Adam Isacson

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


February 2019

WOLA Podcast: What next in Venezuela?

Here’s a conversation recorded yesterday with Geoff Ramsey, who works on Venezuela full-time at WOLA. I wanted Geoff to talk about how to help restore democracy in Venezuela without a military intervention—but also without vague “dialogues” that just buy time for Maduro. He gave me a lot to work with.

We’re both fast talkers, so you don’t want to listen to this one at 1.5x speed; set your podcast-playing app to 1x.

How to Get Back to Democracy Without Military Intervention

After a failed attempt to deliver aid across borders, Venezuela’s opposition is regrouping and more outside commentators are discussing the unthinkable: military intervention. But not so fast: diplomatic efforts continue, both with and without the Trump administration. Pressure, multilateral sanctions, and dialogues specifically about the Maduro regime’s exit still offer hope of achieving a “least bad” outcome.

You may need to listen to this podcast more than once, because it covers a lot of ground. Geoff Ramsey, WOLA’s assistant director for Venezuela, covers the current moment, and the existing alternatives, in a wide-ranging, fast-moving discussion.

Click here to download this podcast.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Associated Press.

(Even more here)

February 28, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

The nearly $3 billion that Congress has provided for barriers during the first half of Trump’s term requires that money be spent on designs that were in place before May 2017, effectively prohibiting the prototypes from being used

There is no necessary connection between judicial intervention and the maintenance of constitutional democracy. A court can intervene and increase the risks to democracy — precisely what happened in Chadha

In the Senate, 20 Republicans would need to join Democrats to override a Trump veto, but there aren’t nearly that many GOP members who come from purpleish states and break with Trump relatively often

Republican Representative Kay Granger urged McMahon to inform Congress of the specific projects the Pentagon would defer. He said specific decisions had not yet been made

Ten of the miscarriages occurred in fiscal year 2017, and 18 occurred in fiscal year 2018


São 51.589 assassinatos, ante 59.128 registrados em 2017. Número, no entanto, ainda é alto; taxa é de 24,7 mortes a cada 100 mil


15 militares, beneficiados por la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, le solicitaron al presidente Iván Duque que sancione la ley estatutaria de la JEP

Cuba, Venezuela

The result would be power outages, fuel shortages and government spending cuts that would cause the Cuban economy to shrink by as much as 10%


With the 45-day deadline looming — and a 15-day notification period for Congress — a decision on Helms-Burton could come by the end of this week


Hernández has chosen to hammer down on the gangs, rather than address the allegedly corrupt government officials linked to the country’s drug trafficking groups

Mientras el Estado hondureño se ensaña contra las personas que se oponen a un proyecto minero en la comunidad de Guapinol, Tocoa, en el departamento de Colón, varias organismos internacionales ha levantado la voz


Border Patrol agents and Texas state troopers positioned trucks on the river’s banks, lights flashing, in a show of force to discourage them from entering the water

Participará en “la definición de los contenidos, de los sistemas de selección y del entrenamiento en el uso de la fuerza” para la formación de la Guardia Nacional

  • Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, Bola de Mandos (Proceso (Mexico), February 28, 2019).

Si algo han demostrado los 12 años de combate a la delincuencia organizada es que los militares no están dispuestos a quedar bajo las órdenes de los civiles


“To have the international community not echo that call to use force but in fact say very clearly, ‘No, we’re not doing that’ is a big deal,” said a former high-ranking U.S. official

An American resolution at the United Nations, which could be put to a vote on Thursday in the 15-member Security Council, is likely to be vetoed by Russia

The day ahead: February 28, 2019

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

I’m going to be in nonstop meetings and events today. An NGO sit-down with Mexico’s interior minister, a meeting of groups working on human rights conditions on foreign assistance, a meeting with visiting researchers on U.S. security aid programs, and an event at WOLA on the opioids crisis. I expect that I’ll be hard to reach today.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

February 27, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

The vote will be an open test of the willingness of Republicans to place a limit on this President’s grab for power

Under pointed questioning from senators, the top U.S. general for homeland defense said Tuesday that he sees no military threat coming from the southern border with Mexico, but his focus is on “very real” threats from China and Russia

The drill included the use of smoke and officers in riot gear next to recently installed barriers with concertina wire on the bridge. There was no migrant intrusion attempt at the bridge

Both developments came as the administration faces new legal scrutiny over the separations and the threat that a federal judge could force the government to comb through thousands of files to account for all migrant children

The data show the majority of the alleged assaults were carried out by other minors in custody, but at least 178 were carried out by staff

Central America Regional

“We exercised this heavy hand in Latin America, yet we have no understanding of the people we are influencing”


Durante el encuentro, conversamos con uno de los voceros del Consejo Comunitario Alto Atrato, quien prefirió no dar su nombre por las amenazas constantes que recibe

At least three of the nine are under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors are investigating numerous killings by soldiers in units under the command of the others. The following is a summary of the evidence implicating the nine officers


No one should be fooled by this exercise, which achieves little beyond perpetuating the pretext for the regime’s one-party dictatorship. The entire process has been marked by carefully managed political theater and repression of public debate


Mexican gangs have also become key links in this chain, transporting, selling, and even producing the drug

En sus conferencias de prensa matutinas, el presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador ha cuestionado a la sociedad civil organizada, y afirmó que ninguna OSC recibiría ya dinero del presupuesto público


Anyone who shows the slightest hint of disapproval risks arrest, they said, and jail has become increasingly synonymous with torture

While the desertions are not good news for Mr. Maduro, they are not exactly what the opposition had hoped for, either

The succession of setbacks left the opposition here scrambling Tuesday to sustain what has become the single biggest challenge to 20 years of socialist rule and manage inflated expectations of a rapid ouster of Maduro

Trump and other US leaders say that the time for negotiation has passed. They believe in a short, quick war if necessary. World leaders – and those in Latin American countries first and foremost – should open their eyes to the risks of a devastating war

The day ahead: February 27, 2019

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

I’ve tried to keep today clear on my calendar to get a lot of writing done. I’ve mostly succeeded: I’ll be in the office, reachable but busy at the keyboard.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Martin Mejia – AP photo from The Miami Herald. Caption: “Colombia’s President Ivan Duque, center, speaks, flanked by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, left, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, at the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.”

(Even more here)

February 26, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

I am a member of the Senate, and I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power

Not only is the national emergency not justified, it could also be damaging to the interests of the United States, the authors say

The national emergency declaration and the profound cynicism that surrounds it are not just an attack on military construction and some other spending accounts. They represent an attack on the norms that preserve order and protect us from violence

Resolution is expected to pass in the chamber, but Republicans want to be sure the margin isn’t veto-proof

Trump could do an end-run around Congress and scrounge up funds from other dusty corners of the Pentagon’s budget, but he’ll still need to reckon with the unsavory prospect of depriving some Republican allies of signature projects

Central America Regional

America can slow the exodus of the desperate by investing in democracy, judicial reform and economic growth. So far, Mr. Trump has shown little interest

Colombia, Venezuela

Una vez en el territorio colombiano, cada uno debe buscar ayuda para su subsistencia. Algunos consiguen apoyo, pero otros deben buscar algún familiar o conocido


Sectores políticos y de opinión pública creen que, aunque el gobierno Duque dice que no va a destruir lo pactado con las Farc, su estrategia es ponerle freno a la implementación y quitarle oxígeno por medio de los recursos

Colombia’s most-wanted man, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, directs the wholesale cocaine trade, as well as terrorism against the state

Conservative senators, led by Republicans Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, for more than a year have blocked the confirmation of career Foreign Service officer Joseph Macmanus to become ambassador to Colombia


Most significantly, it restored the word “communism” in the final version and scaled back a proposal to allow same-sex marriage

Dominican Republic, Western Hemisphere Regional

Pike said the main objective of the conference is to create a CAA guide to countering threat networks. This guide will be based on U.S. doctrine, but the intent is to make it acceptable for all partner nations to improve interoperability


La tendencia feminista a nivel mundial –aunque ninguna de las candidatas defiende este concepto– refuerza la trayectoria política de largo aliento de las tres presidenciables: Sandra Torres, Thelma Aldana y Zury Ríos

The bill has received pushback from the U.N., the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and other human rights groups that say it violates Guatemala’s international obligations to investigate human rights violations

En apenas media hora de una entrevista concertada para hablar de las elecciones, el embajador menciona una de quincena veces esa última palabra: «corrupción»


The number of asylum seekers arriving in this troubled city has reached a critical point as renewed drug violence explodes, creating what local leaders say is a pressure cooker

Esta es la primera de las tres leyes que requiere la Guardia Nacional. Se prohíbe uso de fuerza letal para retirar bloqueos y manifestaciones. Se autorizan armas de descargas eléctricas pero no balas de goma

Guillen said Monday that Mexico is accepting children who are accompanied by their parents, saying the numbers remain small


Over the past few days, at least 270 soldiers, National Guard troops and police officers have made similar escapes over the border to Colombia and Brazil

In the letter, the signing organizations urge the regional bloc to commit to migration policies that include “durable, coordinated, long-term measures and from a protection perspective in favor of people from Venezuela”

