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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February 2020

The day ahead: February 25, 2020

I should be reachable, intermittently, in the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m out of contact this morning, lecturing to the Andean Republics class at the Foreign Service Institute, then having coffee with someone from the State Department. Except for a couple of interview calls with people doing research, I’ll be in the office this afternoon, mainly working on the renovated website, which is far along now.

The best song I washed dishes to tonight

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2887936727 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=886347601]

“Good Grief” by Torres (2019).

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from La Silla Vacía (Colombia). Caption: “Pintura de una de las casas en el espacio territorial de Planadas, en Tolima.”

(Even more here)

February 24, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

For decades, many Latin American countries had military dictators. In recent years, democratically elected civilians took control. Now, those civilian governments are bringing back the army


Candidates are supposed to be residents of Bolivia, and Morales has taken refuge in Argentina while he faces charges in Bolivia connected to October’s allegedly fraudulent election


“To the people who are committing crimes,” Bolsonaro said, “they have to understand that the men in green are coming, and it’s going to get ugly”


For decades, Chilean women have gathered to stitch political works of art. Today, Chilean women are denouncing President Sebastián Piñera and the Chilean state with embroidery specifically responding to the nationwide protests


Los reportes de la Oficina de Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito – UNDOC- dan cuenta de la sostenibilidad de la sustitución. En realidad, constituyen pruebas contra la fumigación con glifosato

El general Montoya tiene derecho a guardar silencio y a defenderse. ¿Pero tiene sentido su actitud en una sala destinada a aportar a la verdad y reconocer las responsabilidades?

“No se dejen matar, véngase para acá, aquí tendrán un refugio seguro. De las montañas podrán regresar algún día a continuar la lucha por sus sueños, pero de la sepultura, nunca”, dice la carta

La Fiscalía señala al excombatiente, reinsertado en la sociedad hace décadas y destacado gestor de paz, de tener cuentas pendientes por un secuestro masivo ocurrido hace veinte años

Lezcano era un campesino de 23 años, casado y con tres hijos, que había sido asesinado y desaparecido por los militares el 18 de mayo de 2002

More than 40 human rights defenders and community leaders have been killed in Colombia since January, including a national park ranger and several indigenous rights and environmental advocates

Pobladores de 12 veredas se refugian en el casco urbano del municipio debido a las amenazas de muerte

Aunque se publicó un comunicado al respecto en ese entonces, al interior del alto tribunal había diferencias sobre el contenido del auto final

Miembros de la Policía Nacional y particularmente del Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (Esmad) deben ser investigados por violaciones a los derechos humanos, cometidas contra civiles durante las protestas del paro nacional

Cuenta que el 2019 fue uno de sus años más duros. Recibió una docena de sufragios fúnebres y le pusieron una lápida en su automóvil para acallarlo

Hasta ahora se han recuperado 27 cuerpos, uno de ellos identificado y entregado a sus familiares. El magistrado que adelanta el caso cuenta detalles de este hallazgo

When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shockwaves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary


The gun battle between cops — some of them in uniform and others hooded and dressed in civilian clothing fighting alongside civilian protesters — and members of the newly revived Armed Forces of Haiti took place shortly after 1 p.m. on the Champ de Mars


“El triple levantón apenas apareció perdido (publicado) en un periódico local”

En junio de 2018, la Policía Federal (PF) adquirió un software a una empresa de origen israelí por 500 millones de pesos, sin que se efectuaran estudios de mercado y a un sobreprecio de 480 mdp

Las acciones emprendidas por el Gobierno, desde las ofensivas militares hasta las de inteligencia policial y financiera, no logran frenar la operación de los grupos dependientes de este cártel

What looks like a “drug war” from afar has long mutated into something much more complex – and dangerous

Before Remain in Mexico went into force, immigration officials were required to provide care for sick asylum seekers in their custody. That changed when the administration began returning migrants

