Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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January 2019

The day ahead: January 25, 2019

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

I’ll be in meetings again today, for about 5 hours. A sit-down between a few NGOs and a State Department official, and a visit to the University of Maryland to check in with a group of students whom I’ve been advising on a project researching civil-military relations in Latin America. I plan to work at home during the last few hours of the afternoon.

The day ahead: January 24, 2019

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

I don’t work much on Venezuela, so while I’m watching what happens there, it’s probably not going to dominate my day. I’m taking my daughter for a doctor’s appointment, have a meeting with folks from another NGO, and am meeting this afternoon with colleagues at Congressional Research Service. I should be in the office doing border and Colombia research during the last few hours of the day.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Even more here)

January 23, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

If both measures fall short, the votes could add new energy to efforts to negotiate a bipartisan compromise

The four women, all volunteers for the Arizona-based aid group No More Deaths, were convicted after a three-day bench trial at a federal court in Tucson. They could face up to six months in federal prison

The Supreme Court is not likely to review during its current term the program that shields young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, leaving in place the Obama-era initiative

The bill doesn’t appear likely to end a partial shutdown of the federal government that stretched into its 32nd day Tuesday

2018 was a year of turmoil across Latin America and the Caribbean. Homicide levels have reflected this uncertainty, rising sharply in parts, continuing to drop in others

Brazil

Bolsonaro spoke for barely more than 10 minutes, delivering an address observers characterized as “lifeless” and “wooden”

Colombia, Cuba

Duque will find it hard to back down from his current position, while Cuba has no obvious place to send the ten ELN negotiators, who are now in limbo

La insistencia, tanto de la Cancillería como del alto comisionado para la Paz, de ignorar los protocolos pactados con el Eln es un golpe a la credibilidad del Estado, que sabotea cualquier intento futuro de entablar procesos de paz

Colombia

El Comisionado de Paz, Miguel Ceballos, ha argumentado que Cuba debe extraditar a los elenos que están en ese país como negociadores con el Gobierno. Eso a pesar de que ayer se filtró el protocolo

Colombia, Cuba

El Gobierno noruego respalda la decisión de Cuba de acogerse a lo pactado

Colombia

“Las acciones militares son compartimentadas. Es un principio de la guerra y el Eln la aplica. Solamente las saben quienes están involucrados en ellas”

El Salvador

The teenager told police all about his gang, MS-13. In return, he was slated for deportation and marked for death

Guatemala

“It literally feels like it’s on the edge of the precipice and just over that precipice, you’re staring back at [in] the 1970s … and you’re staring at [a] massive violation of human rights”

The law would establish the total extinction of criminal responsibility in cases related to the internal armed conflict, as well as the application of the principle of non-retroactivity of the law in any of these cases

Honduras

Destacó que Honduras, El Salvador y Guatemala son los primeros países que visita desde que asumió debido “a los desafíos de seguridad” que esta región ha enfrentado en los últimos años

Mexico

The 10 weeks of testimony at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, have revealed that his innovative smuggling network typically went through legal checkpoints

Tras el incidente, la Administración de López Obrador reconoció que a Tlahuelilpan solo llegaron 25 soldados y que la Secretaría de la Defensa tuvo conocimiento de la fuga del hidrocarburo cuatro horas antes del incendio

Por votación de 7 votos contra 6, la Comisión de Puntos Constitucionales del Senado (con mayoría de Morena) rechazó la propuesta de legisladores de oposición, de extender la discusión sobre la Guardia Nacional, invitando a especialistas y organizaciones

Around 5,600 Central Americans are awaiting visas at Tecún Umán, on Guatemala’s border with Mexico, Mexican officials said Tuesday. The visas would allow them to continue their journey north without the risk of deportation from Mexico

Venezuela

“What happened in Cotiza shows that working-class sectors, and those loyal to Chavismo, are willing to take to the streets — and even back those who take up arms”

“I think we will be turning a page on Wednesday,” he said. “But it’s not the end of the chapter and much less the end of the book”

Mr. Guaidó’s ascendance as the face of the opposition could herald a new, more confrontational stance with the government, where the military will be actively courted as allies, said Ms. Tintori

This week’s developments have surprised analysts, who had thought the opposition to be too fractured – and Venezuela too divided on class lines – to bring about change

