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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May 2019

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

May 8, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

The new guidelines and directive to asylum officers are among the most significant steps the administration has taken to limit access to the country for foreigners seeking asylum

Brazil

Beaming members of Congress and industry lobbyists clapped and made pistol signs with their hands

Central America Regional

El jefe del Comando Sur aconsejó a sus colegas militares de la región seguir “un sendero ético cada día”

“Progress made on reducing violence and poverty will be reversed, more children and families from the Northern Triangle will be forced to flee their communities, and the situation at our border will get worse, not better,” the letter states

Colombia

Cuando los 16 dirigentes aún no se reponen del impacto que les causó el atentado perpetrado el sábado anterior, a uno de los voceros le llegó un mensaje intimidante que dice: “Es solo el comienzo de lo que será el exterminio de todos ustedes”

El general es ambas cosas a la vez: un presunto responsable a la espera de decisiones judiciales, pero, también, un hombre de honor capaz de asumir responsabilidades públicas

Following their longtime commanders, many demobilized guerrillas have chosen to leave ETCR zones out of fear of further attacks, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment

Una investigación del Monitor Ciudadano de la Corrupción, de Transparencia por Colombia, reveló que entre 2016 y 2018 la prensa reportó 327 hechos de corrupción que comprometen 17 billones de pesos, e identificó cuánto demoró en llegar la justicia

Shanahan thanked Ramírez for the support her country is providing to address the Venezuelan crisis, and he praised the robust military partnership between the United States and Colombia

Honduras

El tratado consistiría en la llegada mil soldados de Israel a Honduras, para capacitar y adiestrar a las FF AA y la Policía Nacional

El mandatario pronunció el discurso inaugural en la Conferencia de Seguridad Centroamericana 2019

Mexico

La Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), reemplazada en enero pasado por la Fiscalía General, terminó colapsada

Developments in Tepito are prompting some locals VICE spoke with to ask whether the city’s partial immunity from Mexico’s drug war is over

El titular del Ejecutivo, inclusive rechazó que la cooperación estadunidense vaya a incluir formación y capacitación para la Guardia Nacional

This country’s tenuous security situation is falling apart. Reports from across Mexico paint a picture of a nation reeling back on its heels as murders and massacres flourish

The appeals court held that several legal factors favored allowing the Trump administration to administer the policy while the litigation continues

Allowing the policy to remain in effect in the meantime lets the administration carry out an unprecedented change to U.S. asylum practices

Venezuela

Venezuela’s opposition and its foreign backers are debating a new approach: extending an offer to senior government and military officials to join a post-Maduro transitional government — while also heightening the threat of U.S.-led intervention

Those facing accusations include prominent figures in the Venezuelan opposition such as Henry Ramos Allup and Luis Germán Florido

Why does Donald Trump believe Putin instead of his advisers?

Mr. Pence highlighted the immediate removal of all sanctions on Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the director of Venezuela’s intelligence service, Sebin

Here are three from the last week

The day ahead: May 8, 2019

I’m writing, but should be reachable much of the day. (How to contact me)

Nothing on the calendar today. I’ll be writing at home in the morning, and writing in the office in the afternoon.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

May 7, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

As nonprofits struggle to house and care for the number of families released border-wide, city, county and even state governments are starting to take a greater, more direct role in the humanitarian response

Brazil

No other details about the operation in Mare — a poor, densely populated swathe of the city encompassing various favelas in large part run by heavily-armed drug traffickers — were immediately available

Colombia

“Hay mucha gente en territorio que no está dispuesta a que la verdad se aclare”

A uno de ellos le llegó una nueva amenaza, vía un mensaje de whatsapp, en el que les advertían que lo que ocurrió el sábado “era solo el principio”

Colombia, Venezuela

La vicepresidente de Colombia, Marta Lucía Ramírez, abordará el martes la situación en Venezuela con el jefe del Pentágono, Patrick Shanahan, a quien insistirá en la necesidad de seguir presionando “por todos los medios y escenarios posibles”

Colombia

La Corte, según ella, está pidiendo estudios que demuestren que no afecta en un 100% a la salud de las personas

Cuba, Venezuela

“It’s not Cuba, as it’s not the Lima Group, who should say who’s the leader of Venezuela”

Honduras

I wanted to tell the story of gang violence through the voices of residents, shopkeepers, families and gang members themselves

La misión principal de los soldados es el adiestramiento en protección de fronteras en vista de las masivas salidas irregulares de hondureños, en especial niños, rumbo a Estados Unidos

Hasta ahora, el Gobierno de Honduras, por medio del ministro de la Presidencia, Ebal Díaz, negó categóricamente que exista un tratado multilateral que permita el ingreso de tropas extranjeras al país, aunque EL HERALDO no ha informado de convenio sino de conversaciones

Mexico

The resurgence of meth into the region has led drug enforcement agents to refer to San Diego County as “ground zero” for the nation’s meth problem