Brazil’s vice-president, retired general Hamilton Mourão, said on Monday that under no circumstances would his country allow the United States to intervene militarily from Brazilian territory

What Pence ended up telling the young Venezuelan leader was not necessarily what he traveled so far to hear: Pence told Guaidó the Trump administration still believes in a peaceful resolution

Listening to the Chavistas, we heard some pragmatism and openness to negotiation. The opening is a narrow one and full of mistrust

Venezuelans were in as much need of food as ever, the aid was sitting useless in Colombia, and Mr. Maduro appeared to remain fully in power

The Trump administration has repeatedly hinted at military intervention. But Saturday showed the regime is ready to call that bluff. That means Mr. Guaidó and his international alliance must settle in for a potentially prolonged economic and diplomatic siege

It’s a delicate, demanding task. And we need to trust the Trump administration to pull it off without a misstep. God help us all

The officials would not detail which US military aircraft are being used, but the Navy and Air Force maintain several large fixed-wing aircraft capable of intercepting communications and monitoring the status of weaponry

The civil militia has an official membership of 1.6 million. Just last month 86 percent of Venezuelans said they opposed foreign military action. Invaders might not find themselves hailed as liberators

The day ahead: February 26, 2019

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

In the afternoon, I’m meeting with a foundation officer, then a colleague visiting from the U.S.-Mexico border. Later, I’m guest-teaching a graduate class. In the morning, I’ll be in the office processing my notes from my last border trip, among other research.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Federico Rios/Bloomberg photo. Caption: “People gather near a destroyed truck on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge near the border on Feb. 24.”

(Even more here)

February 25, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Shanahan said his conversations with officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and observations at sites in Texas and New Mexico had underscored the role the military can play

A “cowboy priest” confronts the wall and the military presence on the banks of the Rio Grande

A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials will issue a statement Monday saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border


Evo Morales tuvo el respaldo de la mayoría de los bolivianos, que le otorgaron el 35% de las preferencias frente al 31% de su contendor, el expresidente Carlos Mesa

Brazil, Venezuela

It was the remote frontier with Brazil that saw the worst violence and the boldest – though unfounded – claims of success in getting aid into Venezuela


Subordinado ao Comando Sul, o general de 52 anos de idade estará encarregado da áreas de assistência humanitária e de alívio de desastres do Exército Sul americano


Martínez habló con EL COLOMBIANO sobre la seguridad del país y sobre los planes que tienen desde el Gobierno para contrarrestar el accionar delictivo de grupos ilegales

Colombia, Venezuela

Para el CICR las donaciones que están varadas ahora en la frontera entre Colombia y Venezuela, no deberían ser llamadas ‘ayudas humanitarias’, dado que no están supeditadas por los principios de la imparcialidad y neutralidad


While the outcome of the referendum isn’t really in doubt, the percentage of who will vote for ratification is. It’s not expected to approach the 97.6 percent approval rate the current constitution got


The bill would allow former army officers who committed abuses during the country’s 36-year war to go free


La Comisión de Puntos Constitucionales de la Cámara de Diputados avalará mañana, sin cambios, el dictamen a la minuta del Senado para crear la Guardia Nacional

While it’s not uncommon for the leftist firebrand known as AMLO to attack regulators and autonomous agencies, he doesn’t usually call out specific people, much less target them with multiple probes


Guaido is walking a delicate line. While saber-rattling could unnerve some in the top ranks of Maduro’s military and speed up defections, threats of foreign military intervention, especially involving the U.S., would likely strengthen Maduro’s stance among his shrinking base

Those scenes, however, were ones that the opposition had sought to avoid

Proposals for increased pressure on the authoritarian leader will be made during a meeting on Monday in the Colombian capital Bogotá

Analysts warn there is a serious risk of sliding into armed conflict, and say many of those pushing for intervention are underestimating the cost and possible impact of sending foreign troops to Venezuela

It’s a prospect that analysts warn risks fracturing a hard-won coalition of Latin American nations who’ve come together to pressure Maduro’s socialist government

Even for some of Maduro’s enemies, Washington’s efforts to oust the Venezuelan leader raise concern because of the history of U.S. intervention in the region

Thinking about the unthinkable: U.S. military intervention in Venezuela

Es más o menos aceptable la traducción automática de Google al español de este artículo.

Disclaimer: I’m not WOLA’s Venezuela expert. I’ve only visited the country once. Most of what I know about the country comes from press and NGO reports. The following exercise is me considering the unthinkable based on years of studying defense and security. I’ve discussed the military intervention issue only briefly with WOLA colleagues who work on Venezuela. (As a rule, nothing on this site is a WOLA document that has gone through WOLA’s editing and approval process, unless specified as such. This is me, nights and weekends, thinking things through.)

From the rundown of Venezuela’s military capabilities, in RESDAL’s 2016 Atlas of Defense in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the evening of February 23rd, the number-one worldwide “trending topic” on Twitter was #IntervencionMilitarYA, or “military intervention NOW.”

This came after a day of frustrated attempts to deliver humanitarian supplies into Venezuela from across borders. Many Venezuelans, both inside and outside the country, appear ready to have a foreign (that is, the U.S.) military come in and get rid of the Maduro regime and its corrupt, cruel, authoritarian misrule. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who has refused to rule out a military situation in the past, tweeted that the events of the 23rd “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.”

While it’s still unlikely—in the sense that “less than 50 percent probability” means “unlikely”—U.S. military involvement in Venezuela is a greater possibility now than it has been at any moment in this long crisis.

“Military involvement” doesn’t mean that the Trump administration is about to start firing Tomahawk missiles at the Miraflores palace in Caracas. Yes, the White House includes a vociferous proponent of the 2003 Iraq invasion (John Bolton), and has strong domestic incentives to create a distraction (Mueller investigation near conclusion). But the War Powers Act allows the president to carry out a foreign military operation for only 60 days, plus a 30-day withdrawal period, if that operation lacks explicit congressional approval (like the 2002 authorization for use of force in Iraq).

The White House would need this approval, because it’s likely that any hostilities in Venezuela would last longer than 90 days. If the White House got it—or if it chose to ignore the War Powers Act, throwing the issue to the courts—what might U.S. military intervention in Venezuela look like?

Here, I argue that it would probably last quite some time: perhaps first as intense hostilities, then as a drawn-out insurgency. It would involve Colombia—and Colombia might in fact be the initial flashpoint. Civilian casualties would probably be in the low thousands. Damage to infrastructure would total in the billions, possibly tens of billions, of dollars. Open hostilities would end quickly: the Maduro government would probably collapse under military pressure. But combat could drag on for months, perhaps years, as a well-supplied chavista insurgency digs in.

The military option would not be easy. While it wouldn’t be as much of a quagmire as the Iraq war, a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela would not be a quick in-and-out affair like Panama 1989, an analogy that Sen. Rubio is now explicitly employing.

How could a conflict start?

  • I wouldn’t expect the Trump administration to launch an Iraq-style invasion without some pretext or provocation involving non-Venezuelans. There would have to be an initial spark, a “Gulf of Tonkin” moment, that makes the Maduro government appear to be the aggressor.
  • A likely scenario here would be an incident on a border involving loss of life. The more populated Colombian border most lends itself to this scenario. In December, a high-ranking Colombian military officer told me that “shots had been fired” along the Colombia-Venezuela border 147 times over the previous two years. While most of those incidents were between non-state actors, like organized crime, this shows how volatile the border region already is.
  • Hawks are thinking about this too. “#MaduroRegime has fired into territory of #Colombia,” Sen. Rubio tweeted on the afternoon of the 23rd. “Receiving reports of injuries after this attack on sovereign Colombian territory. The United States WILL help Colombia confront any aggression against them.”
  • A serious border incident could escalate quickly. There are almost no diplomatic or military contacts between Colombia and the Maduro regime right now. That regime has all but pulled out of the OAS, complicating dispute resolution. The UN is playing a minimal role, and with Russia and China supportive of Maduro, the Security Council is hamstrung. There are almost no guardrails in place to prevent a border incident from escalating into full-on fighting between Colombia and Venezuela. Latin America would see its first major inter-state war since the 1930s conflict between Colombia and Peru.
  • Vice President Pence, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, and probably then-Defense Secretary James Mattis have offered security guarantees to Colombia if it suffers aggression from Venezuela. So if Colombian President Iván Duque were to request it, the Trump administration would jump in.

So there would probably be a period of fighting between Colombia and Venezuela before U.S. forces got involved. What might that look like?

