Adam Isacson

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


July 2018

10 days of vacation

Saturday the 28th through Monday the 6th: I’m going (mostly) offline. My wife had a milestone birthday earlier in the year, and we decided to celebrate it with a family trip to Great Britain, a country that neither of us knows well.

If I’m vacationing properly, posts to this site and elsewhere will be infrequent to non-existent. See you in August.

Who are Colombia’s “Black Eagles?”

“The weeks following the [June 17] elections witnessed an upsurge in killings of social leaders,” reads last Friday’s UN Secretary-General report on Colombia. The killings have come alongside an even larger wave of death threats sent to political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and social leaders in just about every corner of the country.

Often, the threats come from an apparent paramilitary group calling itself the “Black Eagles” (Águilas Negras). This name has been attached to death threats since shortly after 2006, when the old United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary umbrella organization dissolved.

Curiously, though, nobody ever actually sees Black Eagles anywhere in Colombia. Especially in the last several years, there is nowhere in the country where a group using that name actually controls territory. The Colombian think tank INDEPAZ found, for 2016:

The presence of this structure was detected in 41 municipalities [counties] in 19 departments, the highest since 2012. Its actions are concentrated on threatening social leaders, human rights defenders, social movements and collectives, and others. In recent years, its presence has been disarticulated, and hasn’t shown control over any zone in particular.… The increase in its presence coincides with the largest year [then, 2016] for killings of social leaders and human rights defenders.

INDEPAZ map shows counties where Black Eagles issued threats in 2016.

Who really are the Black Eagles, then? In at least some cases, they might be members of Colombia’s security forces.

In their 2016 book Los Retos del Posconflicto, León Valencia and Ariel Ávila of the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation contend that the “Black Eagles” don’t really exist: they are a name that others use to threaten and intimidate social leaders and human rights defenders.

In particular, they add an allegation that I’ve heard in numerous conversations with Colombian human rights defenders, but haven’t seen in print elsewhere: that some of those making threats as “Black Eagles” are elements of military or police intelligence. On page 120:

The “Urabeños” sought to subordinate by force, or to establish alliances with, existing armed groups while allowing them to stay in place. In some zones where they established a presence, they even used other names to carry out their criminal activities. For example, to threaten social and political leaders, in some zones they used the name “Black Eagles,” a denomination that has also served intelligence sectors within the security forces to intimidate and to create confusion, especially during the last two years due to the advances of the peace process.

The day ahead: July 26, 2018

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

I’ll be at the State Department for a while this afternoon for a regular NGO check-in on Colombia’s human rights situation. And I’ll end the workday early to bid farewell to Sebastián Bernal, our stalwart program assistant on WOLA’s Colombia Program, who is leaving us for grad school.

The day ahead: July 25, 2018

I’m in and out of meetings all day. (How to contact me)

Having lunch with a journalist, a dentist appointment in the afternoon, and various office check-ins. Also, I’m going away for 10 days’ vacation starting Saturday and am realizing there’s a lot of small commitments to nail down between now and then.

All of that on top of getting our next border report out the door, while keeping an eye on the Uribe resignation in Colombia and the House appropriators marking up the homeland security bill. It’s a rather scattered day.

The past week in Colombia’s peace process

Last Week in Colombia’s Peace Process

(Week of July 1-7)

Social Leader Killings Begin Getting Mass Attention

At least four local social movement leaders were killed during the week:

  • Felicinda Santamaría in Quibdó, Chocó
  • Luis Barrios in Palmar de Varela, Atlántico
  • Margarita Estupiñán in Tumaco, Nariño
  • Ana María Cortés in Cáceres, Antioquia

The latter two had worked on the presidential campaign of left-of-center candidate Gustavo Petro.

The fresh wave of murders turned intense media attention on the post-conflict vulnerability of independent civil-society leaders, especially in territories from which the FARC withdrew after the 2016 peace accord. Colombia’s human rights ombudsman’s office (Defensoría) counts 311 leaders and human rights defenders killed between January 2016 and June 2018, about one every three days. The think-tank INDEPAZ, working with the Marcha Patriótica and Cumbre Agraria civil-society groups, issued a report counting 123 murders between January 1 and July 5, 2018—that is, two every three days.

