Adam Isacson

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


March 2020

Government reports relevant to Latin America obtained in March

  • The State Department’s annual report on other countries’ counter-drug efforts, with some information about U.S. aid.
    2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (Washington: Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, March 2, 2020) <PDF from>.
  • Intricately detailed tables of the status of aid to Central America between 2013 and 2018, from a GAO performance audit.
    U.S. Assistance to Central America: Status of Funding (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, March 4, 2020) <PDF at>.
  • Two GAO reports about the Homeland Security Department’s processing—and cruel separating—of apprehended migrant families.
    Southwest Border: Actions Needed to Address Fragmentation in DHS’s Processes for Apprehended Family Members (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, March 18, 2020) <PDF at>.
    Southwest Border: Actions Needed to Improve DHS Processing of Families and Coordination between DHS and HHS (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, March 18, 2020) <PDF at>.

WOLA Podcast: “I Wish I Did More Positive Reporting About Colombia Because I Love the Place”

I got a kick out of recording this one with John Otis, from his home outside Bogotá. Since 1997, John has been reporting from Colombia, covering the Andes, for many news outlets. You may recognize his voice as National Public Radio’s correspondent in the Andes, or seen his many recent bylines in the Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of a highly recommended book about aspects of the conflict, Law of the Jungle (2010).

Here, John talks about some of the many changes he has seen in both Colombia and Venezuela during his tenure. The conversation also covers Colombia’s peace process, the difficulty of explaining the country’s complexity, and some places and people who’ve left very strong impressions over the years.

Listen above, or download the .mp3 file.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Alejandro Prieto photo at National Geographic. Caption: “Aerial view of wall construction at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in November, 2019, from the Mexican side of the border. The Department of Homeland Security has waived dozens of laws to allow this wall to be built, including the Endangered Species Act.”

(Even more here)

March 31, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Many of the wealthy are already recovering, but experts warn that the virus could kill scores of the poorest people


Según una fuente que militó en dicha guerrilla, el acercamiento entre Galán y Uribe se dio gracias al padre Francisco De Roux, hoy presidente de la Comisión de la Verdad, quien, a su vez, contactó a la esposa del expresidente Álvaro Uribe

La decisión del Eln obedece, en gran parte, a un silencioso trabajo, según pudo confirmar EL TIEMPO con fuentes de entero crédito, de miembros de la comunidad internacional y de la Iglesia Católica

This is the story of “Memo Fantasma” or “Will the Ghost,” who started life in the Medellín Cartel, funded the bloody rise of the paramilitary army, and today lives the high life in Madrid. He has helped move hundreds of tons of cocaine, yet has no arrest warrants and nobody is looking for him

Citando las palabras del Secretario General de Naciones Unidas, ONU, António Guterres, el covid-19 es “el enemigo común al que se enfrenta todo el pla

Caught in the middle of the war are former FARC combatants and social leaders. Since the signing of the peace accord, over 191 disarmed FARC and 323 social leaders have been assassinated nationwide

Colombia, Venezuela

The Colombian criminal group Los Rastrojos is fighting a two-front war: against ELN guerrillas looking to usurp the group’s highly profitable operations along the border with Venezuela, and against Venezuelan security forces that have been targeting them

La situación se ha vuelto tan recurrente que incluso el diario regional –La Opinión, ya tiene una sección dedicada a Muertos en trochas

El Salvador

La extorsión impuesta por las pandillas también ha sido modificada por la crisis del coronavirus. En zonas concretas, dicen, han perdonado el cobro criminal a algunos vendedores informales. El otras zonas, simplemente no han podido recogerlo debido a la presencia masiva de fuerzas del Estado

Miles de personas siguieron las indicaciones que el presidente Bukele había dado y se movilizaron hacia oficinas estatales para preguntar por un subsidio de $300 destinado a las familias afectadas económicamente por el COVID-19. Así, las aglomerarciones rompieron la cuarentena


The man began showing symptoms of COVID-19 over the weekend while in quarantine in his family’s home


Honduras’s healthcare system has reached the edge of collapse in recent years after chronic underfunding from the government and a series of corruption scandals that have drained what little public funds do exist

Mexico, Western Hemisphere Regional

Many workers in Latin America labor without protections, surviving day to day, making them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus


La información disponible permite presumir la tortura y la desaparición forzada contra un número indeterminado de migrantes, a manos de la Guardia Nacional

Luego de difundirse un video en el que aparece el Presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador saludando a la madre de Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, dirigentes del PAN y PRI reprobaron el encuentro y exigieron al mandatario dar una explicación