  • We could expect only limited combat in the Colombia-Venezuela border zone, which is sparsely populated, with national capitals far away. Border zones might see some effort to damage larger cities and to control cross-border supply routes (which, ironically, could cripple the cocaine trade). Much of both countries’ oil infrastructure is also near the border—but attacks on oil facilities would be nationwide and aerial.
  • A ground push to take the other’s capital would be a latter phase, probably well after the United States got involved.
  • Within each country’s interior, aerial bombardments would be likely and widespread. Both countries’ air forces are among Latin America’s best-equipped. Venezuela’s is probably superior to Colombia’s, though not overwhelmingly so. Caracas has a fleet of Russian-made Sukhoi combat aircraft, which are probably in good condition, and some U.S-made F-16s, which probably aren’t. Bogotá has Israeli-made Kfir fighter jets and slower attack aircraft like A-10s and Super Tucanos. Aerial attacks would target infrastructure essential for transportation and economic activity. A longtime chavista official and politician speculated in July about using Sukhois to take out the seven bridges over the Magdalena river that traverses Colombia, “dividing it in two.”(Note added 2/24 2:15PM: Víctor Mijares at Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes told El Espectador last year that only 4 of Venezuela’s 24 Sukhois are operational. That seems low to me, but even if true, a lot of damage could be done with 10-12 sorties each.)
  • Expect even limited aerial attacks to do significant damage, with civilian loss of life, in large cities and at refineries and other economic targets.
  • Naval blockades of major ports, at least on the Caribbean, would be more damaging to Venezuela than Colombia, which has ports on two oceans.
  • Colombia’s ground forces are larger and have more combat experience, and would likely give Colombia the overall military advantage despite Venezuela having some air superiority. Venezuela’s forces are of uncertain loyalty, probably far more corrupt and indisciplined, weakened by years of promotions based more on political criteria than merit, and less funded. I suspect that much of Venezuela’s military equipment is precariously maintained and semi-functional. Colombia’s forces aren’t corruption-free, but have undergone reforms over the past 15 years that have somewhat improved discipline and professionalism, and its equipment is in better shape. Colombia would also benefit from imagery, intercepts, and other intelligence and advice from the United States. While conflict would be hugely costly for both countries, Colombia would probably be the eventual victor, if it came to that.
  • A giant wild card, both at this phase and especially after a formal military defeat, is the chavista capacity for guerrilla-style fighting. The Venezuelan government has armed hundreds of thousands as “colectivos” and “Bolivarian Militias.” These, along with renegade Chavista elements of the security forces, intelligence agents, a small leftist insurgency called the FPL, and perhaps even members of Colombia’s ELN, could be factors in the fighting. However, these would probably play a larger role after the Maduro government is forced out, and I’ll discuss them more below.
  • Another wild card is Russia. Don’t expect a commitment of Russian troops, but we’ve seen Moscow’s capacity for cheaper forms of intervention: cyber-attacks; targeted assassinations of leaders, often through poisoning; and spreading false information. Russia can also ensure that Venezuelan personnel have enough fuel and ammunition. China, which has loaned massive amounts to Venezuela to be repaid in oil, would probably stay on the sidelines.

If this happens, the United States would almost certainly get involved militarily. What would that look like?

  • To envision this, we have to borrow from the U.S. performance in Iraq and Afghanistan. The early phases of a direct U.S. intervention would probably be marked by a “shock and awe” campaign of targeted bombardments, intended to force Maduro and his circle to leave power quickly.
  • One hopes that this phase would be surgical, limited to military targets. One hopes, too, that U.S. forces would take better care this time not to destroy infrastructure on which the civilian population depends, and that it will be essential to rebuild quickly: the electrical grid, clean water, transportation, medical facilities.
  • Still, it is hard to be surgical in a city of 3 million like Caracas. There will be collateral damage. U.S. bombs, missiles, and drones will kill civilians.
  • If aerial bombardments don’t succeed in dislodging the regime, then expect a commitment of land forces. That could mean urban warfare and house-to-house fighting. This is the worst-case scenario, as it would mean being bogged down with far higher U.S. casualties than anticipated.
  • A wild card here are the Venezuelan people themselves. About two-thirds to three-quarters of them oppose Maduro, but how many will welcome foreign occupiers? Will U.S. personnel be “greeted as liberators?” Will local leaders be able to overlook Donald Trump reviving U.S. gunboat diplomacy on a scale not seen in generations? And even if the Venezuelan people do welcome the foreign occupiers, can the chavistas’ irregular forces terrorize them from actively collaborating?

Between a U.S. invasion and multilateral efforts to silence the weapons, open hostilities would probably end quickly. As happened in Iraq, the Maduro government would almost certainly be pushed out. Top regime officials would either be killed or forced into exile. What would happen then?

  • The good news is that Juan Guaidó would become the interim president for real, with actual executive power. As foreseen in the constitution, Venezuela would have to schedule free and fair elections as quickly as logistically possible. And these elections would have to happen super-quickly because, coming after a military defeat and amid a U.S. intervention or occupation, Venezuela’s next government would need a clear claim to legitimacy.
  • A big question for this new government is how much latitude the Trump administration would allow it to have in making decisions about the future. What bureaucrats and officials get purged? Would Washington have veto power over which officials get put in charge of key aspects of government? In rebuilding its economy and energy sector, could the next government stray at all from free-market orthodoxy, or will it be compelled to construct a Milton Friedman utopia?
  • The Venezuelan military would likely be purged of the most radical chavistas, but we would probably not see a repeat of the abolition of the Iraqi military, which made it very hard to keep order after the invasion, and fed the ranks of the insurgency. Still, some purged officers could go fugitive and become leaders of a violent “resistance.”
  • Imposing order on what is already the most violent non-war country in the world will be a huge and expensive task. Preventing looting and generalized disorder—something the “Coalition Provisional Authority” failed miserably to do after the fall of Saddam Hussein—will require a big commitment. There will be much infrastructure to rebuild, too, so that people see quick improvements in their lives. Rebuilding will also have to happen in Colombia, if hostilities do indeed occur there. Billions, if not tens of billions, in foreign assistance will be needed.

It’s at this phase where the “Venezuelan insurgency” question moves to the forefront. How likely is this, and how large a challenge would it be?

  • While I dislike recurring so often to the Iraq analogy (“fighting the last war”), it’s pretty likely that a post-conflict Venezuela would, as in Iraq, be challenged by insurgents committing acts of asymmetrical warfare. I have no idea whether the colectivos, Bolivarian Militias, expelled officers, renegade security forces, intelligence services, ELN, FPL, and others would collapse or persist. But it’s very plausible that many would persist, even without a unified leadership structure. They’d have illicit revenue streams, like cocaine, extortion, and fuel piracy, to sustain themselves. They could also be supplied by Russia.
  • Look at the “Bolivarian militias” alone. They have between 500,000 and 2 million members. Many are poorly trained, and probably undisciplined. Still, if even 10 percent of the low estimate opt for clandestine warfare, that’s 50,000 fighters from this force alone. At its height, Colombia’s FARC had half that.
  • And again, add to them the armed thugs in the “colectivos,” the FAES and other police units, the SEBIN, the FPL, the ELN, and any other radical elements who opt for violence.
  • Already,, an international firearms observatory, estimates there are 2.7 million illicit firearms in Venezuela. That’s the highest estimate in South America after Brazil.
  • This “insurgency” could make governance impossible in several regions and urban neighborhoods, perhaps for years. It could develop a big capacity to carry out terrorist attacks.
  • Under this scenario, U.S. forces could find themselves in Venezuela for many months, or even a few years—perhaps even propping up the Venezuelan government with “hearts and minds” counter-insurgency campaigns. Even if it is only a tiny fraction of the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, it would cost many billions of dollars.
  • The long-term presence of U.S. combat troops in a major Latin American country would be unpopular throughout the region, even among centrists. That would fundamentally remake the U.S. relationship with the Western Hemisphere, erasing goodwill efforts going back to FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy.

Do other options still exist?

Yes. Here, I’m just summarizing the work of my WOLA colleagues who focus on Venezuela full time, David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey. Read their Venezuela blog, if you’re not doing so already.

  • Negotiations for their own sake are no longer an option. The Maduro government has used them to buy time, and they’ve gone nowhere.
  • Negotiations about the terms of the Maduro government’s exit still make lots of sense. They offer hope of a soft landing. That means negotiating how to hold internationally certified, free and fair elections as soon as possible. That has to be the central topic of any future dialogues.
  • This may include transitional justice for Maduro government and military officials, who are unlikely to exit peacefully if they believe they’ll be hanging from lampposts. Those who committed human rights abuses or gross corruption would have to be held accountable for what they did and make reparations to victims, but reduced sentences would be likely.
  • A negotiated arrangement may even include allowing Maduro or other regime officials to run in elections—though they’d likely lose a free and fair election by a landslide.
  • An International Contact Group, formed in early February, calls for dialogue aimed at organizing elections and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. It specifically avoids dialogues that the Maduro government could use to delay action further. The Contact Group involves the EU (European Commission), eight European governments, and four Latin American nations. As David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey explain, this mechanism is hopeful and deserves serious consideration.
  • Even negotiations about elections will require consistent, external, multilateral pressure. Efforts that lay bare the Maduro government’s moral bankruptcy, like yesterday’s attempt to bring humanitarian aid, can help to apply that pressure. So do sanctions, as long as they affect the powerful inside Venezuela and don’t compound the suffering of the majority. And the Trump administration must avoid being perceived as getting out ahead of the rest of the region, which plays right into the Maduro regime’s narrative of resistance to a long history of U.S. bullying.

