Adam Isacson

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


January 2018

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Pedro Rios / American Friends Service Committee photo at KPBS (San Diego California). Caption: “A San Diego resident breaks a piñata of one of the border wall prototypes during a State of the Union watch party, Jan. 30, 2018.”

(Even more here)

January 31, 2018


  • Kyle Johnson, ¿Que Pasa Con el Eln? (International Crisis Group, La Silla Vacia (Colombia), January 31, 2018).

Todo por ahora depende de la respuesta del ELN, y si internamente se puede poner de acuerdo

While carrying out operations against the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Colombian Security Forces bombed near the Wounaan Indigenous reservation of Chagpien Tordó, in the municipality of Litoral de San Juán in Chocó, injuring a minor

El pronunciamiento se dio después de una serie de denuncias presentadas esta martes, por un bombardeo que posiblemente afectó el resguardo indígena Chagpien Tordó

El Salvador

The combined effects of Trump’s war on immigrants and street gangs will create communities that are even more alienated from law enforcement and more isolated from the institutions that can protect


The donation consisted of 41 J8 Jeeps, 32 Polaris Rangers, 12 9.5-ton and eight 12-ton trucks, and 12 trailers. In addition, the Guatemalan Army received two transport buses and one minibus


El gobierno federal reforzará los operativos de seguridad en la frontera sur y, en breve, inaugurará un cuartel militar en Chicomuselo, Chiapas

“I don’t agree with it. I take it as if we’re bad neighbors,” she added. “I see it as a bad thing, because it’s like we’re discriminating against the other country”

Some San Diego residents were happy about Trump’s mention of the wall, particularly in East County’s rural areas, where much of the illegal cross-border traffic was pushed

El funcionario admitió que hoy Veracruz no se encuentra en “estado óptimo de seguridad”

Faster and more inclusive economic growth will remain out of reach until the nation can enforce basic legal rules

“We write to urge you to raise the importance of strong, independent electoral systems in Mexico and Latin America more broadly,” write Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Senator Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey

So far, those partnerships have not fundamentally changed, current and former officials said

Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela

Their industry all but destroyed, former fishermen now run guns one way, diapers another

Western Hemisphere Regional

The overwhelming sense is that the Americas at present are experiencing a geopolitical lull – free from major battles for regional influence, perhaps, but also devoid of any vision

The day ahead: January 31, 2018

I’ll be hard to reach all day because of a full schedule of events and meetings. (How to contact me)

I’m giving a talk this morning at the OAS Inter-American Defense Board about the use of military forces as police. (Spoiler alert: I’m opposed to it.) If you’re interested, here is a 5MB PDF of my powerpoint and speaking notes, in Spanish.

Then I’m headed to an event at the Open Society Foundations, have a meeting with management at WOLA to talk about this year’s workplan, and have a call with colleagues with whom I’m working on an evaluation of a big USAID program in Colombia.

Because of that latter project, I’m actually going to Colombia this weekend, and will be there for an entire month. I’ll discuss that project in a post here as soon as things get less busy. My calendar says this is the last super-busy day of the week, so hopefully tomorrow.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Manuel Rueda photo at NPR. Caption: “As the FARC enters politics, its now disarmed Marxist militants have taken on a more moderate tone. Their logo, which used to bear two rifles, now has a red rose, a symbol used by some social democratic parties in Europe and the U.S.”

(Even more here)

January 30, 2018


Nationwide there were 170 social leaders assassinated in 2017, an increase of about a third from the year before

While a campaign by the FARC (the group’s new name forms the same acronym in Spanish) may be controversial, it is absolutely legal

Ending the conflict with the E.L.N., most here agree, will most likely prove to be even more of a challenge than ending the one with the FARC was


Mr. Moreno compared his old boss to Napoleon, who espoused democratic ideals but turned into a despot


Fencing in urban areas has deterred border crossings. But even in areas with little fencing, the number of apprehensions dropped sharply in recent decades

In 2003, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Mexico agreed to place Mexican security agents on certain flights, but said it would never allow U.S. officials on board its commercial airlines


“They want relief, not necessarily to force Maduro from power”

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Víctor Peña photo at El Faro (El Salvador). Caption: “Disturbios en el bulevar Centroamérica de Tegucigalpa. Los cuerpos policiales y militares bloquearon el paso a la marcha que pretendía llegar hasta el Estadio Nacional.”

