows

The day ahead: October 4, 2017

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

It’s going to be a busy one—and it’s also my last day in the office this week, as we’re leaving town for a quick vacation Thursday through Monday.

I’m in a morning meeting with Colombia’s visiting human rights ombudsman, then a phone interview, lunch with a colleague I haven’t seen in a while, and speaking in an afternoon webinar with Mexican and Central American groups that work on border security and migration. In the bits of time between those, I’ll be doing tasks related to our October 16 Colombia conference and covering today’s House committee markup of hardline border-security legislation.

12 points about the “Border Security for America Act of 2017”

The House Homeland Security Committee meets tomorrow to mark up (draft and vote on) H.R. 3548, the “Border Security for America Act of 2017.” It calls for $14 billion in new border-security spending, mostly at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The legislation might not go anywhere, but it’s still teachable. It includes a few items that are worth support, though much of it is terrible.

Here’s a summary table of those items. But read the whole thing at WOLA’s website.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Desmond Boylan / AP photo at The Miami Herald. Caption: “Staff stand within the United States embassy facility in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.”

(Even more here)

October 3, 2017


The four aircraft are part of the 12 units operations plus spares and additional support equipment, which apparently were acquired at a cost of US$ 167 million


This city famous for both its glamorous beaches and its sprawling slums is experiencing a wave of violence that’s the worst in a decade

Central America Regional, Dominican Republic

Central American service members are given exhaustive instruction on human rights and international humanitarian law


A new mother and former FARC fighter, an ex-FARC commander, a peace worker and senator reflect on 2016 peace accord


“Cuba is not upholding its commitments of the Vienna convention, of protecting diplomats,” said a U.S. source

Tensions between the two neighbors have been escalating amid serious U.S. concern about the unexplained attacks on Americans in Havana

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

El 92 % de las personas que en México aseguran huir de la muerte vienen de tres países: Honduras, El Salvador y Guatemala, en ese orden


He’s so far defeated bids in Congress to strip his immunity from prosecution, but anti-government protests have grown and his support in the legislature has dwindled

Desde inicio del gobierno, el mandatario delegó más funciones en la entidad castrense que dirigió Ralda Moreno, las asignaciones fueron desde la construcción de escritorios, hasta la reparación de carreteras


A construction crew used a crane to hoist a 30-foot tall border fence section into place just a few dozen feet north of Mexico

Puerto Rico

Only Thursday did the Northern Command announce that it was “adjusting” from a small seaborne operation to a larger airlift, emphasizing big cargo planes


The rebound followed several rounds of sanctions by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration as well as a sharp drop-off in four months of violent anti-government protests

The day ahead: October 3, 2017

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

Lots of meetings today: with a Homeland Security Department official in the morning, with a researcher and then a visiting Colombian journalist mid-day, and with a development organization in the latter afternoon. When not doing that, I’ll be writing about Colombia’s peace process.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Semana archive photo at Verdad Abierta (Colombia). Caption: “El Eln deberá cesar cuatro prácticas durante la vigencia del cese al fuego.”

(Even more here)

October 2, 2017


En ese departamento, uno de los más afectados por el conflicto armado, habrá requisitos adicionales y contará con un comité de seguimiento liderado por dirigentes afrodescendientes e indígenas

Desde Ecuador, el jefe negociador del Gobierno en los diálogos con el Eln explica cómo funcionará la tregua temporal pactada desde hoy y hasta enero con esa guerrilla

Las Fuerzas Armadas y la Policía reaccionarán ante un intento de extorsión o incluso en un movimiento de las tropas guerrilleras de las zonas donde deberán permanecer

Las hostilidades económicas no están incluidas, por lo cual, la extorsión por parte del ELN y la minería ilegal y el narcotráfico continuarán, y el Estado podrá capturarlos si los encuentra

Las acciones ofensivas y los combates han disminuido 28,8% y 42,8% respectivamente durante la fase pública del proceso de paz con el ELN, en comparación con el mismo periodo de 2016


While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it


If the current trend continues, the current fiscal year, which ended Saturday, will show apprehensions of migrants are down nearly 25 percent from the already historic lows of 2016

Many who don’t spend time on the border, and even many who do, don’t necessarily understand the different types of barriers President Donald Trump’s administration is drawing up

They Helped Prosecutors After Escaping Death in a Smuggler’s Truck. Now They’re Being Deported

For the people within those invisible walls, government is responsive and crime low. Those outside face rising murder rates, corruption and, activists say, police brutality

As Mexicans remove the rubble and mourn the dead, many are asking tough questions about corruption

The harshest insult that you hear from Peña Nieto’s critics is that he isn’t even running the country. In their view, the feckless President has left Mexico’s political direction mostly to his foreign secretary, Luis Videgaray


Amcham teme que Estados Unidos adopte sanciones económicas contra Nicaragua similares a las impuestas al régimen de Venezuela de Maduro

Puerto Rico

No military air traffic control units on the tarmac directing planeloads of aid supplies, no bustling command center sending convoys of trucks to hard-hit areas. No mountains of relief goods stacked and ready to be deployed where needed


The common perception of the Chavista leadership as incompetent administrators who disdain democracy ignores the complexity of achieving socialism through democratic means

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