The status quo in Venezuela is tragic and untenable. I argue here that a military intervention could inflict serious harm, drag on at length, and compound the tragedy. Options still exist to thread the needle between these two extremes. Multilateral action and non-military pressure can still force the scheduling of free and fair elections. We must exhaust those options first.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Tuesday, February 26

Wednesday, February 27

Thursday, February 28

  • 9:00–10:30 at the Atlantic Council: Open for Business: A New Chapter for US-Brazil Relations? (RSVP required).
  • 1:00–2:30 at the U.S. Institute of Peace: What is the State of the Rule of Law Around the World in 2019? (RSVP required).
  • 3:00–5:00 at WOLA: Responding to America’s Opioids Crisis (RSVP required).

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

February 22, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

The document asks for locations where border wall construction would improve the “effectiveness” of military troops deployed there

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is asking for a priority list, as well as the data used to generate that priority list, to help him determine “what projects we support” and what could be delayed

New government statistics show 250 parents have been separated from children since a June court order. Separations of siblings and other relatives could account for hundreds more


As Bolsonaro World quickly melts into a puddle, Mourão apparently spotted an opening — the latest chapter in a roller coaster of political controversies for the vice president


La meta de erradicación de cultivos que, de acuerdo con el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, es eliminar 280.000 hectáreas

El sociólogo y periodista lidera el trabajo de la Comisión de la Verdad en la Orinoquia y la Amazonia. Charlamos con él sobre el reto personal de construir una versión fiel a la realidad

Humberto de la Calle, Juan Fernando Cristo, Carlos Antonio Lozada y Rodrigo Londoño, entre otros exnegociadores de ambos bandos, se volvieron a ver las caras

Colombia, Venezuela

Pence will deliver remarks to the 14 nations that are part of the “Lima Group” in Bogota about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and ongoing U.S. efforts to deliver aid to the country


La tensión en la capital es palpable y el miedo ha hecho que muchas personas aún prefieran resguardarse en sus casas

Honduras, Mexico

Desde el inicio de año han sido retornados al país 7,741 connacionales que representan, según el informe, un 20.9% menos que los del 2018, que a esta misma fecha alcanzaba 9,972 personas


H&K was found to have breached German arms export rules by shipping nearly 5,000 G36 assault rifles and smaller firearms to strife-torn regions

A series of increasingly tough actions in Mexico suggest Lopez Obrador has turned his back on those promises and is tacitly cooperating with the Trump administration to stop the flow of Central American migrants

Se acordó que las fuerzas armadas cedan temporalmente elementos de sus policías militar y naval para conformar la fuerza inicial de la Guardia Nacional, que se sujetará al fuero civil. La Guardia podrá investigar delitos del fuero común

“Podemos decir que es un resultado y un triunfo de la sociedad civil (…) este dictamen puede nos puede poner en la ruta correcta en que la seguridad pública siga siendo una tarea y responsabilidad civil”

He was a human rights activist, producer for a community radio station and long-time opponent of the Proyecto Integral Morelos (the integral project for Morelos) – which includes the plant and pipeline


Hugo Carvajal, 58, who is a congressman in the governing Socialist Party, urged the military to break with the president ahead of a showdown with the opposition on Saturday over Mr. Maduro’s blockade of aid shipments

The volunteers were trying to keep open a part of the Venezuela-Brazil border to allow for delivery of humanitarian aid

An American invasion would thus be highly risky. It would also be counter-productive, because it would deprive a new government of legitimacy and revive anti-imperialism across Latin America

The best role for the United States is to provide the diplomatic, economic and logistical support that is needed for collective action by the governments of Latin America to succeed, preferably by peaceful means

In some respects, the world’s most powerful country showing up at Venezuela’s border with truckloads of food and medicine is much better than what it has done in the past

The day ahead: February 22, 2019

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

Yesterday was a bit of a wash for me. I was so tired from flying in late from the west coast, and from that string of 18-hour days of volunteering and research interviews, that it took me hours just to write the trip notes that I posted in the afternoon.

Today, after sleeping 10 hours, I feel a lot more coherent. I’ve got just one phone interview on the schedule, so will be in the office catching up on the inboxes that piled up while I was away for 11 days: e-mails, calls and whatsapps, and news. This will give me a better idea of how I’ll be able to use my time over the next month, but it will take several hours.

Top-line notes from my February 11-20 border trip

I spent the week of February 11, and some of this week, in San Diego and Tijuana. It was like holding down two jobs. Each day:

  • At 4:30am, I’d go to the airport and escort migrant families to the flights that, in most cases, relatives had purchased for them. The San Diego Rapid Response Network migrant shelter dropped them off at the terminal, and I’d accompany them through ticketing, the TSA, and to their gates. The shelter desperately needed airport guides: no family I accompanied had ever been in an airport before. I did a few families each day. By this week, San Diego TSA agents knew me by sight, and dreaded seeing me.
  • Then I’d go into either SD or TJ and do research, interviewing a few people working, in some capacity, on the humanitarian situation: shelters, experts, lawyers, journalists.
  • By 4:00pm, I’d head over to the shelter—that’s when DHS/ICE would start dropping off apprehended migrant families—and do whatever volunteer work was needed: copying immigration forms, sorting and handing out clothes, serving food, driving people to the bus station or, one time, the hospital. That shift ostensibly ended at 8:00 but sometimes ran longer—and ICE buses would make drop-offs as late as 11:00pm.

This trip multiplied the number of Central American migrants whom I’ve had the chance to get to know. I came away impressed with the work of the San Diego Rapid Response Network, who are doing a heroic job trying to keep up with the flow of families. Please consider donating to them, or buying things on their Amazon wishlist. It’s a lean, effective organization.

Here are a few observations from this visit. This is in raw form, as I just got back to Washington after midnight last night.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network receives the migrants whom ICE would otherwise be dropping off at the bus station, and provides them brief respite while they make travel arrangements. During my first week, I saw intakes range from a low of 40-something people per day to about 90. Two days this week, though, it shot up to way over 100. This requires use of overflow facilities. It’s not clear why the number surged.

Of the migrants I accompanied in the shelter and airport, most were from Honduras and Guatemala. The Hondurans (and a few Salvadorans) were largely from cities. Most Guatemalans, on the other hand, were from seriously remote parts of the western highlands, from Jutiapa to Quiché to Huehuetenango (I talked to people from at least seven departments of Guatemala, but none from the capital). The urbanites were more savvy and talkative. The rural dwellers were much quieter, more nervous and apprehensive; often, their Spanish was rudimentary.

Languages that people spoke into my phone, as they called relatives to let them know when they’d be arriving: Spanish, Haitian Creole, K’iche’, Kakchiquel, and Qan’jobal.

Lots of families had very young children, five or younger. One parent was the norm. Some had teenage kids, who usually did much of the communicating. A few babies were alarmingly listless and small for their apparent ages. Lots of kids coughing.

Many of the Guatemalans were from the northwestern department of Huehuetenango. Many had arrived in southern Mexico during the post-January 15 caravan/wave and had been given Mexican humanitarian visas.

I didn’t meet a single family who had waited on the “list” at the port of entry, though I heard many of them do pass through the shelter. Everyone who would talk about it said they went over a low part of the fence, or “in the mountains.” In most cases, Border Patrol was waiting on the other side. Some had only left their homes in late January or early February, crossed Mexico and gone in and out of Border Patrol custody—some made the whole trip in three weeks or less.

Will all of these people qualify for asylum? Probably not. Still, a significant portion no doubt have strong asylum claims, and it’s going to be up to judges to sort that out.

The “list” continues for asylum seekers waiting to present themselves at the Tijuana port of entry. The number being called was in the 1,960s on February 14. It was in the 1,650s on January 9. (Each number stands for 10 migrants, though many do not show when their names are called—they give up or cross elsewhere.)

The latest numbers on the “list,” posted outside Tijuana’s Chaparral port of entry.

I didn’t see anybody get “returned to Mexico” under the new DHS initiative called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” and challenged by a lawsuit filed last week. Those returns happen irregularly, at different times of day, and some days not at all. As of February 14, it had been done to 65 people, though it was accelerating with the February 13 return of 18 people, including the first families with children.

Few migrants with whom I spoke knew where in the United States they were, or how far from their intended destinations. Very few were headed to the west coast; nearly all were going east of the Mississippi.

None with whom I spoke had strong complaints about Border Patrol treatment. Mostly, agents were described as indifferent and ignoring them: no reports of rough or abusive treatment. A few sounded kind. Border Patrol did separate one migrant, though, from a 16-year-old cousin for whom that individual was a guardian. Many complained about the burritos that Border Patrol gives in custody, and said they were very hungry because there was nothing else to eat. Of those who told me, those who had spent the least amount of time in custody had spent just a day or two; a father and son said they had been together in custody for five days. Not clear whether that owed to Border Patrol suspicions about them, or to logistics.

The 17 or 18 shelters on the Mexican side are near capacity too, especially now that the Mexican government has closed the El Barretal facility that housed many of the October caravan members.