As I told Mr. Guaidó last week, President Trump and the U.S. stand resolutely with the Venezuelan people as they seek to regain their liberty from dictator Nicolás Maduro

The day ahead: January 23, 2019

I’ll be pretty hard to reach until the end of the day. (How to contact me)

I’ve got an internal beginning-of-year planning meeting, a sit-down with a foundation program officer, and a call with a journalist on my calendar today. Near the end of the day I should be reachable, and working on border research.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

January 22, 2019

Argentina

La Integrated Country Strategy sobre la Argentina merece una lectura y un seguimiento. Ahí están los trazados principales de la política exterior de Washington hacia Buenos Aires

Colombia

Según la Fiscalía, las Farc realizó 6.162 plagios entre 1993 y 2012

Colombia, Cuba

El protocolo dice que hay 15 días para el retorno de la delegación (vence el 2 de febrero) y vamos a actuar dentro de ese protocolo

Holmes Trujillo explicó que dichos protocolos no aplican en esta situación, pues se está hablando de un “atentado terrorista”

El punto central es que Cuba no está albergando a los negociadores del ELN con el fin de dar apoyo a esa organización en su lucha armada (caso en el cual podría acusársela de violar la resolución 1373 del Consejo de Seguridad) sino que lo ha hecho por solicitud del gobierno colombiano

Colombia

El ELN tiene una responsabilidad mayúscula en darle un nuevo aire a la extrema derecha. El ELN contribuyó a aumentar la polarización del país

Este es el mapa militar con el que el ELN sale de la mesa diálogos y, según lo que se vislumbra por ahora, empleará en enfrentar al Estado

Ecuador, Venezuela

Videos circulating on social media show mobs of Ecuadorians harassing Venezuelans, breaking into their homes and burning their possessions

Mexico

The body of Rafael Murúa Manríquez, general director of community radio Radiokashana in the municipality of Mulegé, was found in Santa Rosalía on the coast of the Gulf of California

As of Sunday night, 4,912 adults and 1,007 children had requested visas, which the Mexican government was processing over several days

CBS News asked officials in Mexico if they are incentivizing migrants to come north. They said the migrants will come no matter what and legal migration provides rights and protections

The widespread supply problems have left some observers with the sense the López Obrador administration had launched the crackdown without adequate planning

Mexico’s national statistics office (INEGI) also calculated a record number of homicides in 2017, at 31,174 murders, or 25 per 100,000, using other methodologies

Nicaragua

Faced with these extreme threats, I have been forced into the painful decision to go into exile to protect my physical integrity and my freedom, and above all to be able to continue to exercise independent journalism from Costa Rica

Venezuela

The opposition leaders have called for nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday, which they hope will show that their bid to replace Mr. Maduro has widespread support

Hours later, the government-stacked Supreme Court said it was throwing out recent measures by the National Assembly that declared Maduro’s presidency illegitimate, deepening a standoff with the opposition-controlled legislature

El presidente del Parlamento, Juan Guaidó, ha pedido apoyo civil, militar y extranjero para asumir el mando del Gobierno y convocó “a todo el pueblo a la calle” a participar el 23 de enero

Dentro de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB) han crecido brotes disidentes en contra del régimen

Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela

“They steal the engines so fishermen cannot continue sailing in the area where they could witness drug trafficking operations, which now take place in complete impunity”

The day ahead: January 22, 2019

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

It was nice to have a long weekend at home, I did a lot of reading and research. But that’s over now. I have 2 internal meetings, calls with an author and a reporter, and a likely meeting with a Capitol Hill colleague. Except for a brief window mid-day, I’ll be hard to pin down today.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Plaza Pública (Guatemala). Caption: “Agentes de la Policía Nacional Civil detienen el paso de Omar Castro, 23, y de su hija, Mélody, en el tramo fronterizo entre las aduanas hondureña y guatemalteca.”

(Even more here)

January 21, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

President Donald Trump just blinked on the government shutdown. But his standoff with congressional Democrats doesn’t appear to be headed to a resolution anytime soon

When is this wall fever going to break? Honestly, if I knew the answer — I wish I knew the answer. I don’t.