(Even more here)

January 29, 2018


Mr. Morales’s determination to continue governing his landlocked country has echoes elsewhere in the region, where a stable grid of democracies suddenly looks a lot less solid


Highway BR-163 cuts a brutal path through Brazil’s conflicting ambitions: to transform itself into an economic powerhouse and to preserve the Amazon as a bulwark against climate change


Temístocles Machado, líder comunal y miembro del Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), representaba un símbolo de la resistencia por la defensa de los territorios en Buenaventura

Quienes trabajaron al lado de “Don Temis”, como afectuosamente lo llamaban, lo definieron como “hombre que luchó por la ilusión de ver a su pueblo vivir en paz y con dignidad”

Cuando entró mi coronel, nos empezó a putear y a vaciar y nos dijo que no servíamos para nada, que si no entendíamos que a él de nada le servía la guerrillera viva y que lo que importaba eran las bajas

La decisión de poner en pausa las negociaciones de paz obtuvo un amplio respaldo en los sectores políticos y empresariales, aunque en la actual coyuntura electoral no faltan las voces críticas que piden acabar definitivamente el proceso

A través de un comunicado divulgado por el Frente de Guerra Urbano Nacional, este grupo guerrillero se atribuye el atroz hecho en el que murieron cinco policías


The unrest is a reminder that the former lawyer and congressman will have a difficult time governing

Montaron tres cordones de seguridad alrededor del Estadio Nacional y dispersaron a los manifestantes arrojando unas latitas del tamaño de una granada denominadas MP-3-CS, fabricadas en un pueblito de Pennsylvania llamado Homer City


Ramirez said the coalition of local activists sensed “a trap in which protests create a negative view of our community being belligerent and violent”Ó

Last week in Colombia’s peace process

In third week after end of ELN ceasefire, violence intensifies

Talks in Ecuador between the government and the ELN made no progress more than two weeks after the non-renewal of a 100-day cessation of hostilities, which ended on January 9. Last week, events on the battlefield made the situation worse.

In the early morning hours of January 27, an explosive device killed five police and wounded forty-three more as they began their day at a post in Barranquilla, Colombia’s fourth-largest city. A second bomb went off on January 28 near a police post in another Barranquilla neighborhood, wounding two police and three civilians. Also on January 27, a bomb in Santa Rosa del Sur, in the northern department of Bolívar, killed two police. The ELN retweeted a statement from an urban bloc (account since suspended, but it was here) claiming responsibility for the Barranquilla attacks. The government reported capturing a suspect: a man who, authorities allege, had a notebook with a map of one of the bombing sites.

The week also saw combat between Colombia’s army and the ELN in Valdivia, Northern Antioquia, while four ELN members died in an army-air force-police attack in Chitagá, Norte de Santander.

Following the Barranquilla attacks, rightwing candidates for Colombia’s May presidential elections called on President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend or end talks with the ELN. “The government can NOT restart negotiations with the ELN in these conditions, it must react with determination and authority,” tweeted Germán Vargas Lleras, who had served as Santos’s interior minister and vice president. The candidate of ex-president Álvaro Uribe’s “Democratic Center” party, Iván Duque, tweeted, “when terrorism is given advantages, it feels free to attack with cowardice.”

Former FARC launch campaign but are increasingly vulnerable to attack

The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, the political party descended from the FARC guerrillas, launched its 2018 election campaign at a January 27 event in Ciudad Bolívar, a sprawling low-income neighborhood in southern Bogotá. (And one of a handful of Bogotá districts where a majority voted “no” against the FARC peace accord in an October 2, 2016 plebiscite.) Led by maximum leader and presidential candidate Rodrigo Londoño (previously known as “Timochenko”), the new political party introduced a political platform including a proposed guaranteed basic income for all Colombians.

The peace accords give the former guerrillas an automatic 5 seats in a 107-seat Senate and 5 in a 172-seat House of Representatives. The new party is running 23 candidates for Senate seats and 51 in the House. That places the FARC 12th among all Colombian parties in number of House candidates, and 13th in number of Senate candidates. “We’re very optimistic and confident that we will win more than 10 seats,” said top leader Carlos Antonio Lozada. That is far from certain: the ex-guerrillas’ past of human rights abuses, most of which remain unacknowledged for now, make them quite unpopular in mainstream Colombian opinion. The peace accord also holds out an awkward possibility of FARC officeholders standing trial for serious war crimes.

Meanwhile, threats and attacks against the FARC political organization are worsening. About 33 former guerrillas have been killed since the final peace accord was signed in November 2016. The past week saw armed men raid the FARC party headquarters in Quibdó, the capital of the northwestern department of Chocó. FARC party member Johana Poblador was beaten in Bogotá by armed men who threatened to kill FARC leaders. Two FARC members in Medellín received death threats from the “Gaitanistas” or “Urabeños” neo-paramilitary group, which has already threatened to attack FARC party offices around the country.

Violence and displacement around the country

Last week it became evident that, between only the 17th and 20th of January, violence forced more than 1,000 people to leave their home communities. The Urabeños, the ELN, and FARC dissident groups—all of them fighting to occupy vacuums left by the demobilized FARC—were involved in all cases. Violence continued, and perhaps worsened, this week.