It’s incredible that these private/church run shelters are getting the burden of “Remain in Mexico” completely dumped on them. The Mexican government, which agreed to the short-term deportations, is putting up no resources to accommodate those who are returned.

The number of Mexican citizens deported to Tijuana is a steady 120 per day, with little variation. Deportees used to be most of the Tijuana shelters’ population, but with so many northbound migrant families, now only some of the shelters attend to deportees.

The Mexican government’s National Migration Institute is not allowing unaccompanied Central American kids to present at the border for asylum. If it apprehends them, the INM sends them to the DIF, the Mexican government child welfare institute. It’s not clear what happens next: it seems some may be sent back to their home countries, back to the danger that they’re fleeing. About 30 are in one Tijuana shelter, in a state of “limbo jurídico,” the shelter doesn’t know what to do with them. The unaccompanied children situation in Tijuana is untenable.

Operation Streamline—the criminal prosecution of migrants who cross between ports of entry—is much different in California’s federal criminal courts than in Arizona’s. The result is probably similar—guilty verdicts and jail time, not being applied right now to parents—but the process offers more of an opportunity to claim “not guilty” or at least to petition for a lighter sentence. Instead of 60-ish defendants saying “culpable, culpable” in succession, as in Arizona, the magistrate judge in San Diego asks 6-8 defendants at a time to each answer a series of questions: whether they were coerced, whether they are on medication affecting their judgment, whether they understand the consequences of a guilty plea, and a few more. The magistrate judge and the DOJ prosecutors seemed inclined to give “time served” sentences to all first-time offenders, and rarely threw the book at second-time offenders. Defense lawyers have a chance to seek lenience by describing some defendants’ life circumstances. Each group of 6-8 appeared to take 45-60 minutes to enter guilty pleas and receive sentences.

U.S. on the left, Mexico on the right.

CBP provisions in the 2019 budget

(I wrote this a few hours ago, before we learned that Trump is going the national emergency route. Either way, this is what’s in the law that he’s going to sign.)

Hi from Tijuana. I’m between meetings again and looking over the text of the budget compromise that Congress will be voting on, and that President Trump must sign into law by tomorrow to keep the government from shutting down again.

I only have time to go over the section for Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol, CBP at the ports of entry, and CBP’s Air and Marine office. I’m going to have to leave before I can give a good look to the ICE section.

The language is mostly good on CBP: the Democrats got a lot of what they asked for.


  • $58m for 600 new CBP officers at the official ports of entry. (While there are big downsides to increasing manpower of an agency with insufficient accountability, the ports of entry are overwhelmed, and this could help reduce border-crossing wait times, reduce “metering” of asylum-seekers, and interdict more opioids and other drugs.)
  • About $600m for new technology / scanning / canines at ports of entry. (Makes sense since well over 80% of all drugs except cannabis go through ports of entry.)
  • $1m for rescue beacons for migrants lost in the desert.
  • $192m for food and medical care for migrants in CBP custody: $128m for medical personnel, $40.2m for food, infant formula, and diapers; $24.5m for transportation between facilities. (This is fantastic. Democrats were shocked by what they’ve seen of detention conditions, and it’s great that they’re acting on it.)
  • Required briefing of committees about improvements in procedures for welfare of migrants in CBP custody. (Great. A public hearing would be even better.)
  • $192m for a new short-term CBP migrant processing facility in El Paso; $30m for improvements to the one in McAllen. Specifies that temperatures should be appropriate, no more chain-link cages, no more mylar blankets. (The famous facility with the “cages” in McAllen serves a purpose, as it can take up to 72 hours to place asylum-seeking kids and families. But the conditions in that facility are awful, mainly because of a super-stingy budget. These improvements are welcome.)
  • Urging, but not fully requiring, CPB to keep unaccompanied siblings together.
  • No increase in Border Patrol agents. (This is great, Border Patrol has quintupled in size since the 1990s. There are enough agents, but they’re poorly distributed geographically.)
  • Cuts to funds for recruitment and screening of new Border Patrol hires (to maintain current levels), and to Border Patrol agent relocation and retention. (This is less great. Good agents should get raises, it takes too long to hire replacements because of background-check backlogs, and it makes a lot more sense to relocate than to hire.)
  • Reporting on use of force allegations, drug seizures, checkpoint operations, roving patrol stops, deaths in custody, status of port of entry improvement projects, incident cameras. (Reporting is good. CBP needs to submit these reports on time.)

Not Great:

  • $1.375b for “pedestrian fencing”: 55 miles in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas. (Language does not specify that the “pedestrian fencing” must follow existing designs, so if Trump wants to make it look like a “wall,” he can. On the other hand, the White House was demanding $5.7b for 234 miles.)
  • $10m for additional border drone flight hours.

Mid-Visit Notes from the Border

(I wrote these notes earlier today, in the middle of “day 3” here at the border.)

Hello from a coffee shop in central Tijuana. I’m taking a moment between meetings to talk about what I’m seeing on my second visit here so far this year.

I’m interviewing experts, officials, and service providers on both sides of the border. In between, I’m pulling volunteer shifts with the coalition of local church and humanitarian groups providing brief shelter, food, and travel assistance to mostly Central American asylum-seeking family members whom ICE releases from custody into San Diego—several dozen every day.

Here are a few impressions, as of day three:

— The airline employees and TSA agents at the San Diego airport are really nice. I’ve guided several families through to their flights to where relatives await—Florida, Pennsylvania, Kansas, North Carolina, and elsewhere. (I’ve done some bus station runs too.) Flying isn’t easy when your ID is your ICE “release on recognizance” form, you’ve got an electronic GPS ankle monitor, you’ve got a small child or two, and (for everyone I’ve been with) you’ve never been inside an airport before. All the big airlines, though, have this figured out by now: if the flight is full, they bend over backwards to try to seat the parent and child together. I have no problem getting an “escort pass” to get to the gate. TSA agents, who have to pat everyone down, have all been patient and friendly. Some kids even got little gold “badge” stickers. Many of the other passengers have been cool. Good for you, San Diego Airport.

— A large number of the families I’ve encountered are from rural Guatemala and coastal Honduras. Nearly all are with children under five or six years old, and often with babies under one. Nobody has more than one or two small backpacks of belongings, and these are full of clothes donated by the community. Nobody I’ve accompanied has a mobile phone. Some of those arriving now had a less brutal journey across Mexico, because the new Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador briefly provided humanitarian visas to new arrivals from Central America. Many of these chose to stay in Mexico—but with a legal identity document, those who wanted to move on to the United States could at least take a bus instead of traveling in the shadows with smugglers.

— Most arrived by hopping the fence or crossing the border in a rural area, rather than presenting their asylum request to U.S. officials at an official land crossing (“port of entry”). Requesting asylum at the port of entry would be far better: it’s the safest way, because you don’t have to run a gauntlet of Mexican organized crime to get to un-fenced border areas. It’s technically the more legal way too, since crossing improperly is a misdemeanor. But the port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego—the busiest border crossing in the hemisphere, if not the world—is only accepting about 40-60 asylum seekers on a typical day. U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls this “metering.” Whatever you call it, there are at least 2,500 people on an improvised waiting list in Tijuana, awaiting their turns to approach the border crossing. The wait stretches about six weeks in uncertain, often unsafe conditions in Tijuana, a city in the midst of a record homicide wave. This creates a perverse incentive to take the risky route to a more rural area, climb the fence or hike through rugged terrain, then wait for Border Patrol to apprehend you and your kids.

— Now, even after waiting those six weeks, some asylum-seekers are getting sent back into Mexico to await their day in immigration court. The Trump administration is sending a couple of dozen Central Americans back into Mexico each day, under a unilateral program that they call “Migrant Protection Protocols” but we call “Remain in Mexico.” Under very heavy pressure from Washington, Mexico agreed to this, in principle, just before Christmas. But it has pushed back somewhat. For now, the Mexican government is only taking back asylum-seekers over the age of 18—no families—and only from Central America’s “northern triangle” countries. Still, every day now a group of exhausted-looking adult asylum-seekers crosses back in to Mexico, where they must find legal help to make their cases: many weeks from now, they’ll be admitted back across the border to appear before U.S. immigration judges.

— You don’t see it if you live in San Diego, unless you work for a federal agency, for one of the airlines or bus companies, or for a local service provider. But there’s a quiet humanitarian crisis going on, here and elsewhere at the border. Of every migrant whom Border Patrol is apprehending right now, 3 out of 5 are kids, or parents with kids. That’s never happened before: in 2012, it reached 1 in 10 for the first time. The San Diego Rapid Response Network’s respite center, which helps the new arrivals, needs all the resources it can get. Amid gang violence, rampant extortion, drought and extreme poverty, Central Americans are placing their hope in the U.S. asylum system.

— Some will qualify, some won’t. But the Trump administration’s response couldn’t be worse. That response is symbolized, for me, by barbed wire. There’s concertina wire everywhere along this border. It surrounds the “Mexico” sign as you enter into Tijuana. It tops the border fence that extends from the beach about 100 yards into the Pacific. It’s coiled along the barrier near the paved-over Tijuana River, where border agents used tear gas in November to disperse “caravan” participants, including women and children. It was put there by an ongoing deployment of active-duty military troops to the border, a use of active (not reserve or National Guard) troops that has very few modern precedents on U.S. soil.