According to INDEPAZ, 80.5 percent of this year’s victims have been members of campesino organizations, Community Action Boards (local advisory committees set up by a 1960s law), or ethnic community organizations. The report estimates that 13 percent of murders had something to do with coca crops—either participation in crop substitution or opposition to forced eradication. It finds that 83.2 percent had something to do with disputes over land, territory, or natural resources.

Violence against social leaders and human rights defenders has reached the level of “a humanitarian crisis,” said Carlos Guevara, coordinator of Somos Defensores, an organization that seeks to protect social leaders. Guevara contended that the killings seek to close spaces for citizen participation that opened up after the peace accord. “The violent arms [brazos violentos] want to shut that up, to stop people from participating politically, on the Community Action Boards, demanding land restitution, defending labor rights.”

“We went to the Atlantic coast, the southwest, center-west, Arauca, Meta, Guaviare, and what human rights defenders tell us is that the security forces have a plan tortuga [a ‘turtle plan’ or deliberate work slowdown] that allows things like these to happen in the territories. The Early Warning System works to locate the Gulf Clan [the “Urabeños” or “Gaitanistas” neo-paramilitary group] in a place, but it seems that they [the security forces] are not then doing everything possible to confront them.”

Social leaders fear “a militarization of peace,” Guevara told Semana magazine, which interpreted that to mean “that the next government’s policies once again empower the security forces, placing them above mayors and thus diminishing participation spaces for social organizations.”

“We don’t have a state response,” Guevara said. “There is a massive violence situation, I can’t say that it’s generalized or that it’s systematic, because at the moment we can’t prove it, but it is certainly massive.”

On the evening of July 6, thousands of Colombians gathered in cities and town squares to demand a halt to the killings. The murder that seems to have inspired the most mobilization was that of Ana María Cortés, killed on July 4 by gunmen as she dined in a cafeteria in Cáceres, in Antioquia department’s conflictive Bajo Cauca region. Cortés had coordinated Gustavo Petro’s campaign in Cáceres, and the defeated candidate, now opposition senator, tweeted his outrage. Petro also tweeted that Cortés had been threatened by the police commander of Cáceres. Antioquia police said they opened an investigation.

Tensions were compounded by a tweet from Colombia’s Defense Ministry insinuating, without evidence, that Cortés had ties to the Urabeños. Those who knew her denied that immediately.

Colombia’s prosecutor-general, Néstor Humberto Martínez, claimed (but did not present) “irrefutable and categorical” proof pointing to the “Caparrapos,” a gang that has splintered off from the Gulf Clan, with about 100-150 members, as Cortés’s killers. The Caparrappos and Gulf Clan are violently contesting control of the Bajo Cauca, a strategic zone for coca cultivation and cocaine production and transshipment. Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera alleged that the Caparrapos are killing social leaders in order to draw the authorities’ attention and thus avoid direct confrontation with the much larger Gulf Clan.

Luis Eduardo Llinás, who worked with Cortés on the Petro campaign in Cáceres, told El Tiempo that she had been receiving threats and intimidation since March. She had denounced the threats before the municipal ombudsman and was “very concerned and tense.”

Guevara, of Somos Defensores, was among those criticizing the government’s sluggish reaction to the new wave of killings. “It would seem that the institutions became silent after the [June 17] elections, and they’e watching from the sidelines as these social leaders and human rights defenders are being killed.”

By July 5, President Santos tweeted that he would convene a July 10 meeting of the government’s National Security Guarantees Committee, adding, “The Fiscalia has important results. I repeat my instruction to act with full force against those who attack social leaders. We won’t let our guard down.” Santos called on the security forces to increase their presence in zones where killings have occurred.

Interior Minister Rivera said that those responsible for the killings “are clearly organizations dedicated to narcotrafficking, dedicated to illegal mining and to theft of land,” and recognized that more effective efforts are needed to protect people. He refused to say that the social-leader killings are “systematic,” which according to Colombia’s Supreme Court would mean that there is a carefully orchestrated national plan behind them. “If recognizing a systematic nature could avoid the killing of social leaders, we would have recognized it a long time ago,” Rivera said. Instead, he said the government should focus on how to improve physical protection of threatened leaders.

The official protective response to threats has been plagued by delays. The Constitutional Court ordered the Interior Ministry’s National Protection Unit (UNP) to resolve social leaders’ protection requests within 30 days, and noted that protection “should go beyond that offered by the UNP.”