  • About 172 people were displaced by fighting between the ELN and FARC dissidents in the La Voz de los Negros Community Council of Magüi Payán, Nariño, southwestern Colombia.
  • In Cumbal, Nariño, fighting between the ELN and FARC dissidents forced many to flee into neighboring Ecuador.
  • Just to the north, in Argelia, Cauca, at least 11 armed men opened fire on a festival, killing three people.
  • Further north, in Buenos Aires, Cauca, a roadside attack killed two members of a mining cooperative. “We’re feeling the fight for territorial control, with the exit of the FARC from municipalities that have to do with narcotrafficking. In addition are those affected by illegal mining,” said Cauca governor Óscar Campo.
  • An “unidentified armed group” forced 425 people to flee five hamlets and an indigenous reserve in San José de Uré, in the northwestern department of Córdoba. This area, the southern part of the department, sits along a key corridor for trafficking cocaine to the Caribbean coast. The government human rights ombudsman (Defensoría) reports that Urabeños have been increasing their presence, patrolling in camouflage-clad groups of 15 to 30 combatants in zones that used to be FARC-dominated.
  • Just to the south, in the coca and cocaine-producing Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia department, three armed men entered a bar on January 21 in the town of Yarumal, indiscriminately opened fire with Mini Uzis and killed seven people. A similar massacre took place in the same municipality in December.
  • Elsewhere in the Bajo Cauca region, in Cáceres and Caucasia municipalities, violence forced about 400 more people to flee. Here, the identity of the armed group isn’t clear: “It’s that we don’t know who they are, they don’t identify themselves, they don’t wear labels,” a local witness told Medellín’s daily El Colombiano. “We’ve only seen them several times around here, armed, wearing camouflage, it was about 30 men.” The zone has a presence of both ELN and Urabeños. (Also in Caucasia last week was U.S. Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, paying a visit to observe U.S.-supported coca eradication and substitution programs.)
  • Fighting between the security forces and the ELN displaced several families in Paya, Boyacá.

In-Depth Reading

The day ahead: January 29, 2018

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

I’ve got a morning staff meeting, lunch with a longtime colleague whom I haven’t seen in a while, and an evening meeting at my kid’s school. In between I’ll be finishing a planning document and a weekly update on Colombia’s peace/implementation process.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, January 29, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018

  • 8:55–12:30 at the Wilson Center: Fostering Innovation in Mexico: Fifth High Level Forum for Policymakers (RSVP required).

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Pedro Teixeira photo at O Globo (Brazil). Caption: “Ônibus incendiado na Avenida Niemeyer, nas proximidades do Sheraton: as chamas do veículo e de objetos usados como barricadas alcançaram as grades da Ciclovia Tim Maia, e a fumaça podia ser vista de Ipanema”

(Even more here)

January 26, 2018


Bandidos atiram em UPP, ameaçam atacar delegacia e incendeiam ônibus na Av. Niemeyer


Según el grupo político los dos militantes recibieron llamadas y panfletos en donde los declaran “delincuentes y terroristas y además son declarados como objetivo militar”

Meses antes de las elecciones parlamentarias y presidenciales, grupos armados intentan silenciar a los líderes en las regiones


“The firing of Solórzano Foppa can only be interpreted as the greatest sign of a return to the past”


The incident raises questions about Honduras’ much-touted purge of corrupt police and the reliability of the administration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez

Juan Orlando Hernández has little legitimacy, but few real foes


In the first quarter of 2017, there were an average of 72.3 homicides per day. By the last quarter, it had increased to 86.4 a day


The unrest generated by Perez’s death is much deeper within the CICPC, a police agency that does not appear to enjoy much trust from top government leaders

Western Hemisphere Regional

The White House’s insistence on these four pillars is a little weird at this point

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images photo at The Intercept. Caption: “Demonstrators in favour (R) and against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva argue during a demo in Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 12, 2017, after he was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for graft.”

(Even more here)

January 25, 2018


This week’s affirmation of the guilty verdict begins a race by the courts against the electoral calendar

Late on Wednesday, Lula addressed a crowd of thousands of supporters in São Paulo, saying that his conviction had been engineered by upper-class Brazilians

Colombia, Venezuela

“Mi posición es la misma que expresó el Grupo de Lima, rechazar esa convocatoria”


As it has done before, the U.S. should offer both carrots (continued assistance through the Alliance for Prosperity initiative) and sticks (targeted economic sanctions) to fight corruption


La Misión contra la Impunidad de la OEA se replantea la continuidad de su trabajo luego de que el Congreso hondureño aprobara una ley que le quita a la misión y a la Fiscalía la potestad de investigar a funcionarios públicos

“We came here to do a serious job … but that’s not possible if there are no clear rules to investigate,” he said, visibly upset

Very few people beyond official circles and his supporters will be celebrating what most Hondurans consider to be a highly flawed and perhaps fraudulent election


Where agents and politicians see future walls, they see ladders, ropes and the promise of higher profits