U.S.-Mexico Border

With the world focused on coronavirus, the federal government paves way for 175 miles of new walls along U.S.-Mexico border, through prime wildlife corridors

The intensification of construction during the pandemic is raising fears among residents of Ajo, Ariz., and other nearby border communities that the growing influx of workers increases their risk of exposure

In the tightly packed Matamoros camp, social distancing is impossible, and high-level health care is inaccessible. The Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) require asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are processed

The pandemic has allowed the U.S. Border Patrol to implement the kind of rapid-fire deportation system President Trump has long extolled as his preferred approach to immigration enforcement

On Sunday, just four unaccompanied minors were referred to ORR shelters. DHS averaged 14 referrals a day over the past week, a drop of 78% from the previous month

DHS has the ability and capacity to protect both these children and the public. We request that DHS stop this practice immediately


Los civiles dependen de militares para abastecerse de combustible. Productores agrícolas denuncian que están «en manos» del Comando Estratégico Operacional

9.089 personas siguen sujetas a procesos penales políticos bajo medidas cautelares

Los funcionarios rechazaron las acciones registradas el pasado fin de semana, además de este mismo lunes, por parte de cuerpos de seguridad contra diputados e integrantes de sus equipos de trabajo

The proposal, to be released on Tuesday in Washington, offers to ease American sanctions intended to pressure President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists over the past year. But it also demands that Mr. Maduro relinquish power

The day ahead: March 31, 2020

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

This morning I’m talking to a researcher and then recording a podcast. I should be at my desk writing about Colombia and doing research on the border all afternoon.

WOLA Podcast: Soldiers and Civilians in Latin America Today

Here’s a conversation we recorded late Friday over a beer.

After nearly 30 years of movement away from military rule and toward civilian democracy, Latin America’s armed forces are again playing larger, more political roles. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the trend, with the danger that having soldiers on the streets may again become “normalized” throughout the region.

Joining me to talk about this is Gregory Weeks, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Weeks doesn’t see a return to 1970s-style military regimes anytime soon—but he is not optimistic about civil-military relations in the region.

A political scientist, Weeks is the author of two volumes that appear very often in university Latin American studies curricula: Understanding Latin American Politics (available as a free PDF and for sale) and U.S. and Latin American Relations. He is one of the first Latin America bloggers, posting to Two Weeks Notice almost daily since 2006. And his Understanding Latin American Politics podcast is one of few other Latin America podcasts in English.

Listen above, or download the mp3 file.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Morena Perez Joachin photo at the Los Angeles Times. Caption: “Military security guards the bus taking returnees from the United States to their towns in Guatemala.”

(Even more here)

March 30, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Imported by the wealthy, the virus is now reaching into impoverished communities, at times through domestic employment, infecting people with fewer resources to combat the disease

Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico

To reduce crime, it is critical to boost local government’s resources in high-risk crime areas. Crime in these countries is very context-specific and requires nuanced and flexible policies


El Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) decidió declarar un cese unilateral activo al fuego durante un mes, a partir del 1 hasta el 30 de abril, a causa de la emergencia que vive el país por el el nuevo coronavirus

Desde el 5 de marzo pasado, cuando el país estaba alerta por la llegada del nuevo coronavirus, hasta la fecha, cuatro de los exguerrilleros que firmaron el Acuerdo de Paz murieron en confusos hechos en Bogotá, Caquetá y Meta

El Espectador reconstruyó buena parte de lo ocurrido el pasado 21 de marzo en el penal. Una noche que inició con un “cacerolazo”, exigiendo medidas para enfrentar el COVID-19, y terminó con 23 internos muertos

Denuncian amenazas por parte del Ejército Nacional de abrir fuego contra quienes se encontraran en asentamientos campesinos, oponiéndose a la erradicación manual forzada

En Cauca hubo seis hostigamientos, en Chocó y Nariño hay cerca de 800 familias confinadas y en el Valle del Cauca siguen asesinando a comuneros indígenas

Quizá su principal reto será comunicar a la ciudadanía los alcances de una justicia basada en un esquema institucional único en su especie


Just over a week ago, with assurances from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that health protocols had been established, Guatemalan authorities allowed flights to resume


“Mexico’s response was late, wrong and slow, and many people are going to die”

El promedio de homicidios en marzo supera los 82 casos diarios, el promedio más alto desde junio de 2019