Colombia, Cuba

The protocols provide minimum security guarantees for guerrilla leaders to return to mountainous or jungle areas of Colombia with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing security from military attack for an agreed period

Colombia

El ELN hay una gran desconfianza del camino de la negociación, así como en el gobierno. A su vez, sostiene que parte de la alianza uribista no tiene interés en superar la violencia

Colombia, Cuba

El documento de una página, firmado por delegados de Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Noruega y Ecuador, prevé que, en caso de ruptura de los diálogos, las partes se tomarán 15 días para planear y concretar el retorno a Colombia de la delegación de este grupo insurgente

Colombia

Velandia calificó el acto terrorista de irracional. Le pidió a su antigua agrupación que libere a todos los secuestrados y declare un cese unilateral de acciones ofensivas. Si no lo hacen, están condenados a ser aniquilados

Es entonces muy desproporcionado que mientras el Gobierno nos ataca, plantee que nosotros no podamos responder en legítima defensa

The young cadets inside were busy pushing forward dreams of serving their country and helping lift their families out of poverty

Colombia, Mexico

Las organizaciones del narcotráfico mexicanas se adaptan al inestable contexto colombiano con el objetivo de garantizar las condiciones para sus negocios, y no para fortalecer a los grupos armados colombianos

Mexico

Si la comparación se hiciera basada en las violaciones reportadas divididas entre las detenciones realizadas por cada corporación, entonces la conclusión sería que las Fuerzas Armadas son las que cometieron más violaciones de derechos humanos

Relatives of some of the victims said fuel shortages stemming from President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan attracted people to the leak

That section of pipeline had been among the parts of the fuel transportation network that had been temporarily shut as part of the government’s strategy to curb theft. But the flow through the tube resumed on Friday, just hours before thieves punctured it

El presidente de México, tras la tragedia en Tlahuelilpan, dijo que su gobierno seguirá combatiendo el robo de hidrocarburos, aunque en los casos de perforaciones a ductos y habitantes que acudan a tratar de llevarse el combustible, no se buscará una confrontación

My long escape to freedom began several years before that desperate ride across the desert when I reported for my local newspaper, El Diario, that soldiers had taken over a hotel and were robbing migrants

El INM inicia tímidamente la entrega de tarjetas con permiso de estancia por razones humanitarias, y anuncia que entregará miles a partir de la semana que viene. Sin embargo, la COMAR progresa lentamente

México ofrece tarjetas humanitarias a los integrantes de la primera caravana migrante del año. Más de dos mil centroamericanos no han esperado a cumplir con el trámite y caminan por Chiapas. Otros cientos aguardan en Tecún Umán, confiando en las promesas de las autoridades

Fue en enero de 2007 cuando el entonces presidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa desplegó al Ejército en el estado con el Operativo Conjunto Guerrero

Venezuela

Los insurrectos conformaban un grupo “reducido” de militares de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB, policía militarizada) y les acusa de haber robado un lote de armas de guerra en horas de la madrugada

The day ahead: January 21, 2019

I’m intermittently reachable on this holiday. (How to contact me)

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and WOLA’s office building is closed. I’m home for the day. It’s extremely cold outside, and we’ll probably spend nearly all day in the house. I’ll spend some of the day in my home office, and some with the family.

The asylum process can be manageable—and Mexico is giving it a try

Left: last October in Chiapas. Right: this week in Chiapas.

Incredibly, about 60 percent of migrants being apprehended, or showing up without documents, at the U.S.-Mexico border are now children and families. Most are asking for asylum in the United States. (Mexico, too, has seen a fourteen-fold increase in asylum-seekers since 2014.) That has never happened before.

Take away that population, and the number of undocumented migrants to the United States is as small as it has ever been in my lifetime. (I’m 48.)

So how can we alleviate and manage our hemispheric asylum crisis? Here’s a non-comprehensive list of things that the U.S., Mexican, and Central American governments could do.

☐ Reduce the number of Central Americans who want to flee by investing in public security, judicial reform, anti-corruption measures, education, and job creation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Meanwhile, lean hard on governments and security forces that are tolerating corruption, colluding with criminals, and generally moving away from these goals.

✔︎ Give a legal migratory status in Mexico to people who are threatened in their home countries, and who don’t feel safe in Mexico, so that they may transit to the U.S. border without having to pay smugglers, ride atop cargo trains, or be preyed upon by criminals and corrupt security-force agents.