“Las autoridades de los distintos niveles y órdenes de gobierno han fallado en su obligación y responsabilidad de proporcionar niveles mínimos de seguridad a la población que posibiliten el cabal goce de los derechos fundamentales”


Sen. Marco Rubio wants Ambassador Nikki Haley to seek an emergency session on Venezuela in the United Nation’s Security Council

Western Hemisphere Regional

They do not occupy positions of power within the drug trade and have not committed violent crimes, yet across the region the number of women incarcerated for drug offenses is increasing at an alarming rate

The day ahead: January 25, 2018

I should be reachable much of the day, but have a long list of writing projects that need finishing. (How to contact me)

We’re deep into WOLA’s planning process. I have two workplans to write today, and will be behind closed doors doing that as much as possible.

I note that I haven’t been posting here too often this week. On Tuesday I posted massive updates to our tracker of where Trump’s border legislation and DACA currently stand—it’s a very useful resource. And yesterday my wife had a “major milestone” birthday (won’t say which!) so the day was abbreviated. Today, I’ll be around all day, though somewhat cloistered.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Mamta Popat photo at The Arizona Daily Star. Caption: “In this June 2017 file photo, a No More Deaths volunteer adjusts a sign that tells migrants to take what they need at the entrance of the camp in Arivaca.”

(Even more here)

January 23, 2018


Civil unrest expected as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, still hugely popular despite corruption conviction, fights to stay in upcoming election race

How a retired Army captain rose from a marginal apologist for torture and dictatorship to a serious contender for Brazil’s presidency

Brazil, Western Hemisphere Regional

The similarities seen in corruption throughout Latin America suggest that the efforts to combat it should be coordinated, with countries in the region sharing common tools and strategies


De eso está convencido Frank Mora, exsubsecretario de Defensa de Estados Unidos


The border with Mexico is a terrible way for terrorists to attempt to enter the United States, which is why so few have tried

Based on a survey that captured 500 experiences of Central Americans travelling through Mexico, Amnesty International found that the National Institute of Migration (INM) is systematically violating the non-refoulementprinciple

Western Hemisphere Regional

Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen said in a notice published in the Federal Register Monday that she was waiving the rules to accelerate construction on part of the wall in New Mexico

Border Patrol agents were conducting surveillance on a building near Ajo known as “the barn,” when they saw Warren exiting his car and entering the building

Last week in Colombia’s peace process

ELN and government negotiating new ceasefire?

The frequency of ELN attacks appeared to slow in this, the second full week after a 100-day ceasefire ended between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government. The days since January 9 have seen at least 24 events, most of them small-scale guerrilla attacks on energy infrastructure or ambushes of military or police personnel. ELN fighters kidnapped an oil worker in Saravena, Arauca, damaged the TransAndino oil pipeline in Nariño, and killed a soldier in the Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander.

The UN verification mission in Colombia, taking note of this reduced tempo of ELN attacks, called on the guerrillas and government to resume negotiations that went dormant after the bilateral ceasefire’s end. The Colombian government’s head negotiator, former vice-president Gustavo Bell, is returning to Quito, Ecuador, the site of the talks. Instead of the agreed negotiating agenda, these talks are likely to focus on conditions for a renewed ceasefire.

Transitional justice system launches

President Juan Manuel Santos swore in 30 magistrates who will adjudicate cases in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the new justice system set up by the peace accords. The JEP will consider cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Another eight magistrates remain to be sworn in. A few are still in the process of leaving current judicial posts. Several others are currently disqualified, as Colombia’s Congress added language to the law establishing the JEP that bars judges who did any human rights work in the past five years. Most participants and observers expect that Colombia’s Constitutional Court will strike down this prohibition when it reviews the JEP law. The Court’s decision is likely before May.

Another part of the JEP, the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons, still awaits launch. The Unit is part of the Justice Ministry, within the executive branch. Its director, human rights lawyer Luz Marina Monzón, says frustratedly that she is awaiting a decree allowing the Unit to operate, but there is no clear timetable.

Last year, the embryonic JEP had a budget of US$4.7 million, covered mainly by foreign donors, especially the UN Development Program. In 2018, the system will require 230 billion Colombian pesos (about US$82 million).

To date, 3,534 ex-FARC members have agreed to face this justice system, which will hand out lighter penalties, with no prison time, to those who fully confess crimes and provide reparations to victims. Another 1,729 members of the security forces, including 3 generals, have also signed up. Twenty-one civilians currently imprisoned for human rights crimes, including a former mayor of the city of Cúcuta who worked with paramilitary groups, have also registered.