The UN verification mission in Colombia issued a statement making clear that it “vehemently rejects and condemns the killings of human rights defenders and community and social leaders.” The new director of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ field office in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, published a July 7 column in El Espectador, and an interview in El Tiempo, calling for urgent action to protect leaders and identify the killings’ masterminds.

The U.S. embassy made no public comment on the issue.

“Censurable discourse is becoming louder in the country,” reads an El Espectador editorial,

“stating, from social networks, that we need not lament the death of murdered social leaders, associating them with the guerrillas. Are we once again going to commit the historic error of stigmatizing those who work to give voice to the marginalized? It should be enough to look at the story of every victim to find that they are people committed to democracy and struggling, in clearly hostile environments, for their communities’ rights.”

Petro called on his erstwhile opponent, President-Elect Iván Duque, to denounce the killings. “Your silence allows the empowerment of the assassins.”

Tweeting from Washington, where he was on a several-day visit, Duque stated “I categorically reject the violent acts that have presented themselves in recent days in Colombia with social leaders and the violence seen against people who carry out political leadership.” From Spain later in the week, he tweeted, “We have to guarantee security for social leaders. No citizen should be intimidated by violence. We call on the authorities to advance investigations and bring to justice these crimes’ authors.”

Duque Finishes Washington Visit

The President-Elect spent the first several days of the week finishing a lengthy (June 27-July 5) visit to Washington, a city where he lived for many years. Before the July 4 holiday, Duque had a face-to-face meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.

In this and other official meetings (detailed in last week’s update), Duque reportedly heard a great deal of concern about Colombia’s increasing illicit coca crop and about the crisis in Venezuela. It is less evident that he heard many concerns about implementation of the 2016 peace accord.

Duque has been vocally critical of Venezuela’s regime. His messaging in Washington, though, was colored by an Associated Press report, published July 5, revealing that President Donald Trump had repeatedly brought up the possibility of military action in the neighboring country during conversations in August and September 2017. “I’ve never spoken of military interventions, or of encouraging military interventions,” Duque told reporters. “What must be done is to exercise diplomatic pressure against the dictatorship.”

Duque called for Latin American governments to support OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro’s hard line on Venezuela, including his finding, in a May report, that “a reasonable foundation” exists to accuse Maduro and ten other Venezuelan officials of crimes against humanity and to bring them before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

In July 2017, then-Senator Duque led an effort to denounce Venezuela’s regime before the ICC. If he persists in this claim as president, it will be the first time since the Court’s 2002 founding that one state has denounced another before the ICC.

Duque expressed to his reporters a desire that Almagro and the OAS become the main vector for Western Hemisphere diplomatic pressure on Venezuela. He called for Colombia’s exit from UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, a body dating back to the mid-2000s that today is moribund due to sharp ideological divisions across the continent. “UNASUR has really been an organization that has converted into an accomplice of the Venezuelan dictatorship,” Duque said. In April, six UNASUR member states (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru) suspended their participation.

Duque said he invited Vice-President Pence to attend his inauguration on August 7, and that he got no positive or negative response. “We want the United States to have the highest possible representation at our inauguration,” he added.

The President-Elect’s visit was also colored by the White House’s June 25 release of estimates showing yet another annual increase in Colombia’s coca crop in 2017. The topic of Colombian coca and cocaine production came up frequently in his meetings with U.S. officialdom.

In his remarks before reporters, Duque endorsed the outgoing Santos administration’s plan to increase forced eradication by employing low-altitude herbicide-spraying drones. He sought to make clear, though, that this would be one of a series of tools his government would employ. He referred specifically to financing productive projects for coca-growing families—but without referring to implementing Chapter 4 of the 2016 peace accord, which is already serving as a framework for financing such projects (although implementation of these projects is lagging badly behind).

While he did not offer specifics about all of the tools his strategy would use—or how that strategy might differ from what the peace accord foresees—Duque said he told U.S. officials that it would take about two years to begin showing concrete results. He said that the Americans were supportive: “Instead of talking about commitments in terms of numbers of hectares, what I received was a great show of support for our security agenda, and our agenda to confront illicit crops in Colombia.” He added that he would ask the U.S. government to increase its annual aid outlay, both for counternarcotics and for accord implementation.