U.S.-Mexico Border

In Nogales, Sonora, early this month, 40 percent of the people waiting for asylum appointments with U.S. officials were from Guerrero


Una de las actividades protagónicas de la maniobra fue el lanzamiento del misil Otomat, de largo alcance, el cual se hizo desde la fragata misilística F22 “Almirante Brión”

The story behind Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Maduro’s truce, sealed in a previously unreported meeting in mid-2018, describes the rapprochement between Venezuela’s self-styled revolutionary government and the business class it waged war against

The day ahead: February 24, 2020

I’m in near-constant meetings today. (How to contact me)

I’ve spent a lot of the last few days and nights making some big improvements to our underutilized “” website (read about those here).

I’d like to add more to it this week, but might not do much: it’s one of those “high season” weeks with 12 meetings (so far) and two speaking engagements on the calendar. I’ll be in New York on Friday giving a talk at John Jay College.

Today, I’ll be hard to contact because I’ll be in a morning staff meeting, a board meeting of the Andean Information Network, a coffee with the director of a Latin American think tank, and dinner with visiting Colombian human rights leaders who are giving a presentation at USIP.

Latin America-related events in Washington this week

Monday, February 24, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

5 links from the past week

  • The National Security Archive reveals documents showing that the CIA was the true co-owner of a supposedly Swiss cryptography company, whose equipment encrypted the communications of Latin American military regimes participating in “Operation Condor” in the 1970s. This means that the U.S. intelligence community had knowledge about the human rights abuses these regimes were committing—including a notorious 1976 car bombing in Washington—but did and said nearly nothing.
  • Colombia’s Semana magazine produced a detailed, richly photographed and videoed report about the humanitarian situation in Chocó. This predominantly Afro-Colombian and indigenous department in the country’s far northwest is convulsed by fighting between the ELN and the Gulf Clan paramilitary groups, with thousands of vulnerable community members caught in the middle and the armed forces largely at the margins. I was in Chocó in October and this report aligns with what I saw and heard.
  • The International Crisis Group produced a good report about the proliferation of armed groups throughout Venezuela. Outside of Caracas, the dominion of irregular groups now rivals that of rural Colombia. Except unlike Colombia, nearly all of these groups have tacit or explicit state support.
  • Also in Venezuela, Sarah Kinosian and Angus Berwick at Reuters zoom in on an extrajudicial execution in Miranda and find that the Maduro government’s most feared enforcer, the FAES police unit, has taken ex-convicts into its ranks to carry out brutal acts with impunity.
  • The Washington Post offers an on-the-ground update about what the Trump administration’s denial of the right to asylum at the border looks like right now. Arelis R. Hernández and Kevin Sieff find that the cruel “Remain in Mexico” program is being eclipsed by cruel flights to Guatemala and fast-track, zero due-process immigration hearings. The account of the Honduran man who felt compelled to send his 3-year-old son across the border bridge alone is heartbreaking.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images photo at The Washington Post. Caption: “Mexicans seeking asylum at the U.S. border protest last year outside the Foreign Ministry office in Tijuana, Mexico.”

(Even more here)

February 21, 2020

El Salvador

El mandatario reiteró sus señalamientos a la oposición ante soldados que estarán apoyando en su lucha contra el crimen organizado

Guatemala, Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Instead of allowing Central American migrants access to U.S. courts and having them wait in Mexican border towns, thegovernment instead is quickly sending them to Guatemala to pursue asylum claims there


Una media mensual de 93 asesinatos diarios, apenas por debajo de la media anual del 2018 que era de 94 casos por día


El general Julio César Avilés habrá cumplido casi 12 años al frente del Ejército cuando se realicen las próximas elecciones

U.S.-Mexico Border

Roughly 5,000 troops are currently stationed on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a mission that began in late 2018, and officials have said that will wind down as new barriers secure hundreds of miles

To date, the House Oversight and Reform Committee said, CBP has not provided any information about the punishments meted out to any of the employees involved