Threats and attacks against former FARC fighters

Two former FARC fighters were shot to death in the town of Peque, Antioquia while campaigning for FARC congressional candidate Wilmar de Jesús Cartagena. (Congressional elections are in March, with the FARC running candidates as a political party.) “This is the great worry that we have,” Cartagena—who missed the campaign event for medical reasons—told El Espectador. “We don’t see any security guarantee that the government has the commitment to offer us. We don’t know what actions the government might take to facilitate our party’s participation in politics.” A statement from the UN verification mission expressed “serious concern” over the killings, “which constitutes the first mortal attack within the framework of the 2018 electoral process.”

The FARC party headquarters in Cali received a threatening pamphlet signed by the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Groups of Colombia,” a thousands-strong organized crime group commonly called the “Urabeños” or “Clan Úsuga.” The document declared the group’s intention to “blow up” the FARC office in Cali, as well as those of other leftist movements: the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, the Marcha Patriótica, and the Congreso de los Pueblos.

“While there hasn’t been any serious incident within the training and reintegration zones [where the FARC underwent demobilization] thanks to the security forces’ protection measures, the number of killings outside those zones is an issue of growing concern in the last few months,” said Jean Arnault, chief of the UN verification mission in Colombia.

The Marcha Patriótica political movement counts 54 ex-FARC members or relatives killed between November 13, 2016 and January 18, 2018. These murders took place in Nariño (15), Antioquia (11), Cauca (6), Caquetá (5), Putumayo (4), Chocó (3), Bolívar (2), Meta (2), Norte de Santander (2), Boyacá (1), Tolima (1), Arauca (1), and Valle del Cauca (1).

FARC dissidents attack police in Meta

FARC dissidents attacked police in two different parts of Meta department, in south-central Colombia. Six members of a column of rural police were injured when fighters detonated an explosive as they passed by, then fired upon them, in Mesetas, western Meta. The attack, blamed on remnants of the FARC’s 3rd Front, happened days after two police were injured by a thrown grenade in Puerto Concordia, south-central Meta.

In-Depth Reading

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at El Universo (Ecuador). Caption: “Manifestantes bloqueaban este sábado rutas en varios puntos de Honduras como parte de un boicot a la reelección del presidente Juan Orlando Hernández.”

(Even more here)

January 22, 2018


If the sentence is upheld, Lula figures to be barred from running. If it’s thrown out, he’ll likely run and stand a real chance of winning

Chile, Haiti

Last year, almost 105,000 Haitians entered Chile, compared with about 49,000 in 2016 and just a handful a decade ago


Mientras la lista de líderes sociales y exguerrilleros muertos en el posconflicto sigue alargándose en los lugares que abrasó la guerra, en San José se callaron los fusiles hace tres años

Según el alto tribunal, los daños por la estrategia contra los narcocultivos se han disminuido, teniendo en cuenta que las fumigaciones aéreas con glifosato están suspendidas

Durante su visita a Caucasia, en el bajo Cauca antioqueño, el embajador vio con optimismo lo que viene en el futuro con el plan Antioquia Libre de Coca

Al parecer, ese doble crimen habría sido rechazado por cabecillas de esa banda criminal y habría una disputa interna entre los que lo cometieron y los que no están de acuerdo

  • Alberto Salcedo Ramos, Adios a las Armas (El Tiempo (Colombia), January 22, 2018).

Los excombatientes concentrados en La Carmelita, Putumayo, han transformado en un caserío pujante el solar baldío que les fue concedido tras el acuerdo de paz

Hoy viajará a Quito, Ecuador, la delegación del Gobierno que permanecía en Bogotá. La instrucción del presidente es acordar un nuevo cese el fuego para retomar los diálogos de paz con el Eln

El Salvador

El Salvador has one of the world’s highest homicide rates—due in no small part to the policies of the country now trying to expel them


Órdenes de captura: Manuel Antonio Baldizón Méndez, asociación ilícita, cohecho pasivo y lavado de dinero u otros activos

Baldizon, a wealthy businessman who ran for president twice, was detained at the airport in Miami on Saturday after flying in from the Dominican Republic


Las protestas comenzaron durante la mañana en varios puntos del país centroamericano, principalmente en la capital Tegucigalpa donde grupos de manifestantes bloquearon calles


“If you see it in person, it so much more clear how challenging it would be to build a wall there, and how unrealistic it is”

En la última semana, organismos autónomos, legisladores, una autoridad local y un partido político han interpuesto seis recursos legales contra la Ley de Seguridad Interior

Three U.S. siblings found dead in Mexico in 2014 were executed by Mexican marines and a border mayor’s paramilitary security team, the country’s National Human Rights Commission said

The Interior Department, which posted the number, reported the country’s homicide rate was 20.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, compared to 19.4 in 2011


“No election that comes out of this dictatorship, under these conditions, will bring a political change for the people of Venezuela”

Mr. Pérez spent many afternoons and evenings this month crouched over a phone screen, sending encrypted messages to The New York Times

Western Hemisphere Regional

“If that’s what it’s going to take in order to put 800,000 young men and women in the country … in a safe place and put them on course to full integration in our society… I say pay it,” Gutierrez said

When reporters asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if she would accept a deal that put $20 billion toward Trump’s wall, her answer was simply: “Oh, come on.”