Mexico’s drug war has left tens of thousands of casualties in secret graves. Now, the mothers of the missing are digging them up, armed with iron rods and quadcopter drones

Un policía mexicano corre un riesgo de ser asesinado 24 veces mayor que el de un colega estadounidense

Panama

The U.S.-educated former agriculture minister and businessman said that if the United States neglected a region it has long considered its backyard, it was inviting China to fill the gap

Venezuela

Pence’s speech will be the first look at the Trump administration’s recalibrated strategy following massive street protests last week led by Juan Guaido

Cuba, Venezuela

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo surprised many when he said in an interview Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation” that the administration is working with the Cuban government on Venezuela

Venezuela

Even the threat of deploying the U.S. military in Venezuela is unbelievable to many lawmakers on Capitol Hill

A brazen attack recalls Colombia’s worst years

A social leader is killed nearly every other day in Colombia. Notably, nearly all of the victims have been very local leaders or activists, with no national profile. This has spread terror among social leaders, sending the message that you’re not safe no matter how unknown you are.

While the most prominent national human rights and social leaders get constant death threats, they’ve seen few actual attacks lately. That’s why the May 4 attack on the Black Communities’ Process (PCN) leadership in northern Cauca is an alarming milestone.

Those who narrowly escaped a 15-minute barrage of rifle fire and grenades were top national leaders of the country’s Afro-Colombian movement, gathered for a strategy meeting. People widely known in Colombia like Francia Marquez, winner of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize, Carlos Rosero, Víctor Moreno, and Clemencia Carabalí.

They were part of a group of 25 people, including children and international accompanies, gathered in a meeting space in the rural zone of Santander de Quilichao municipality, about an hour south of Cali. At 5:30 on Saturday—broad daylight—four unknown men showed up. Carlos Rosero told El Espectador that the leaders were in the rear of their building when they heard “a shootout,” and all threw themselves to the floor. Three of the unknown men began firing and throwing at least one grenade. Two of the leaders’ government-provided bodyguards were wounded.

Afterward, two assailants left by motorcycle, and two on foot, on the only road leading back to Santander de Quilichao’s town center. A PCN communiqué notes that there are three police or military road checkpoints nearby, one about 10 kilometers (6-miles) away.

President Iván Duque called the attack a “terrorist act” in a tweet, and promised to activate his government’s “Opportune Action Plan” for protecting social leaders. Still, the attack heightens a growing sense that Colombia’s post-peace accord security gains are eroding.

Assassinations of nationally prominent social leaders were brutally frequent in the 1990s and early 2000s, the darkest period of Colombia’s conflict. Government-aligned, landowner and drug trafficker-supported paramilitary groups and hitmen took the lives of human rights lawyers like Hector Abad Gómez, Jesús Maria Valle, and Josué Giraldo; researchers like Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado; academics like Jesús Bejarano and Alfredo Correa de Andreis; and satirists like Jaime Garzón, among dozens of others. But this hasn’t happened to nationally prominent activists in a while.

The May 4 attack may be a sign of trouble to come. The ELN, guerrilla dissidents, neo-paramilitary groups, and organized crime structures are all growing, as documented in a report issued last week by the Bogotá-based Ideas for Peace Foundation. And according to 57 observers around the country interviewed by Colombia’s La Silla Vacía investigative journalism site, “there are more allegations of abuses by the security forces, including extrajudicial executions,” since Iván Duque took office last August.

How can Colombia stop the deterioration? The recommendation is not a new one: find out who ordered, planned, and paid for attacks like Saturday’s vicious assault in Cauca, and bring them swiftly to justice while respecting due process. As long as there’s little probability of that happening, brazen acts like this one may proliferate—and Colombians’ repeated claims that “this is a much different country than it was 20 years ago” will ring hollow.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

From Verdad Abierta (Colombia).

(Even more here)

May 6, 2019

Western Hemisphere Regional

Thousands of migrants have died crossing the desert in Arizona. The U.S. government is prosecuting activists who try to save lives and recover bodies

Morgan had been the top official at Customs and Border Protection in the Obama administration, but has been outspoken in favor of Trump’s signature proposal for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border

The measures that could actually deter migration are less bruising and physically obvious, veering off instead into a world that is legal, technical and bureaucratic — and could take months or years to show results

Colombia

Esta líder social afrodescendiente, ganadora del premio ambiental Goldman, fue víctima este sábado de un atentado del que salió ilesa, pero que ratifica una vez más la fragilidad en la que se encuentra su vida

Lideres sociales y defensores de derechos humanos que hacen partes de la La Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Norte del Cauca, ACONC, se encontraban en una reunión comunitaria. El ataque, según Márquez, habría durado unos 15 minutos

  • Antonio Caballero, Extradicion (Semana (Colombia), May 6, 2019).