Duque would not commit to re-establishing a program, suspended in 2015, to spray herbicides with aircraft. Doing so would require reversing a Constitutional Court sentence banning this practice, with the herbicide glyphosate, as too inaccurate and thus posing a potential health risk.

On July 5 Duque left for Spain, where he attended a conference about technological and economic innovation that also featured former U.S. president Barack Obama. Duque and Obama met, according to Duque’s Twitter account, and talked “about our country’s security and economic development challenges.”

Seven People Massacred in Southern Cauca

Unknown assailants dumped the bodies of seven men, roughly 25 to 35 years of age, on the side of a dirt road in the municipality of Argelia, Cauca, in the pre-dawn hours of July 3. They had apparently been killed in adjacent El Tambo municipality. Those responsible for the massacre are unknown, but its scale drew attention to Argelia, a troubled municipality of 12,000 people in south-central Cauca, along the border with Nariño department, that had been strongly under FARC influence during the armed conflict.

Cauca is the number-two department, after Antioquia, for killings of social leaders. A week earlier in Argelia, a group calling itself the “People’s Cleansing Command” circulated a pamphlet threatening to kill anyone who sells or uses drugs. This is the second large-scale killing in Argelia so far this year; masked men killed four people at a liquor store in January.

The commander of the Colombian Army’s 29th Brigade blamed the ELN for the massacre, which occurred in a zone of the guerrilla group’s influence. The ELN quickly issued a statement denying any role.

On July 4, Colombia’s National Police announced that two of the bodies had been identified as those of demobilized FARC members: one who had abandoned the FARC disarmament zone in Policarpa, Nariño, not far from Argelia; and one who had abandoned training to be a FARC bodyguard with the Interior Ministry’s National Protection Unit.

Argelia sits in a geographically strategic zone for organized crime, along a corridor between Cauca’s mountain highlands and Pacific-coast piedmont. About 3,500 hectares of coca are grown there, making it Cauca’s second most heavily planted municipality. Armed groups active there include the ELN, FARC dissidents, and the Gulf Clan or Urabeños neo-paramilitary network.

Transitional Justice System Calls on FARC to Appear in Kidnapping Hearing

The Special Peace Jurisdiction (JEP), the body established by the peace accord to judge war crimes committed during the armed conflict, is beginning to work in earnest. With a preliminary hearing on July 13, it is to launch Case 001, covering kidnappings committed by the FARC between 1993 and 2012. The JEP’s Recognition of Truth Chamber has called on 31 former FARC leaders to appear.

The ex-guerrillas—or their legal representatives if they are unable to appear in person—are to be notified about the beginning of the case, and will be given copies of evidence against them, much of it in a report, “Illegal Retention of Persons by the FARC-EP,” that the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) compiled from case files. The information covers between 2,500 and 8,500 kidnappings or extortions that the FARC committed during these 20 years. The Fiscalía report includes 312 sentences for kidnappings that the regular judicial system has already handed out. Of these, 68 involve members of the ex-guerrillas’ Secretariat and General Staff. The JEP is also working off of reports from the Free Country Foundation, an NGO focused on anti-kidnapping, and the governmental but autonomous Center for Historical Memory.

Among the 31 guerrillas called to appear are 6 who are to be legislators in the congressional session that begins on July 20. Also among them will be maximum FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño alias Timochenko.

After the hearing, according to the chamber’s president, Julieta Lemaitre, “The accused will be given a prudent amount of time to prepare, and then we will call them to give voluntary confessions to provide a report on what they received. The chamber is also considering a hearing with victims.” In the case of kidnapping-disappearances, the JEP hopes that ex-combatants will help identify where remains are located.

Presumed Dissident Ex-FARC Leader “Rambo” Captured in Caquetá

Luis Eduardo Carvajal, alias “Rambo,” could be the second FARC leader subject to extradition to the United States for crimes allegedly committed after the peace accord went into effect. (The first is former top negotiator Jesús Santrich, currently imprisoned in Bogotá and wanted in New York for allegedly conspiring to ship 10 tons of cocaine.)