☐ Once at the border, ensure that ports of entry have enough holding space and trained CBP officers to handle an elevated number of asylum claims, USCIS has the resources to carry out credible fear interviews rapidly, and ICE can process asylum-seekers efficiently.

☐ While they await decisions on their asylum claims, monitor those who pass credible-fear interviews through “alternatives to detention” programs with very high compliance rates, at a tiny fraction of the cost of detention.

☐ Make it possible for most asylum-seekers to get a final decision from a judge in a matter of months—not years—because the U.S. government has hired enough judges to keep up with demand and reduce backlogs. Ensure that asylum-seekers have clear due-process guarantees, including time to prepare their cases and expanded access to counsel, whom more will be able to retain because they don’t have to spend money on smugglers. With this in place, those who do not qualify for asylum would not remain in the United States for years, and because of the quick turnaround, others with weak claims wouldn’t even attempt the journey. Integrate those who do qualify into U.S. communities.

That’s a nice vision, isn’t it? No walls, greatly reduced human suffering, a perceived “threat” reduced to an administrative issue. Realizing this vision would require some big new investments, but they’d almost definitely be smaller than the cost of the Trump administration’s proposals for wall construction, Border Patrol and ICE hiring, expanded detention, military deployments, and long-term stays in Mexico.

I only check the “box” for Mexico above because of the new Mexican government’s handling of the migrant caravan now arriving in the country. The National Migration Institute is channeling arriving Central Americans into a legal process: though it takes a few days, all will be registered and issued humanitarian visas upon entry, allowing them to live and work in Mexico for a year.

That one-year visa doesn’t prevent anyone from buying a bus ticket from Chiapas to the border and seeking asylum in the United States. It is then up to the U.S. government to get better at channeling them to the ports of entry and checking all of the above boxes so that the asylum system can handle the flow quickly and efficiently. (Needless to say, the Trump administration is not aiming to get better at this.)

The new Mexican government has taken an interesting and promising step here. If migrants have a legal document to remain temporarily in Mexico, they can travel safely and move through checkpoints in an orderly way, instead of paying more than US$6,000 to a smuggler.

This isn’t without risk for Mexico. It could end up incentivizing larger numbers of migrants to arrive, obtain a humanitarian status, and use it as a “transit visa” to the United States. (Again, this means the U.S. government will need more resources in place to process these applicants more quickly, which would dissuade people with weak asylum claims from coming.) Mexico is indicating that the new system is just for caravan participants—not, for instance, people from Asia or Africa who might otherwise converge on Mexican soil. But even that standard might create an incentive to organize more caravans.

Dealing with these outcomes, should they materialize, is the next step. But for now, by giving migrants a short-term legal status, the new system that Mexico is rolling out deals a severe blow to the coyotes and criminals who prey on people fleeing Central America.

The day ahead: January 18, 2019

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

My hands barely touched a keyboard the past few days, due to an average of over eight hours per day of meetings and phone calls. I haven’t even posted news links here since Tuesday. My calendar is much clearer today, though, and I hope to do a lot of catching up.

Congress Page Revived

I’ve just updated a resource that I created two years ago and—I hate to admit—failed to update much over the past year. But it works again now, so give it a spin sometime, it’s pretty cool.

It’s a database-driven little web app called “Narrow Down Congress” (narrowdown.org). It does one thing: classify members of the U.S. Congress according to groups that you create, and then show you which legislators belong to more than one group.

Why is that useful? Say you’re interested in human rights in Mexico. You have a list of House Foreign Affairs Committee members, a list of legislators who signed a recent letter on worldwide human rights, and a list of legislators who’ve said something about Mexico in the Congressional Record. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which legislators are on all three lists? Or even just on two of the three? And then export their contact information?

Well, I think it would be interesting. That’s why I made this page, using my advanced beginner-level PHP, MYSQL, and Javascript skills.

And now the site has the entire 116th Congress’s current contact information in it. However, as of now a lot of the existing categories are out of date: committee memberships, for instance, have changed a lot since the last Congress, and many new changes are coming every day right now. But we’ll be updating them constantly, and you’re welcome to make your own.

Check it out. It makes you create a username and password, but that’s just so that the lists you create will still be there the next time you visit. And if it’s still confusing, just click “tutorial” in the upper right-hand corner.

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