— The Central American migrants I’ve met are hopeful and palpably relieved, even though much lies ahead of them. Their kids pay close attention when I point out a jet taking off, follow the route on my rental car’s GPS app, or read “Where the Wild Things Are” in Spanish. After spending time with them, it’s jarring to hear the lies and scare tactics coming from the White House and congressional hardliners, and repeated on Fox News and social media. We need the federal government to make the work of the service providers here easier, not harder. Until we get that, we need firm allies in Congress who’ll do good oversight and who’ll refuse to fund more walls or barbed wire.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, February 11, 2019

  • 2:30–3:30 at the Heritage Foundation: Venezuela at a Tipping Point (RSVP required).
  • 5:30–7:30 at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies: Foreign Policy in Bolsonaro’s Brazil (RSVP required).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

  • 12:30–2:00 at Georgetown University: Public Policies for Early Childhood in Brazil (1988–2016) (RSVP required).
  • 4:15–5:30 in the Ronald Reagan Building: President Iván Duque Márquez: Colombia’s Domestic and Regional Opportunities and Challenges (RSVP required).

Friday, February 15, 2019

  • 12:45–2:00 at the Wilson Center: The USMCA and the Future of Mexico’s Trade Policy under AMLO (RSVP required).

6:30 in the morning in San Diego

And I’ve already helped 2 Honduran moms, their kids, and their ankle bracelets make their way through airport security and onto their flights. Going to be a good day, I think.

Back in San Diego

I just landed in San Diego. I’ll be here and in Tijuana all week. I’ve got a reasonably full—but not crammed—agenda and a long and evolving list of research questions (reproduced below).

This is an unusual trip for me, for at least four reasons.

First, I’m by myself all week, not with any colleagues. That almost never happens on research trips. This has its disadvantages—I have some blind spots. But it also makes the schedule more flexible and lets me dig deep on the subjects I want to investigate more.

Second, I’ll be spending about two-thirds of the time in “non-interview” settings. I’ll be pulling volunteer shifts at the migrant shelter that local organizations have thrown together to attend to asylum-seekers released by ICE with a court date. I’ll be lingering in the park by the gate in Tijuana where asylum-seekers inscribe themselves in a “notebook” to wait their turn to ask U.S. Customs and Border Protection guards for protection, and where those forced to “remain in Mexico” are returned under a new Trump administration initiative. I’ll be sitting in the federal courthouse watching how California implements “zero tolerance” on those who cross between ports of entry.

I’ll also be meeting with shelter personnel, lawyers, journalists, local government officials, and advocates. Unfortunately I’ve had no luck so far getting meetings with CBP or Border Patrol; I haven’t spoken to the San Diego Sector in a few years.

Third, this is my second time here in five weeks. With the border work, I was starting to feel like one of those “experts” who parachutes into a sector every year or two and pumps everyone for information. Not a great look. With a historic humanitarian (but not security) crisis involving a tide of asylum-seekers, people here are busy. I want to do more accompaniment, and less making them sit across a table fro me while I pepper them with questions. The plan is to spend approximately a week here per month during the first months of the year. I was here January 8-11 and, well, here I am again.

Fourth, a five-day trip is so much better than our norm of two to four. I don’t feel rushed. I can spend time with people without having to run off. I can take lots of notes and process them as I go.

Fifth, my wife and daughter will be joining me at the weekend. Washington’s schools are closed all of next week, and my daughter has a community service requirement. So they’ll be helping out in the migrant shelter too.

Here’s the list of research questions I made. Subject to change.

I. How are asylum-seeking migrants handling “metering” at the port of entry?

A. How does the “notebook” work? What are the system’s flaws?
B. Where are migrants coming from now?
C. Why did migrants go to Tijuana, as opposed to other border crossings? (Caravan made a considered decision)
D. How are migrants arriving? How often do they have humanitarian or other visas?
E. What do migrants say about what they’re fleeing?
F. What do migrants say that their plans are? How do they regard their asylum prospects? Do they seem well informed?
G. What are smugglers telling or offering migrants?
H. How are shelter personnel dealing with this vastly changed population? What is their capacity?
I. Would migrants advise relatives in Central America to attempt the same journey?

II. “Remain in Mexico”

A. How is Remain in Mexico being applied?
B. How many people per day are being returned?
C. What happens to those people while they wait in Mexico? Are shelters able to accommodate them?
D. What do shelters and Tijuana-based officials fear is going to happen?

III. How is the U.S. government performing?

A. What happens to asylum-seekers upon arrival at ports of entry?
B. How many are coming every day, approximately? How many are being let in?
C. What happens with those who are crossing between ports of entry?
D. How is “dumping” occurring with asylum-seeking families in the sector?
E. Is the San Diego sector still #1 or #2 in seizures of heroin, fentanyl, meth, and cocaine?
F. What does the U.S. military deployment look like now? How do stakeholders evaluate it?
G. How do migrants (both regular asylum-seekers and RIM deportees) describe their treatment at the hands of U.S. officials?
H. What are the main use of force issues? Which agencies?

IV. What happens to the Mexican deportee population?

V. How is the Mexican government performing?

A. How is it dealing with “metering?” Are Mexican officials “pre-metering?” How is the humanitarian visa process going?
B. How is the Mexican government pushing back on “Remain in Mexico?”
C. Are Mexican agencies or officials cooperating with U.S. counterparts? Are they doing so in a way that affects migrants’ rights?
D. What is the humanitarian visa issue like right now?
E. What is the Mexican government paying for right now?
F. What do migrants say their experience with the Mexican government has been? Different agencies?
G. Is corruption an issue in Tijuana? How does it manifest with migrants?
H. Are there use-of-force issues with Mexican agencies?

VI. What is the security situation in Tijuana in general?

A. What explains the spike in homicides?
B. How does the security situation impact migrants in Baja California? Have migrants encountered threats or abuse? Do they feel safe? Is the greater threat from common crime or organized crime?
C. Clearly the Sinaloa “Pax Mafiosa” has ended. What is the current configuration of violent groups?
D. How does corruption in the security forces contribute to violence? Which forces are alleged to have the deepest institutional weaknesses?

The day ahead: February 8, 2019

I’ll be around mid-day. (How to contact me)

This is my last day in the office until Thursday the 21st—I go to San Diego/Tijuana on Sunday. This morning I’ll be doing VOA’s “Foro Interamericano” show and talking to a Colombia-based reporter. In the afternoon I’ve got an all-hands meeting at WOLA and a call with a colleague. In between I’ll be driving as hard as I can to finish a memo about Colombia.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Animal Político (Mexico). Caption: “Una de las caravanas recibe atención en Coahuila.”

(Even more here)

February 6, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

“I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,” Lujan Grisham said

Trump would probably not be willing to sign a joint resolution to reject his own emergency declaration, so that means that Congress would need to override him with a two-thirds majority in each chamber

Trump has chained himself to the wall so completely that it’s no longer possible for anyone to tell where it ends and his presidency begins


Bolsonaro recebeu o convite oficial de Trump para visitar os Estados Unidos no dia seguinte ao de sua posse. A mensagem foi entregue pelo secretário de Estado americano, Mike Pompeo


Franklin Castañeda, delegado de la Coordinación Colombia-Europa-Estados Unidos, explica los reparos al Plan de Acción Oportuna de Protección a líderes del Gobierno Nacional. Se oponen a la vinculación en el programa del cuestionado general Leonardo Barrero

Zonas Estratégicas de Intervención Integral (ZEII), espacios territoriales donde se concentran altos índices de criminalidad, necesidades básicas insatisfechas, pobreza extrema y población en condición de vulnerabilidad

Emilio Archila aseguró que el Gobierno solucionará los problemas de vivienda de miles de excombatientes que aún están concentrados en los ETCR. Además, dijo que trabajan en un esquema especial de protección para el partido de la Farc durante la campaña electoral

Un informe del programa Somos Defensores, el Cinep, la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, la Comisión Colombiana de Juristas y el portal Verdad Abierta, investigó qué está pasando

Colombia, Venezuela

One shelter counted about 1,200 migrants passing through in one day this month, nearly twice what they counted weekly in early December

El Salvador

It is consequential for El Salvador and the hemisphere for several reasons, ranging from the U.S. migration issue to the rise of populism and the health of democracy to the tide of anger over corruption to the relevance of social media On Sunday, 37 year-old anti-establishment candidate Nayib Bukele won the presidency of El Salvador. What does it mean?