Police and Fiscalía personnel captured Carvajal in Puerto Rico municipality, in the southern department of Caquetá, sometime before July 4. He was wanted by U.S. authorities since before the peace accord went into effect, as he headed the powerful Daniel Aldana Mobile Column, which was particularly active in the southwestern department of Nariño. Nariño leads all Colombian departments in coca production and probably cocaine production.

Carvajal spent 35 years in the FARC, 15 of them commanding the Daniel Aldana. He controlled much, or most, illegal activity in the Pacific port of Tumaco and nearby zones along the Colombia-Ecuador border, which is the busiest cocaine transshipment corridor in the country. Authorities accuse his unit of shipping about 90 tons of cocaine per year, and of inviting Mexican narcotraffickers to operate in Tumaco. He and 300 other fighters disarmed and demobilized in Nariño during the first half of 2017. On January 18, 2018, he registered his case with the JEP, the transitional justice system.

It was widely suspected by 2018 that “Rambo” had gone rogue and joined FARC dissident groups active in the region’s cocaine trade. But his profile was very low, far lower than that of Walter Arizara alias “Guacho,” leader of the so-called Oliver Sinisterra Front FARC dissident group active in and around Tumaco. Guacho attracted enormous attention earlier this year when his men kidnapped and killed two Ecuadorian journalists and their driver. But Carvajal’s whereabouts and activities were a mystery.

His arrest reportedly owes to testimony given by Prado Álava, referred to as “the Pablo Escobar of Ecuador,” whom Colombia extradited to the United States in April.

“Rambo’s risk of criminalization was extremely high,” reports Insight Crime. “He allegedly returned quickly to criminal activities well-armed with strategic knowledge about contacts, modus operandi and drug trafficking routes. But this time he seems to have sought more benefits for himself.” The next step in his case is for the JEP to certify that the allegations against him cover a time period after the December 2016 ratification of the FARC peace accord. Upon that certification, Carvajal could be subject to extradition to the United States.

Framework Accord Implementation Plan Crosses Another Bureaucratic Hurdle

Eighteen months after the peace accord’s ratification, the Colombian Presidency’s National Planning Department has produced a document, called a CONPES, that is an essential step to commit the government to spending long-term resources on its implementation. Based on a Framework Implementation Plan issued in March, the CONPES divides responsibilities among government agencies for activities whose cost could add up to about 129.5 trillion Colombian pesos (US$44.5 billion) by 2031, 15 years after the peace accord’s ratification.

Another CONPES approved in late June covers the reintegration of former FARC members. It commits the government to 6.3 trillion pesos (US$2.2 billion) in spending on reintegration by 2026. According to El Tiempo, as of June 13 there were 4,082 former FARC members still residing in 24 “Territorial Training and Reconciliation Spaces (ETCRs),” the sites where they turned in their weapons and began their reintegration, plus about 1,000 family members. (This is out of 7,126 who entered these zones and disarmed there.) These individuals presumably seek to demobilize collectively, staying together. Another 6,044 former guerrillas, including militias and those released from prison, have shown an interest in demobilizing individually. The government was scheduled to stop providing food to residents of the ETCRs on June 30, but this has been extended until the end of August.

The CONPES on reintegration commits government agencies to report every six months on compliance with their assigned tasks. “Unlike the earlier reinsertion policy, this takes very much into account not just the strengthening of individual capacities, but also the collective aspect,” said Mauricio Restrepo, an advisor to Colombia’s Reincorporation and Normalization Agency (ARN), who helped draft the document. Another ARN advisor, Alfredo Gómez, told El Tiempo that the new policy “has a particular emphasis on rural areas, due to ex-guerrillas’ interest in carrying out agricultural tasks, since the majority are of campesino origin.”

The incoming government of Iván Duque can issue new CONPES documents altering these spending commitments. Unless it does so, however, Colombian law requires this and future governments to carry out the activities laid out in the CONPES that were published this week and in late June.

In-Depth Reading

The day ahead: July 24, 2018

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

It’s my one day of the week with no meetings or events (though I’ll have an eye on today’s House hearing about the National Guard deployment at the border). I plan to do a lot of writing about Colombia and catching up on smaller tasks. The next installment of our border report is in a near-final draft and largely out of my hands at this point.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

O. Navarrete photo at La Prensa (Nicaragua). Caption: “Casi tres horas duraron las dos marchas azul y blanco en Managua, donde miles de personas exigieron justicia, democracia y libertad en el país, marcado por la represión gubernamental.”