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The urgent call comes just days before the April 5-12 Holy Week vacation period begins, a time when cross-border traffic traditionally spikes

South America Regional

Indigenous groups across South America are blockading their villages and retreating into their traditional forest and mountain homes in a bid to escape the potentially cataclysmic threat of coronavirus


Militares consultados no creen que, por ahora, Maduro cambie su anillo de seguridad. Aunque no pueden predecir el comportamiento castrense, vislumbran más acciones de inteligencia a lo interno

Guaidó, who is recognized as Venezuela’s lawful leader by the U.S. and almost other 60 countries, said opponents of Maduro need to be “realistic” and be prepared to share power

The sanctions, which have hurt the company’s business elsewhere in the world, were cited by a Rosneft spokesman Saturday in describing the sale

Podrían cohesionar el entorno de Nicolás Maduro e impedir una salida pacífica a la crisis política del país, en momentos donde se vive una situación delicada por la propagación de la covid-19

The day ahead: March 30, 2020

I’m around all afternoon. (How to contact me)

Other than a long morning staff meeting and check-ins with colleagues at WOLA, I should be reachable today. Other than some brief writing about Colombia, my main goal is to make big progress on a project, involving creation of a web resource, that will focus and strengthen my work on the border.

Email newsletter

My streak of sending out weekly e-mail newsletters now stands at 13. Here’s the latest one. I resolved at the new year to be more regular at these. So that means this horrible year is already 13 weeks old.

You can read it and subscribe there, or just subscribe at the bottom of this very page.

Tweets that made me laugh the most this week

Latin America-related online events this week

Tuesday, March 31

  • 4:00 at Impact of the oil market crash on the major producers in Latin America: A closer look at Brazil and Mexico (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 1

  • 12:00–1:00 at Price War Meets Pandemic – Energy’s Perfect Storm in Latin America (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 2

  • 9:00–10:30 at Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Migrants and Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).
  • 11:00 at COVID-19 in Latin America: Tackling Health Care & Other Impacts for Vulnerable Migrant Populations (RSVP required).

5 links from the past week

  • If coronavirus wasn’t putting a halt to such things, this week the U.S. government would’ve sent back to Colombia one of the maximum leaders of the AUC paramilitary group, Salvatore Mancuso, who was extradited to face drug trafficking charges in 2008. In a detailed piece at Canada’s National Post, Brian Fitzpatrick tells the story of Mancuso, the AUC, and its “Justice and Peace” demobilization process. He also talks to AUC victims exiled in Canada. (Also noteworthy this week: an El Espectador profile of Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco,” a much-feared AUC leader who the U.S. government sent back to Colombia last July.)
  • The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s security program published a brilliant overview of security, defense, U.S. policy, great-power influence, multilateralism, globalism, and the crisis of democracy in Latin America, by Argentine-Spanish analyst Mariano Aguirre, former Obama administration defense official Rebecca Bill Chavez, and former Bachelet administration defense official Marcos Robledo. (The paper is dated January 2020, but was just released this week.)
  • In the New York Review of Books, veteran Brazil correspondent Vincent Bevins portrays the country’s politics, economy, and human rights situation just over a year into the Bolsonaro administration—within the context of the archconservative president’s unhinged coronavirus denialism.
  • Another populist president in the region, Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also come under fire for his slow response to the virus. Alex Ward at Vox wrote a nuanced but dire explanation of what’s happening there.
  • At the New York Times, Nathaniel Popper and Ana Vanessa Herrero profile Gabriel Jiménez, the twentysomething coder whose belief in the liberating power of cryptocurrencies led him to create the Maduro government’s “Petro.” Jiménez now lives in exile in the United States; his account is rich with details about the Maduro regime. Don’t miss the part where Maduro asks Vice President Tareck El Aissami to fix his air conditioner by banging on it.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at El Tiempo (Colombia). Caption: “El puente Simón Bolívar en la frontera entre Colombia y Venezuela.”