Additionally, the Administration released two counternarcotics strategies, outlining priorities in stopping the flow of drugs along both the Southwest and Northern borders


The homicide rate in Uruguay, a traditionally safe country of about 3.5m, shot up by 46% in 2018, to 11.8 per 100,000 people, lower than Brazil’s but higher than Argentina’s


Canada hosted the gathering of foreign ministers from the coalition, minus the United States, which are trying to solve the Venezuela crisis

For residents opposed to the socialist regime of President Nicolas Maduro, the 2019 rise of opposition leader Juan Guaido offered a moment of hope that has yet to deliver

  • Javier Ignacio Mayorca, Escudo Bolivariano (Tal Cual (Venezuela), February 21, 2020).

Las últimas maniobras de la Fuerza Armada colocan a una buena parte de la población como “enemiga” del régimen y, por ende, susceptible de ser objetivo militar en un contexto de conflicto

Power in Venezuela is slipping away from state institutions and concentrating in the hands of criminals, guerrillas and other non-state actors. Any new negotiations between government and opposition must consider how to defang these armed irregulars

The day ahead: February 21, 2020

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

I have morning-to-early-afternoon meetings with a drug-policy researcher and a journalist. I should be in the office, working on our website (check out the “timeline” page under construction), for the remainder of the afternoon.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from RioOnWatch (Brazil).

(Even more here)

February 20, 2020


Throughout 2019, the group of favelas saw 117 days of shootouts and nearly 300 total hours of police operations

A Brazilian senator was shot Wednesday as he tried to intervene in a strike by military police demanding higher salaries in the northeastern state of Ceara, prompting authorities to deploy federal forces


A prestigious Chilean polling firm, Cadem, reported two weeks ago that 63 percent of the Chilean population approved of the protests and – importantly – 80 percent believe that Chile will be a better country after this critical situation


The nation’s biggest active guerrilla group, the ELN, has carried out more than 100 separate attacks in the last week and its ranks have been growing

El Coronel Álvaro Amórtegui asegura que el general Mario Montoya pedia abiertamente ejecuciones para aumentar las bajas que se reportaban

Salvatore Mancuso y Jorge 40, los principales responsables, hoy purgan condena por narcotráfico en cárceles de Estados Unidos

Estos se suman a los tres cuerpos encontrados el lunes 17 de febrero, y los 17 que fueron rescatados el pasado mes de diciembre de 2019, cuando comenzó el trabajo de este tribunal en el municipio antioqueño en el marco del caso 03 sobre falsos positivos

Desplazamientos, confinamientos, amenazas y asesinatos son algunos de las infamias con los que vienen lidiando las comunidades rurales del departamento desde que hace un año que comenzó la guerra entre el Clan del Golfo y el ELN

En las cabeceras urbanas de la mayoría de los municipios del Pacífico sur proliferan pequeños grupos delictivos subordinados a las grandes estructuras criminales, compuestos por jóvenes de los barrios más empobrecidos

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is organizing an investment conference in Mexico City, aiming to pair private money with foreign aid for Central America that his father-in-law President Donald Trump froze


Esta es la iniciativa de seguridad más publicitada de Alejandro Giammattei al empezar su gobierno, y parte de imponer estados de Prevención en diferentes municipios

Desde la decisión del presidente de imponer el estado de prevención, nadie volvió a ver a los muchachos. «Los muchachos» (hay que entender el código) son los jóvenes que, por su forma de vestir, las demás personas identifican como integrantes de alguna pandilla

Se suponía que no volverían más, pero el cambio de gobierno ha dejado claro que volverán, aunque no serán tan constantes


López Obrador destacó el papel de Luis Cresencio Sandoval, actual titular de la Secretaría de la Defensa (Sedena), a quien se refirió como “un auténtico soldado de la patria, leal e incorruptible”

The murders of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, and Fátima Aldrighett, 7, are forcing a reckoning in a country that has wrestled with violence against women. The president’s response has been harshly criticized