(Even more here)

July 23, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

It’s no wonder — the violence and lack of economic opportunity in those countries is incomprehensible to those familiar with the kind of grinding, but ultimately survivable, poverty in the U.S.

ICE has maintained that the form only applied to migrants with final orders of removal, and not to those who had pending asylum claims. But, in the detention facilities, the lines around asylum—who could claim it, and when—had already blurred

Potentially indicating that hundreds of parents have been deported despite a federal order to reunify families last month

Here is a list of options, compiled by AQ in consultation with security experts around the region. Many clearly do work. others may have positive effects on society, but their impact on the murder rate is still unclear


“We know that this transformation won’t be easy,” Macri said. “Profound changes are never easy. But this is the first step to build the modern, professional and equipped armed forces that Argentina needs”

Como parte de los nuevos roles, tendrán también como misión la participación en la “custodia y protección de los objetivos estratégicos”


A intervenção federal na Segurança Pública do Rio de Janeiro deve ir até 31 de dezembro, mas os militares já planejam a transição para o que virá depois

If the ballot box does not bring change quickly enough, some prominent former generals warn that military leaders may feel compelled to step in and reboot the political system by force

For Roseno and many other left-leaning politicians, this has come as a shock. “We have discovered that crime is about much more than poverty,” he said


Paramilitary groups have rushed to fill the power vacuum in former Farc-held territory. This pushed up the death toll of land defenders in Colombia last year to 32

Two of the former leaders of the disarmed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia didn’t take their seats in Congress on Friday

El saludo de Uribe y Victoria Sandino, la breve charla de José Obdulio Gaviria con la viuda de Manuel Marulanda, y el paso de largo de Roy Barreras, fueron algunas de las situaciones que vivieron los excombatientes ahora como congresistas

At least 311 rights defenders and activists have been killed in Colombia since the beginning of 2016

Oswaldo Taquez, presidente de la junta de acción comunal de la vereda El Remolino, de Orito (Putumayo) recibió 5 disparos luego de salir de una reunión en la que se evaluaban los resultados del programa de sustitución de cultivos

Desde diciembre de 2016 hasta el 3 de julio del presente año fueron asesinados 65 líderes indígenas, 5.730 fueron afectados por desplazamiento forzado, 8.245 sufrieron por confinamientos


The draft document, which still must be approved in a referendum, encourages foreign investment, opens the door to same-sex marriage, strengthens the judicial system and creates a prime minister role

El Salvador

All they knew is that crossing the border has gotten harder, and that any attempt to claim asylum is probably futile

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

At a Brownsville bar along the expressway, a customs officer told me that asylum was a “beautiful thing,” that should not be awarded to migrants from Central America simply in search of a better life

Guatemala, Mexico

Here are some of the people who cross the river to make a living — and to remake their lives


La Fnamp es la encargada de combatir las diferentes formas del delito. Se solicitará, a través del Consejo de Defensa y Seguridad, que se hagan capturas a cualquier hora con apoyo de jueces y fiscales


Para algunos de los integrantes del grupo, entrevistados por Proceso, la amnistía ofrecida por López Obrador durante su campaña podría traducirse en mera impunidad si no hay una transformación a fondo del sistema de procuración de justicia

Mexico is patently unsuitable as a place of refuge for most migrants, especially those from Central America, who suffer exploitation, violence and sexual assault almost routinely as they make their way north

El gobierno de Héctor Astudillo Flores negoció con la guardia comunitaria de Teloloapan vinculada a Guerreros Unidos, la liberación de la vía federal Iguala-Ciudad Altamirano -que permaneció bloqueada durante más de 10 horas-, a cambio de la creación de un frente policiaco militar contra el grupo antagónico La Familia Michoacana

The Interior Department said over the weekend there were 15,973 homicides in the first six months of the year, compared to 13,751 killings in the same period of 2017

In a conciliatory letter to President Donald Trump, Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said he is ready to start a new stage in U.S.-Mexico relations and seek a “common path”


Los expertos consideran que fueron diseñadas para castigar a los ciudadanos que protestan en las calles y a quienes los respaldan

The Roman Catholic Church is on the front lines of an escalating conflict between the increasingly authoritarian government of President Daniel Ortega and the broad-based opposition that wants him gone