A la DEA no le interesa castigar a los grandes narcos, que son sus cómplices. Pero sí le interesa castigar a los guerrilleros, por comunistas

Cuarenta y siete voceros de comunidades que hacen parte del PDET Alto Patía y Norte del Cauca han sido asesinados desde 2016 en los 17 municipios que lo componen

El pasado 26 de abril se envió un documento al Ministerio del Interior advirtiendo que había cuatro alertas tempranas vigentes en Cauca, en donde desconocidos armados atentaron contra vario líderes sociales el sábado, entre ellos Francia Márquez

Las 57 fuentes con las que hablamos coincidieron en que desde la entrada del Gobierno de Duque se están presentando más denuncias contra fuerzas militares y policiales

Honduras

From 2018 through early 2019, The New York Times followed the young men of Casa Blanca in this tiny corner of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the deadliest cities in the world, and witnessed firsthand as they tried to keep the gangs at bay

Mexico

It is a doubt fed by a chronic lack of confidence in the Mexican government’s ability — or willingness — to bring the nation’s increasingly sophisticated criminal groups to their knees

Cuba, Mexico

More than 600 Cubans fled the center in late April, and Mexico flew 170 Cubans home last week

Colombia, Venezuela

National Liberation Army fighters were instructed in how to use the Russian-manufactured IGLA surface-to-air missile system, according to General Luis Navarro, Colombia’s top-ranking soldier

Venezuela

Under the plan, the country’s top court, the Supreme Justice Tribunal, was to recognize the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the last democratically elected body in Venezuela, as the legitimate representative of the Venezuelan people

One clue to the military officers’ apparent reluctance to join any U.S.-backed plot may be found in the story of their past, failed dealings with senior American officials

Despite clarion calls for Venezuelan ‘freedom’ the US has resisted offering Temporary Protected Status to those fearing persecution

“Dear friend, ambassador John Bolton, thank you for all the help you have given to the just cause here. Thank you for the option, we will evaluate it, and will probably consider it in parliament to solve this crisis. If it’s necessary, maybe we will approve it”

Pompeo’s evasion of a direct question about the role of Congress — which is the body empowered to declare war under the Constitution — could strike a nerve with several Republicans

The day ahead: May 6, 2019

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

This is my last week in Washington for a while, I’ve got four different work-related trips between next Monday and May 27.

Today I’m at home in the morning while the gas company tears up our front yard to put in a new line. (“Buy a house” they said. “You can be your own landlord” they said.) I’ll be writing and researching when not calling in to WOLA’s weekly staff meeting.

Then, around noon, I’m off to the University of Maryland for a final meeting with the grad students I’ve been working with, who will be presenting their findings about Latin American civil-military relations at WOLA at noon Thursday. After that, I’ll be in the office for the remainder of the day.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, May 6

  • 9:30-11:30 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Is Haiti Back on the Brink? (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:30 at the Stimson Center: Growth in Global Arms Transfers and Military Spending (RSVP required).
  • 1:30-2:30 at AEI: The future of US-Colombia relations: A conversation with Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez (RSVP required).

Wednesday, May 8

Thursday, May 9

Friday, May 10

  • 9:15-11:30 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Prospects for Energy Resource Development in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:30 at CSIS: The Path Forward in Venezuela: Insights from a New National Poll (RSVP required).
  • 10:30-12:00 at the Wilson Center: Present and Future of Argentina’s Economy: A Conversation with Axel Kicillof (RSVP required).

The day ahead: May 3, 2019

I’ll be reachable for much of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ll be at a Colombia event this morning, at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Then a farewell lunch with my spring-semester intern, and a few hours of writing. I may be in the office late in order to pick up my daughter at an evening activity.

WOLA Podcast: Alan García’s legacy in Peru

Here’s a great conversation with two colleagues who really know Peru, about where the country is today after the suicide of a two-time president facing accountability for corruption.

Facing arrest in a corruption scandal, Peru’s two-time president Alan García shot himself to death on April 17. WOLA Senior Fellows Jo-Marie Burt and Coletta Youngers discuss the personal journey of a politician who loomed over Peruvian political life for the past 35 years.

Garcia started out as a leftist, ruled amid some serious human rights crimes and economic crises, and later became a seemingly untouchable power broker—until the Odebrecht corruption investigation.

Burt and Youngers explain Peru’s current judicial drive against corruption, reasons for hope, and the difficulty of predicting anything in Peruvian politics.

The day ahead: May 2, 2019

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

I’m writing at home for a couple of hours, then sitting in on a mid-day event at WOLA. I have an early afternoon meeting with a philanthropic organization, then a couple more hours of writing—there’s a lot to respond to on the border—and an evening dinner with a group of visiting Colombian legislators.

The day ahead: May 1, 2019

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

I’m working at home this morning, as more and more writing projects are in danger of becoming overdue. (It’s nice and quiet here.) I’ll be in the office mid-day, but in the afternoon recording a podcast with colleagues and then heading to Capitol Hill for a meeting with appropriations staff. This means I’m hard to contact today.

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