“(Los alcaldes) tienen amenazas, hoy son públicas. Créanmelo, no es una exageración que más de la mitad de los alcaldes está amenazado”

U.S.-Mexico Border

The ruling came weeks after the conclusion of a seven-day trial in which attorneys for migrants who sued in 2015 argued that the agency holds immigrants in extremely cold, overcrowded, unsanitary and inhumane conditions


A special police force terrorizing poor neighborhoods across Venezuela includes officers with criminal histories. People familiar with the force say bosses are more concerned with projecting force and fear than with rectitude

Trump administration officials are discussing whether to renew their unsuccessful campaign to oust Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro by persuading some ruling party members to temporarily share power with opposition leaders

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

This report examines how 11 countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay—are responding to the mass outflows

The day ahead: February 20, 2020

I should be reachable in the late morning and mid-afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m back at work today after a couple of vacation days. I’m in a meeting on Capitol Hill first thing in the morning, have an internal meeting in the early afternoon, and a meeting of NGOs that work on Colombia in the late afternoon. Otherwise I should be in the office.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

February 19, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

In a spate of appointments by current Attorney General Barr, six new judges are now on the BIA who, while working as lower court judges, granted asylum at abysmally and unusually low rates


Uber Banquez Martínez, uno de los autores materiales de la masacre de El Salado, habla de su responsabilidad en ese hecho y su compromiso con la verdad, 20 años después

Hasta la fecha, la Agencia de Renovación del Territorio ha entregado 600 obras en los 170 municipios PDET, pero ni una sola hectárea de tierra

El Salvador

Muchos analistas, en cambio, descartan que esta histórica reducción de la violencia se deba a una estrategia de seguridad que, en su opinión, no aporta nada nuevo respecto a lo hecho por gobiernos anteriores


Despite the widespread regional and national protests sparked by his murder, after the elapse of a year, authorities have yet to release any advances in the investigation of Flores’s death

Fátima’s killing is the latest in a string of brutal crimes against girls and women stirring enormous public outrage directed at Mexico’s president and other top officials

Autoridades federales y capitalinas incumplieron protocolos o retrasaron la atención de la emergencia. Las pistas claves del caso de Fátima, como videos, las reunió la familia de la niña


Administration officials said Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, would be added to a financial blacklist in a move that is expected to largely freeze him and the company out of the global financial system

Last day of a brief vacation

Here are some ibises on the Gulf of Mexico this morning. I’m in Florida visiting some of my in-laws for four days. This is the end of day three; we go back to Washington late tomorrow. I’ll be back on the job Thursday.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images photo at The Guardian. Caption: “A soldier looks across the Rio Grande River from Laredo, Texas, into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where a group of people hang out on the river bank.”

(Even more here)

February 18, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

What the documents don’t show is any substantial effort by U.S. spy agencies, or senior officials privy to the intelligence, to expose or stop human rights violations unfolding in their view


InSight Crime looks at these murders in Putumayo, Nariño, Antioquia, Cauca and Norte de Santander, the five Colombian departments most impacted by this spike in violence


Heroin still remains a steady earner, even if it’s not from what it was, and opportunities for mining and even political control beckon

Todo lo que ha ofrecido en las últimas conferencias matutinas el presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador ha sido un catálogo de ignorancia sobre la violencia de género

Mexico, Western Hemisphere Regional

What have voters of Mexican origin, who make up the majority of the country’s growing Hispanic electorate, heard from the Democratic Party in response? Either nothing or empty platitudes

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Mark Morgan, acting commissioner for US Customs and Border Protection, told a round-table of reporters last year he was unaware of reports of kidnapping, while Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, has said kidnaps were “not a massive number”


Dentro de las funciones del Comando Estratégico Operacional de la Fuerza Armada Nacional (Ceofan), figura la difusión del nuevo pensamiento castrense a través del Centro de Doctrina Militar Bolivariana

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