Ortega has tried to undercut the Catholic Church, seeing it as a threat to his continued rule

La ayuda estaría destinada a apoyar la labor de organizaciones de la sociedad civil, defensores de derechos humanos, líderes emergentes y medios independientes

The day ahead: July 23, 2018

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

After a morning staff meeting, lunch with a Colombian human rights expert, and coffee with a colleague who works on refugee issues, I’ll be finishing edits on our next report about the border and working on an (overdue) Colombia news update.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

July 20, 2018


Colombian campesinos in Briceño, Antioquia have voluntarily uprooted their coca plants in exchange for government support to grow new crops. But with much aid delayed, the local economy has collapsed

Como un importante gesto calificó el padre de Roux, quien preside la Comisión de la Verdad, la visita que tuvieron el miércoles con el presidente electo Iván Duque

Los hombres armados se identificaron como miembros de un grupo de disidencias de las Farc, el frente 40, al mando de alias Calarcá


Once they’re in Tapachula, the migrants have made it to Mexico, but that doesn’t mean they are safe. For the majority of migrants, especially those continuing north, the real dangers are just beginning


Despite growing international censure, Nicaragua’s government appears to be digging in

Western Hemisphere Regional

Of more than 2,500 parents identified as potentially eligible for having their children returned to them, 848 have been interviewed and cleared for reunification

Separations that took minutes require weeks to repair, coordinated among multiple federal agencies and layered with background checks and fraud safeguards

The day ahead: July 20, 2018

I’ll be intermittently reachable throughout the day. (How to contact me)

Today’s my first day all week without either a full calendar or an immediate deadline. We’re meeting this morning to finalize the second installment of the border report we posted on Monday. Other than a quick press interview with a Colombian outlet, I’m in the office the rest of the day, finishing that second report, working on a Colombia update, and trying to get through a backlog of unanswered correspondence.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

July 19, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

“Ironically, these policies that claim to be trying to clamp down and secure the border and stop smuggling and stop traffickers… actually empower the traffickers, the cartels, the smugglers”

I’m emotionally raw from the trip. How our country treats immigrants coming to our nation — many fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries — will haunt me for a long time

The most extreme proposal yet would upend the system by eliminating the use of offices along the border, known as “ports of entry,” as asylum processing centers

“The likely alternative — detention of children with a parent — also poses high risk of harm to children and their families,” said the doctors

But the intelligence report and another email from the acting secretary last year to White House chief of staff John Kelly add to other uncovered documents that raise serious questions about whether the Trump administration ignored its own experts’ analysis


Con este caso la JEP se juega su legitimidad a futuro

Es más bien el intento de un gran sector de la sociedad de esconder su participación en la guerra y los crímenes que promovieron

Su liderazgo y activismo duró varios años: creó una empresa comunitaria y uno de los primeros consejos de víctimas del Cauca. Estaba al orden para dialogar siempre con el Ejército y evitar acciones violentas

The Commission stresses that the State needs to take urgent action to investigate acts of violence against defenders and to punish their perpetrators and masterminds, as well as to prevent smear campaigns and attacks against them

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Este nuevo ‘brote’ de detenciones coincide con la crisis’ de niños migrantes de Estados Unidos

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

These migrants set out walking from Frontera Corozal to Palenque: a five- to six-day journey of 101 miles on the main road


Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, El Z-40, exlíder del Cártel del Golfo (CDG) y fundador de Los Zetas, quien se encontraba preso en el Centro Federal de Readaptación Social (Cefereso) 9 de Juárez, Chihuahua, fue trasladado a una prisión en Texas

  • Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, Espias (Proceso (Mexico), July 19, 2018).