The day ahead

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

I’ve got a staff meeting in the morning, lunch with a new intern, then I’m in the office all afternoon. I won’t go to bed tonight until I’ve posted a weekly update on Colombia’s peace process, updated our tracker of border legislation to reflect the shutdown fiasco, and started a GitHub repository for a “This Week in X” resource that I plan to code during my upcoming Colombia travels.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, January 22, 2018

  • 10:00–12:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Bridging the Divides at the Summit of the Americas (RSVP required).

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

  • 9:00–11:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017 (RSVP required).
  • 1:30–4:00 at the Wilson Center: A World without NAFTA? (RSVP required).

The day ahead: January 18, 2018

I’ll be out of contact nearly all day. (How to contact me)

I have a day of meetings with USAID officials to learn about their ongoing “helping Colombia’s government establish itself in former conflict zones” program. In a future post here, I’ll talk about the evaluation of this program that I’m helping to carry out. No time for that today, though—I’ll be hard to contact all day.

The day ahead: January 17, 2018

I’m especially hard to contact today due to a full schedule of meetings. (How to contact me)

I’m in meetings for 12 hours today, between WOLA’s planning process and preparations for an upcoming evaluation of a USAID program in Colombia. Any writing or posting here today will have to happen later at night, if at all.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Brazilian Army photo at Diálogo (U.S. Southern Command). Caption: “M113 BR armored vehicles during Operation Steel (Operação Aço). The 5th Armored Cavalry Brigade conducted the exercise in September 2017, to wrap up a year of training for its troops.”

(Even more here)

January 16, 2018


We believe that well within 20 years from today the drug trade will be dominated by a mafia run by former members of the FARC

Los 31 magistrados posesionados inician labores para terminar de ajustar el sistema de justicia transicional que permitirá juzgar a los principales responsables de las miles de atrocidades

Sigue la lucha de Doris Tejada, la única de las Madres de Soacha que no ha podido recuperar los restos de su hijo desaparecido, asesinado y a quien hicieron pasar por guerrillero

El Salvador

En El Salvador, el Organismo de Inteligencia del Estado vigila a políticos para chantajearlos y a periodistas como un medio para llegar a sus fuentes


La fiscal general del Ministerio Público dijo que el presidente no es un aliado contra la corrupción y criticó el informe de gestión


The organization Reporters Without Borders said it believed Dominguez was targeted because of his controversial columns

It’s a burgeoning practice across the world, also known as “refugee offshoring,” and in line with the Trump administration’s goal

“The main issue right now with the power struggle is Sinaloa and the CJNG battling for street dealers, narcomenudeo,” said an official with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Neza’s secret was breaking from the Mexican party system, which is what made Mr. Amador’s hiring and reforms possible


Caracas’ relationships with Moscow and Beijing are often exaggerated, including by the governments themselves

Venezuela Awareness, con sede en Miami, afirmó que durante el operativo “se violaron los derechos humanos del grupo liderado por Óscar Pérez”

“They don’t want us to surrender, they want us dead!” the rebel leader, Óscar Pérez, shouts in one of a series of videos posted on Twitter

Western Hemisphere Regional

Americans should be particularly concerned when a soldier-diplomat like Feeley feels “honor bound to resign” from a life of public service

The day ahead: January 16, 2018

I’m somewhat reachable in the latter half of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

WOLA’s beginning-of-year planning process is occupying half the day today and tomorrow. Today I’m explaining, and listening to suggestions about, the current moment in my program. (My presentation draws in part on a late-December post here.)

I have a lunch with a Colombian colleague, and dinner with members of a team I’ll be working with on an evaluation of a USAID program. In between, I hope to post updates to our tracker of U.S. border-security legislation—though this is complicated by the fact that, three days before a possible government shutdown, nobody really knows what the hell is going on.

The Week Ahead

There is almost no time during the next four days when I won’t be in a meeting.

WOLA’s annual planning process is in full swing. At the same time, I’m in a series of initial meetings for a project that will have me in Colombia for the entire month of February: I’m on a team evaluating a big USAID post-conflict assistance program. It’s going to be a fascinating experience that will have me in several remote areas of the country. I’ll explain more about that later in a separate post, probably next week.

All of this activity will limit what I can post to this site this week. But I’ll do my best.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Wednesday, January 17

  • 9:00–12:30 at the Wilson Center: A Decisive Year in Brazil: Speaker Rodrigo Maia and Experts to Address Crucial Choices Facing the Country in 2018 (RSVP required).

Thursday, January 18

Last week in Colombia’s peace process

I’d like to post these all year without missing a week. Travel plans may complicate that, but I’m going to try.