Superficial proposals, along with a lack of alliances in the country’s legislative assembly, could make it difficult for Bukele to bring about real change

Just who is who in the fight is blurring, and many police are more willing to use any means necessary to beat back an enemy they think the government hasn’t the will to do so

The United States can help by extending the temporary residence in this country of Salvadorans obliged to settle here after another of their country’s occasional disasters: a 2001 earthquake


Guatemala’s conservative president, himself an evangelical Christian, has succeeded in shattering the political consensus, forging alliances with a coalition of U.S. conservatives


“If anyone tries to cross the border illegally, they’ll be arrested,” Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said

El presidente de la República, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reveló el viernes la estrategia para disminuir el índice delictivo en Tijuana, la cual consta de contar con más presencia de elementos militares y Policía Federal en tareas preventivas

Starting about two years ago, traffickers began offering less and less, and rumors circulated that the price drop was due to competition from a new synthetic drug, manufactured in China and also in some fentanyl-producing laboratories detected in other parts of Mexico

The area of Mexico that illegally farms opium poppies grew by more than one-fifth last year, to an area the size of Philadelphia, according to a U.N.-backed study published in November

Dos caravanas migrantes, conformadas por cerca de 5,500 personas, recorren actualmente territorio mexicano, una en Chiapas y otra entre Coahuila y Nuevo León

“Why did they pick us out of the whole group? There were 47 of us that entered into a room, and 11 were sent back. Why?”


“Nuestro armamento ha mostrado su valía, tanto en Venezuela como en países cercanos como Perú y Brasil, y haremos todo lo posible para mantener su capacidad combativa. Este es nuestro objetivo principal”, dijo el funcionario ruso

Two documents illustrate the erosion of the armed forces

While Russian officials have publicly ruled out talks with the opposition, contacts are likely taking place behind the scenes, according to analysts in Moscow

Getting the aid into Venezuela, past Mr. Maduro’s security forces and into the right hands will be a critical test of the opposition’s ability to rally the nation and establish an interim government

The U.S. officials said trucks carrying the humanitarian aid were headed to Cucuta and would arrive later this week at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido

The Venezuelan military had used a tanker truck and a cargo container to block access to the Tienditas bridge which links Cucuta, Colombia to Urena, Venezuela

The day ahead: February 6, 2019

I’ll be around mid-afternoon. (How to contact me)

This morning I’ve got (yet another) internal planning meeting, a sit-down with colleagues who work at the border, a meeting with a UN agency representative, some time this afternoon to prep my next border trip and do some documentary research, and an interview with some grad students doing a Latin America defense project.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Jonathan Clark photo at Nogales International. Caption: “A school bus rolls past the concertina wire-covered fence at East International and Nelson streets on Monday morning.”

(Even more here)

February 5, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Since Trump’s election, the proportion of Americans wanting to increase immigration levels has grown — from 21% in June 2016 to a record-high 30% now

A number of Republican lawmakers are wary about that approach for various reasons, including the precedent that would be set for a future Democratic president and the possibility that they might have to vote on a disapproval resolution

By proceeding under an emergency order, the president opens the door to public use and necessity challenges that would probably not be otherwise available to landowners

Amid calls from local officials to remove the existing concertina wire attached to the border fence, U.S. Army troops on Saturday installed new rows of wire

Mr. McConnell told Mr. Trump that he would have no choice but to schedule a floor vote on the measure within 15 days, and Republican aides have estimated that between three and 10 Republicans would side with the chamber’s Democrats against Mr. Trump

But in recent months, Trump administration policies have slowed the flow of asylum-seekers into the U.S., leaving many migrants stranded far from home, vulnerable to violence in dangerous border cities and unable to request asylum

Some may have been, for example, friends or neighbors who were asked by families to bring children with them on the journey north to protect them from violence

This mischaracterization is part of a cynical strategy that uses trafficking to bolster arguments for harsh immigration policies and also makes it more difficult for non-citizen victims to remain safely in the U.S.

“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them”


According to publicly available information, 126 gender-based murders of women and 67 attempts have been reported so far in 2019


Ya son al menos cinco los disidentes caídos de la plana mayor. Hay tres a la espera de la extradición y aún están activos Gentil Duarte, el máximo jefe, y Jhon 40, el del poder financiero

Cinco días después del escándalo que estalló por cuenta del entorpecedor proceso que llevó a cabo el gobierno para entregar la solicitud al Departamento de Justicia en Washington, la Sección de Revisión, con cuatro votos a favor y uno en contra, acordó ampliar el plazo

Colombia, Venezuela

También estará sobre la mesa la agenda de la visita del presidente Iván Duque a Washington la semana del 13 de febrero para hablar con su par estadounidense, Donald Trump, sobre la situación de Venezuela


Militares y agentes municipales colocaron retenes en diferentes puntos de la ciudad para hacer revisiones aleatorias en automóviles. También hicieron rondines en las zonas más conflictivas

Mexico, Western Hemisphere Regional

The “revelations” that these witnesses have brought forward aren’t revelatory—they merely confirm what we’ve always known. I’ve been writing about the Mexican drug world for two decades, and I’ve heard credible accounts of these bribes and payoffs continually from day one


The government estimates more than 40,000 people have gone missing in Mexico, and there are about 26,000 unidentified bodies in the forensic system

El cartel les ofreció un trabajo con engaños, pero los esclavizó y los retiene a la fuerza. Hoy forman parte de los ejércitos del crimen organizado. Están vivos, pero están desaparecidos

At one point in Ecatepec, a city of two million people, ten times more women had been murdered than in Ciudad Juárez, the city in northern Mexico once considered the deadliest city in the world

The migrants — of whom about 1,300 are from Honduras, 200 are from Guatemala and 400-500 are from El Salvador — were being transported by state authorities from Saltillo, Mexico to Piedras Negras


Beijing has invested more than $62 billion in Venezuela, mostly through loans, since 2007. Last year, it imported 3.6 percent of its oil supply from the country, down from just over 5 percent in 2017

“En enero circuló una disposición de la GNB que señalaba a 3 mil personas sujetas a deserción. Es revelador que están perdiendo pie de fuerza para la represión, y desesperadamente está inventando y llamando a la Milicia”

En una declaración suscrita por 11 de sus 14 integrantes, el Grupo de Lima abogó por un cambio de gobierno en Venezuela, “sin uso de la fuerza”, y llamó a los militares a desconocer a Maduro y reconocer a Guaidó

“This is an absolute disaster,” said Luis Hernández, an oil union leader. “There’s almost no way to move the oil”

The day ahead: February 5, 2019

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

My afternoon is spent in a meeting with a senior colleague whom I haven’t seen in a while, a conversation with an intern, and a coalition meeting on Colombia. In the morning I’ll be scrambling to do some writing on Colombia and continue setting up my trip to the border next week.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

February 4, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Two days later after a defense official testified before the House Armed Services Committee, committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith criticized department officials for not disclosing the increase in troops or providing estimates

“The razor wire was way more aggressive than anything we had seen, which scared me. It felt like it was out of our hands as a border community. You feel powerless, like your voices aren’t heard”

GOP senators would have to decide between going on record in favor of a presidential declaration of a national emergency for something that everyone knows is based on false pretenses, a move that would be opposed by two-thirds of the country, or opposing it and possibly forcing a Trump veto


SEMANA habló con el nuevo jefe de la Misión de la ONU sobre su papel en la verificación del acuerdo, el estado de la implementación y sobre cómo sorteará los crecientes tropiezos que sufre la construcción de la paz

Los problemas que se están presentando en los territorios tienen que ver con dinámicas de acumulación de rentas, de poderes, de gente que se acostumbró a la guerra

Varios informes de inteligencia militar señalaban a “Rodrigo Cadete” como el enlace de las disidencias del Bloque Oriental de las Farc con las del resto del país, en un esfuerzo por trabajar de forma articulada

Without significant investment in the social dimensions of post-conflict interventions — such as dialogue, documentation, memorialization and trauma healing — broader reconstruction efforts, including foreign-funded infrastructure and development assistance, will not be effective

Tanto en términos territoriales como en términos ideológicos, la segunda generación de dirigentes ha consolidado al ELN. Esta generación tiene un discurso radical

Ahora, su apuesta es por el historiador antioqueño Darío Acevedo, cuyo currículo está en la Función Pública para observaciones ciudadanas. Si pasa este requisito podría ser el nuevo director

Desde hace más de cuarenta días las autoridades no registran homicidios en el puerto, que es el principal cultivador de coca del mundo

  • Ariel Ávila, Esteban Salazar, Como en la Epoca Paramilitar (Fundacion Paz y Reconciliacion, El Espectador (Colombia), February 4, 2019).