Si Osorio e Ímaz advirtieron lo que se veía venir en Iguala, nunca se lo dijeron a Peña porque no se hizo nada. La inteligencia del Ejército tampoco. O tal vez sí se lo dijeron, pero no se hizo nada


El MESENI constató y documentó el despliegue de operativos y actos de represión en contra de la población de diferentes ciudades con las que se mantenía una diálogo para alcanzar próximamente una disolución espontánea y pacífica de tranques

Tengo 25 años y mi generación creció escuchando las hazañas de un pueblo heroico que derrocó a una dictadura que asesinaba a jóvenes por pensar distinto. Nunca pensamos que esas historias se repetirían

Este aniversario revolucionario es una conmemoración luctuosa en una Nicaragua convulsa por el alzamiento de buena parte de sus ciudadanos contra el presidente Daniel Ortega


Lo que pasó en menos de siete días empezó confirmando el párrafo con el que terminé la crónica anterior de esta investigación: “Creo que defender la investigación va a ser, en este caso, tan o más difícil que la investigación misma”

Video: Hearing on “Peace and Victims’ Rights in Colombia”

Here’s video, and here’s my written testimony, from this morning’s hearing about “Peace and Victims’ Rights in Colombia” in the House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. It was a great hearing, featuring three social leaders working on the front lines of peace accord implementation and inclusion in Colombia.

My role was to talk about future directions for U.S. policy. I suggested five:

  • Keep the focus on rural areas, especially government presence.
  • Keep victims at the center of programming and diplomatic support.
  • Uphold the justice system, and help make it work better.
  • Be more flexible with the ban on “material support” for ex-FARC.
  • Coca and Venezuela are priorities, but don’t lose sight of the central role of accord implementation.

Video: “The Origins of Cocaine” book event

Here is video of yesterday afternoon’s WOLA event with Paul Gootenberg and Liliana Dávalos of Stony Brook University. They’re the editors of The Origins of Cocaine, a new book that finds a striking overlap between today’s South American coca-growing areas and the zones where governments carried out failed development and colonization projects 50 years ago. I wrote an epilogue to the book looking at the present moment.

The discussion was lively and well informed. Paul is a historian, and Liliana is an evolutionary biologist, which made for a novel combination.

The day ahead: July 19, 2018

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

I’m testifying this morning at a hearing about Colombia in the House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. I’ll be alongside three human rights defenders from Colombia, who deserve the spotlight.

In the afternoon, I’ll be catching up on overdue correspondence and editing the second installment of our multi-part report on the current state of the border and migration.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

July 18, 2018


Mine detection technologies have progressed very little since they were first developed in the aftermath of World War II and are still almost primarily based on metal detection

“What were we supposed to write for credit history?” Mr. Villarraga asked with a short, sharp laugh, telling the story a few days later. “Or for employment?”

Desde la selva amazónica colombiana, entre Guaviare y Caquetá, alias ‘Gentil Duarte’ compartió con ‘Guacho’ sus planes para “seguir forjando el auténtico ejército revolucionario de las FARC-EP”

El excomandante del Ejército Mario Montoya es el oficial de más alto rango que ha pedido someterse a la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz

El vicepresidente Óscar Naranjo se reunió esta mañana con los representantes de la organización criminal. En el encuentro, los abogados recibieron los requisitos que deben cumplir


Mexico does not focus as much of its migration enforcement efforts at the physical border as the United States does

Seis mil 125 militares vigilaban y combatían la delincuencia en Tamaulipas, Nuevo León y SLP, mientras que 6 mil 119 se encontraban en Guerrero, zonas consideradas peligrosas


21 países del hemisferio aprobaron este miércoles una resolución que condena la represión y la violencia del régimen contra “el pueblo de Nicaragua”

The resolution exhorts the Government of Nicaragua “to support an electoral calendar jointly agreed to in the context of the National Dialogue process”

For weeks, the town of Masaya in Nicaragua has been the heart of an opposition movement seeking President Daniel Ortega’s ouster

Rubio dijo que tenía esperanzas que la situación de Nicaragua sería distinta al caso de Venezuela, y que Ortega iba a negociar (su salida) con elecciones anticipadas y legítimas

The Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018 requires the imposition of sanctions on Nicaraguan government officials responsible for the deaths of protestors, human rights violations and acts of corruption


“It’s contradictory when asking for this and then in your own backyard they’re separating families,” said one Latin American diplomat

“¿Hay un proceso de resignación, de aceptación de estas condiciones de sobrevivencia? Porque cada día te adaptas a menos, es la cubanización de Venezuela”

Western Hemisphere Regional

We asked Rio Grande Valley attorney Jennifer Harbury why legal entry is so difficult—and what challenges asylum seekers face when they are turned away

At the halfway mark of this year, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM), America’s most elite troops have already carried out missions in 133 countries

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