ELN ceasefire breaks off

For 102 days, while peace talks proceeded in Quito, the Colombian government and ELN guerrillas mostly honored a cessation of hostilities. That period saw 33 possible ceasefire violations committed by the ELN—of which 12 were verified—killing 26 noncombatants and involving the kidnapping of 13 people and forced recruitment of 14. Still, this was a much lower tempo of violence than normal. And there were zero incidents of combat between the ELN and Colombia’s security forces.

The cessation of hostilities ended on January 9, when the parties failed to agree to extend it. Overall analysis of the non-renewal placed most blame on the ELN, which appeared to lack internal consensus, or even unity of command, about whether to continue the truce.

The ELN’s standing in public opinion plummeted further as the group immediately launched a series of attacks on security forces and infrastructure, mostly in the northeast of the country. The week saw approximately 13 attacks, leading to the deaths of at least two police and at least three bombings of the 485-mile-long Caño Limón-Coveñas oil pipeline.

The Colombian government pulled its negotiating team from Quito, and appeared to suspend talks until the ELN agrees to a new ceasefire. This is a reversal of the 2012-16 FARC negotiations, when the guerrillas repeatedly demanded a bilateral ceasefire but the government preferred to keep fighting while talks proceeded.

France, the European Union, the “guarantor countries” of the ELN talks (Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Norway, and Venezuela), and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño all called on the parties to return to the table and agree on a new cessation of hostilities. The UN noted that it cannot keep its monitoring and verification structure in place very long with no ceasefire to monitor.

The U.S. government issued a travel warning for four departments where the ELN is most active: Arauca, Cauca, Chocó, and Norte de Santander.

Other coverage: Washington Post, New York Times, El Tiempo

Visit of UN Secretary-General

The need to restart the ELN talks and ceasefire was a main message of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a January 13 visit to Colombia. Guterres visited Bogotá and Meta to get a sense of how implementation of the FARC accord is going, to give political support to the ELN process, and to support the work of the UN verification mission in Colombia.

That mission’s latest 90-day report to the Secretary-General, made public on January 5, voiced concern about the government’s implementation of the FARC accord: “Overall, the implementation of the peace-related legislative agenda has progressed unevenly, compounded by events relating to the presidential and parliamentary elections, to be held in the first semester of 2018.”

Military sets up giant task force in Nariño

Colombia’s Defense Ministry has set up a joint task force, “Hercules,” with about 9,800 soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, and police stationed in Nariño, on the Pacific coast in the southwestern corner of the country. Nariño is Colombia’s number-one coca-growing department and a heavily used corridor for cocaine shipments into the eastern Pacific. It has very active FARC ex-militia dissident groups and a growing presence of the ELN. Not all of the 9,800 personnel are new: many are already stationed in Nariño but now form part of this joint command structure.

“This plan has had a big media deployment in the region and in Bogotá,” writes Laura Soto in La Silla Vacía. “But four sources who know the zone (members of the Tumaco mayor’s office, two human rights defenders who have worked closely with Caritas, and a social leader) aren’t hopeful that the panorama will approve, at least not in the short term.”

Lowest homicide rate in 40 years

President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated that Colombia’s 2017 homicide rate reached the lowest point in 42 years: 24 violent deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants (about the same as Washington DC). Security analyst Hugo Acero cast some doubt on the statistics, though the overall trend points to declining homicides.

Nastiness between Santos and Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro told his countrymen that “thousands of Colombian patients cross the border to get operated on here, to treat a flu, to clear up a cataract, to seek medicines in Venezuela” where the health system is “free.” (Venezuela in fact suffers from severe shortages of most medicines, while Colombia’s healthcare system is also theoretically free.) President Santos called this comment “cynical,” pointing out that the reverse phenomenon is happening with Venezuelans recurring to Colombia’s border-zone hospitals. “President Maduro, don’t try to use the Colombian people to hide the enormous shortcomings of your failed revolution,” he said. Maduro responded that Santos “has his country in chaos” and isn’t complying with the FARC peace accord.

In-Depth Reading

Some articles I found interesting this morning

James Fredrick photo at NPR. Caption: “A Mexican soldier piles poppies for incineration near the town of Tlacotepec, in Guerrero state, Mexico. The army says it slashes and burns poppy when fields are too difficult to access by helicopter or when they want to protect fruits and vegetables growing nearby.”