Todo parece indicar que el país se está incendiando porque no hay voluntad de paz, pero tampoco hay decisión para detener la violencia

Colombia, Venezuela

Informes de inteligencia de al menos tres países aseguran que esa organización ilegal, a cambio de refugio, también está entrenando a las células insurgentes que defenderían el régimen de Nicolás Maduro, en caso de que su eventual salida del poder tenga un desenlace violento

Desde septiembre del año pasado, y en medio del sigilo, Colombia, la oposición venezolana y varios gobiernos gestaron el plan que hoy tiene a Nicolás Maduro con un pie fuera de Miraflores

Nunca habíamos estado tan cerca de una guerra con Venezuela, como ahora

Colombia, Cuba

No solo se quedarían con el chicharrón, sino que correrían el riesgo de volver a figurar en la lista de países que patrocinan el terrorismo

El Salvador

Salvadorans were looking for a new option after major corruption scandals and what many voters see as a lack of progress in tackling crime

He spent little time traveling the country, did not turn up for candidate debates and avoided interviews with journalists who might challenge him, leading critics to suggest that he was intolerant

El Salvador, Guatemala

Thelma Aldana, precandidata a la presidencia de Guatemala, busca la sintonía con el nuevo gobernante salvadoreño, a quien acompañó en su celebración


To say that the Trump Administration’s approach toward Guatemala has taken some bizarre turns in recent months is something of an understatement


La Policía Nacional de Honduras manejó para el mes de enero de 2018 como cifra de cierre 326 homicidios, mientras que en enero de este año, las estadísticas presentan una reducción de 63 casos pues se reportan 263

La encargada de Negocios, Heide Fulton, se retirará nuevamente de Honduras de manera momentánea para atender su misión de reservista del ejército de su país


Unnerved by the continued violence in Mexico, some area residents contend that a wall is the only solution, and a few ranchers say they are willing to donate land for the effort

All four report being detained by Mexican immigration authorities while trying to enter the country, and eventually being turned back because the authorities said their passports had been flagged

Despite Mexico’s objections, the new rules will extend to multiple border crossings and apply to families “very soon,” officials say

Mexico, Venezuela

México y Uruguay han intentado mediar en el conflicto, sin tomar partido, pero el político, en entrevista con Proceso, rechaza tal mediación y le pide a López Obrador nada más que apoyo


Morales dejó ver que la inteligencia policial y la militar realizan actividades de espionaje político, expresamente prohibidas por el artículo 96 de la Constitución Política de Nicaragua


There is deep concern in Beijing about why its Venezuelan venture backfired and how it can salvage its investment

The Venezuelan military now features more than 3,000 generals and admirals, said Andres Bello Catholic University professor Carlos Calatrava. By contrast, the much larger U.S. military has only 920

Yanez claims that “90 percent of the armed forces are not with the dictator”

Según estimaciones de la Asamblea Nacional, actualmente hay casi 160 militares detenidos

El jefe de Estado venezolano indicó entonces que la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB) está incorporando entre 20.000 y 30.000 hombres y mujeres a cada rango y ordenó al cuerpo castrense

Army experts and government critics say that the aid shipments will be a test of allegiance for rank-and-file armed force members who are also suffering from the country’s economic woes

Since Jan. 23, when Guaido proclaimed himself interim president and when protests against Maduro’s rule broke out, CANTV has blocked access to social media sites at least four times

Spain, Portugal, France, the U.K., Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Germany were among the governments that said Monday they consider Mr. Guaidó to be the country’s president

Sources briefed on the matter said that the 14-nation Lima Group looked set, though, to hold off imposing further sanctions on the Maduro government when it meets in Ottawa

El bloque conformado por 14 países rechazó la intervención militar para un posible gobierno de transición en Venezuela y abogó por la vía diplomática, “mientras que los Estados Unidos sí la piden”

In the first eight months of 2018, imports from the US rose 76% to 125,000 barrels a day

By dawn, the FAES unit had killed as many as 10 people, leaving with their bodies and about a dozen hooded detainees

The security forces’ passivity in the face of mass protests yesterday is an unprecedented show of weakness for the regime

The young lawmaker Juan Guaidó, in perpetual motion as he fields calls from world leaders and visits ordinary Venezuelans, sees a clear, if daunting, path to ousting Nicolás Maduro

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

Más allá de las posturas de los gobiernos no alineados ni con Washington ni con Maduro, el hecho es que todas las izquierdas encuentran argumentos para defender sus posiciones frente a Venezuela

A twisty riverbank explains why a wall won’t stop 60 percent of today’s migrants

Here’s Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) during last week’s House-Senate Conference Committee meeting on the 2019 federal budget, which hinges on President Trump’s demand for a border wall. Cuellar is pointing to a map of the U.S.-Mexico border in his district.

“We have a river that doesn’t run straight,” he says, reminding his colleagues that past fencing built in the area has often had to get put up as much as a mile inland from the actual border. It’s impossible to build a sinuous fence following the contours of the river’s bank, right in the middle of an active floodplain.

Remember this map anytime someone tries to tell you that a border wall will stop Central Americans, or anyone else, from crossing onto U.S. soil to petition for asylum. In South Texas, there’s no way to keep people from rafting across and setting foot on U.S. soil, where they can await the arrival of Border Patrol agents and ask to apply for asylum. If you’re between the river and the wall, you’re still on U.S. soil, and no “metering” can steer you away.

“Congress has already funded 33 miles (53 kilometers) of new barrier construction here” in south Texas the AP’s Nomaan Merchant reported in late January. “But much of that new barrier will be built north of the Rio Grande, which carves a natural boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. That means migrants will still be able to reach American soil in front of the newly constructed barrier and request asylum.”

Nearly 60 percent of everyone whom Border Patrol is apprehending right now are children and families, most of them asking for protection. In Texas, a wall wouldn’t change that at all.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, February 4

  • 2:30-5:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: “Venezuela: Between Hope and Uncertainty” (RSVP required).

Tuesday, February 5

  • 8:30-11:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: “Corruption Prosecutions in the Americas: A Comparative Analysis” (RSVP required).
  • 12:30-2:00 at Georgetown University: “U.S Foreign Policy for South America 2003 to 2015” (RSVP required).

Wednesday, February 6

  • 10:15 in Room SH-216, Hart Senate Office Building: Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on “Worldwide Threats.”

Thursday, February 7

The day ahead: February 4, 2019

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

My day is punctuated by an NGO meeting at the Homeland Security Department, a weekly staff meeting, and a planning meeting for our border project. I go back to the border (San Diego/Tijuana) on Sunday, so what free time I have, I’ll spend planning that trip and doing documentary research.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

February 1, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Democrats offered further details of their border security plan Thursday, unveiling a measure that would provide no wall funds

Whitaker inserted himself in the case of a Mexican man whose father was threatened by la Familia Michoacána, a drug cartel in the Mexican state of Michoacán

Colombia, Cuba

El ministro de Estado alemán, Michael Roth, manifestó su desacuerdo frente a la postura del presidente Iván Duque de desconocer los protocolos con el Eln, ante una eventual ruptura de los diálogos


En esa instancia, que no se reunía desde julio pasado, durante el gobierno del expresidente Juan Manuel Santos, tienen asiento representantes del Estado encargados de la política para desarticular la organizaciones ilegales que atacan a excombatientes, líderes sociales y comunidades

El Salvador

The real debate in the US over border security should be about support for ways to reduce corruption in Central America. The best “wall” against migration is found in candidates like Bukele

InSight Crime looks at the security platforms proposed by the three most viable candidates

Honduras, Mexico

On January 29, Mexican officials reported a cumulative total under the special policy of 15,552 humanitarian visa applicants, nearly a fifth of whom are children and teenagers


The plan includes a lead role for the military, and involves patrolling neighborhoods, detaining suspects and investigating crimes


While military leaders do consider their material interests, that’s not the only factor in deciding where to throw their support. Here are four major factors

Mr. Jazairy, urged all countries to avoid applying sanctions unless approved by the Security Council, as required by the UN Charter

Anti-government demonstrations are planned for Caracas on Saturday, and with discontent growing, new groups are taking to the streets, including those who were once staunch supporters of Mr. Maduro and his predecessor

“Tenemos mucha presión, no les voy a decir de quién, pero se lo pueden imaginar, para que votemos en contra de la creación de este grupo”, admitió el ministro de Exteriores, Josep Borrell, en el Congreso. Aludía al grupo de la UE para propiciar el diálogo

Amnesty provisions that grant impunity to those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious human rights crimes contradict states’ obligation to ensure accountability for such violations

Guaidó worries about being arrested — or worse. There are currently over 350 political prisoners in Venezuela, including his mentor and former leader of his Popular Will party Leopoldo Lopez

The events in Venezuela have understandably raised some concerns of echoes of ill-fated military coups and U.S. intervention in Latin America. But a closer look at what is happening in Venezuela and the region shows it is anything but

“How are you Jimmy?,” Maduro said in broken English on state TV Monday night as he welcomed back to Caracas a group of Venezuelan diplomats he had recalled from the U.S. “I Bolivarian President Maduro. I’m still here, in Miraflores Palace, Jimmy”

The comments suggest the administration intends to stick by its use of soft power, at least for now

Asked about a note he appeared with suggesting 5,000 US troops could be deployed to neighboring Colombia, Bolton laughed, reiterating that all options were on the table

Some are concerned that governments who joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaidó may rethink their support of the United States strategy now. They said the administration should have waited until either Maduro retaliated or coordinated something with the international community

Although the United States could easily overpower the smaller Venezuelan combatant forces, the tactics, techniques, and procedures that U.S. combatant units employed in other battlefield scenarios and environments may fall flat in Venezuela and unnecessarily prolong combatant and stabilization operations

The day ahead: February 1, 2019

I’m around in the morning and the late afternoon. (How to contact me)

Other than a meeting with staff of a new member of Congress, I’m in the office today, planning my next border trip (the week after next), writing an internal workplan document, and updating my border and Colombia databases.

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