(Even more here)

January 15, 2018


Los documentos, conocidos por EL COLOMBIANO, clasificaron a estas organizaciones en tres tipos

La inmensa mayoría de las preocupaciones del No encontraron una respuesta adecuada en la renegociación, incluyendo la mayoría de los temas más difíciles

El edificio tendrá salas de audiencia circulares, alta tecnología e integrará todos los órganos de la justicia transicional

Apenas un 2, 3 por ciento de esfuerzo fiscal de la nación se dedicaría a “construir la paz estable y duradera”

El ELN no tiene la intención de hacer la paz porque sus jefes saben que no pueden hacerla: no mandan sobre sus propias fuerzas

El Salvador

Hundreds of young women are killed every year and many face sexual violence in the world’s most dangerous land. Now the president wants to send 200,000 more Salvadorans back home


Desde 2015 se preveía que aumentarían las incautaciones de droga, debido a una sobreproducción de cocaína en países suramericanos

“Nosotras no buscamos dinero, buscamos que se conozca el dolor que tuvimos”

Last December, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Juarez under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for his alleged role in the attack


The United States has an obligation to stand up for free and fair elections even when it is not convenient. Not only did it not do so in Honduras, but it also undercut an effort by the Organization of American States


The Mexican army mostly destroys poppy fields via helicopter fumigation with a chemical called Uproquat. But it’s difficult in these lush mountains

Tamaulipas state, in the north-east corner of the country, has turned especially violent in the last decade, around a split between the Gulf Cartel and its one-time ally Los Zetas

El Ejército Mexicano y la Gendarmería Nacional patrullarán con policías estales las calles de esta capital, luego de los hechos de violencia de este fin de semana


Venezuela in 2018 is not 1989 Panama, and an invasion would not be a surgical strike

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Natalie Keyssar photo at The Intercept. Caption: “A Salvadoran police officer’s weapon bears the name of his country.”

(Even more here)

January 12, 2018


The exercise—second to happen on U.S. soil—took place from October 18th–November 3rd, 2017, in several training camps

Pamphlets left at the sites of the first three bombings alluded to several issues, including the plight of the Mapuche, an indigenous people who have been battling loggers and farmers


  • Eduardo Alvarez Vanegas, Tatiana Prada Collazos, Suarez, Cauca: La Punta del Iceberg (Fundación Ideas para la Paz (Colombia), El Espectador (Colombia), January 12, 2018).

Una de las grandes preocupaciones es la incertidumbre que hay sobre la presencia de supuestos nuevos grupos armados, cuya identidad es aún muy difícil de establecer por su constante recambio interno

Los papeles se invirtieron: ahora es el Gobierno el que condiciona la mesa de negociaciones a que haya un cese el fuego bilateral, solicitud que ha sido durante años una premisa de las guerrillas

El más positivo resultado del Cese ha sido la cesación completa de combates entre el grupo guerrillero y la fuerza pública desde su inicio y la suspensión de acciones ofensivas por parte del ELN en contra de la infraestructura

The so-called Hercules task force, the largest military unit activated in two decades, will have 9,000 troops with the mission of regaining control of a broad region bordering the Pacific Ocean and Ecuador

Con cifras confiables, transparentes y públicas es más fácil solucionar los graves problemas de violencia y delincuencia que tiene el país. Para esto se impone un trabajo conjunto

El Salvador

Poor youth are rounded up on suspicion of being gang members, hassled, imprisoned, and, in some cases, killed

Revoking the legal status of some 200,000 law-abiding Salvadorans will likely push a massive group of Salvadorans into the shadows of undocumented America, where gangs are king

Para cada uno de esos 200.000 salvadoreños, ha comenzado una tragedia personal

El Salvador, Honduras

We unpack the ongoing risks and deterioration of conditions that deported migrants face upon their return to El Salvador and Honduras


Las élites en el poder ya han estado moviendo los hilos para manipular la conformación de la comisión y sus recomendaciones en un intento de obstaculizar una iniciativa anticorrupción

Guatemala, Mexico

“Border commanders from the Guatemalan and Mexican armies, navies, and air forces planned a strategy for land, air, and sea patrols that both countries will roll out in the coming months”


“The Haitian government condemns in the strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven, reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States”


No one much minded business people acting like politicians because, he said, the real problem was politicians acting like business people

Lamentó que el gobierno de Héctor Astudillo expuso “una narrativa de los hechos violatoria de la presunción de inocencia de las personas detenidas y no aporta ninguna garantía de que una investigación independiente e imparcial esté siendo llevada a cabo”


“My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,” Feeley said


Maduro also wants to control the distribution of the food donations — so far denied entry by the government despite growing food shortages and looting

Los saqueos están siendo acompañados por un elevado número de protestas emprendidas por ciudadanos desesperados por el hambre. Entre el primero y el 11 de enero, éstas han sumando 386

Rather than encouraging the pipe dreams of military invasions and coups, the overriding priority of Venezuela’s opposition should be to convince voters that it would do a better job of leading the country

The day ahead: January 12, 2018

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

With all my WOLA planning documents drafted, today I expect to update our tracker of what’s up with border legislation (a lot, but it changes constantly) and post an update here about Colombia’s peace process. Both topics need research. So I’ll be at a computer all day, perhaps working from home in the afternoon.

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