(Even more here)

March 27, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Many now fear that Latin America may go the way of Italy — with too many cases already circulating to gain control of the virus for many weeks or months

Top Trump administration officials grew angry with Matt Albence, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after he announced that immigration authorities would halt most enforcement efforts during the coronavirus outbreak


La propuesta legislativa acordada con las ocho candidaturas que concurren a los comicios prevé que la elección se celebre “entre el domingo 7 de junio y el domingo 6 de septiembre”


Decisão levou em conta epidemia do coronavírus, que adiou audiências; sete homens permaneceram mais de 500 dias no Complexo de Gericinó sem julgamento

In a nationally televised address Tuesday night, he urged governors to limit isolation only to high-risk people and lift the strict anti-virus measures they have imposed in their regions


Al inicio de la cuarentena nacional dos líderes Embera y una defensora de derechos fueron asesinados

Erradicación forzada de coca no da tregua en medio de emergencia por nuevo coronavirus

Hablamos con Luis Fernando Arias, consejero mayor de la Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, quien nos dio un panorama de cómo están las comunidades aborígenes de cara al coronavirus

When Salvatore Mancuso was shipped from Colombia to a U.S. cell, he said, ‘they extradited the truth.’ But his sentence ends today and he has secrets to tell

La Fuerza Pública adelanta un plan a nivel nacional para la prevención ante la expansión del covid-19. También se preparan por la posible llegada del virus a las filas del Ejército

Due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic, state protection measures have been weakened, they can no longer keep moving from one location to another for their safety, and their attackers know that public security forces are focusing on issues related to the pandemic


“Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID?19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program,” tweeted an account for the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The undersigned organizations call on the U.S. government to issue a time-bound suspension of sanctions on Cuba to facilitate the flow of desperately needed humanitarian and medical supplies to the Cuban people as they cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

El ingreso de un grupo de deportados salvadoreños este martes 24 ocurrió apenas un día después de que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés) presionara a los gobiernos del Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica para que levantaran sus cuarentenas en los aeropuertos

In the age of COVID-19, anything other than ending deportations is a high-risk, potentially disastrous move


A federal judge issued arrest warrants against five government officials and a former marine for torture, forced disappearance, and obstruction of justice in the case of the 43 students

En febrero de este año hubo 2 mil 766 asesinatos, una cifra algo menor a los 2 mil 819 de enero y a los 2 mil 817 de febrero del año anterior

U.S.-Mexico Border

President Trump recently announced strict new border controls, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Officials will now turn away most migrants entering the country from the U.S.-Mexico border — including people coming legally and fleeing violence. Jean Guerrero of KPBS spoke to families stuck in limbo at the country’s busiest land border crossing, just south of San Diego in Tijuana

The memo requests 1,000 military personnel to support CBP operations at the northern border and an additional 540 for the southwest border

Remain in Mexico cases have been postponed and the U.S. has stopped taking new asylum applications at border


The 57-year-old leader still has some popular support and, critically, continues to enjoy the backing of the upper echelon of the Venezuelan military

Since at least 1999, Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios and Alcalá Cordones, acted as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles

Federal prosecutors accused President Nicolás Maduro of participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, in a major escalation of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure him to leave office

An indictment, unveiled at a video news conference in Washington, D.C., accuses Maduro and other current and former officials in his socialist regime of conspiring with the U.S.-designated terrorist group known as the FARC, so that Venezuela could be used as a base for narcotics shipments

El anuncio del gobierno de Donald Trump cierra la puerta a una solución negociada en Venezuela y reafirma la posición de Iván Duque de no hablar con el gobierno del vecino país

Whatever incentive these key power brokers might have had to support a transition has been wiped out. They are each more likely to decide that they’re better off sticking with Maduro, even if it means going down with the ship

A group of Democratic senators joined growing calls for Trump to ease punishing sanctions and provide aid to Venezuela and Iran amid the worsening pandemic

The day ahead: March 27, 2020

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

I’m recording podcasts with people at 10 and 3. Otherwise I should be at my desk working on an analysis of Latin America’s militaries and the powers and roles they’re being given during this crisis, as well as some border work.

WOLA Podcast: Searching for Mexico’s Disappeared

With two very good guests in two parts of Mexico, I’m really glad the technology held up on this one. It was well worth the high-wire act.

Here’s the text of the summary at Listen above, or download the .mp3 file here.

More than 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006. As a March 23 WOLA commentary by Maureen Meyer and Gina Hinojosa notes, the current government is taking some initial steps to address the crisis. A great deal, however, remains to be done, and victims’ groups trying to locate the disappeared continue to work very much on their own.

To discuss the crisis and Mexico’s incipient efforts to address it, Meyer and Hinojosa are joined by two guests from the frontlines of Mexico’s fight to locate and identify the disappeared. Mariano Machain is the international advocacy coordinator at SERAPAZ Mexico, a non-governmental organization working for peace and positive transformation of social conflicts. Lucy Díaz (seen in a December 2019 ABC News Nightline feature) is a leader of Colectivo Solecito, a group of mothers searching for the disappeared in Veracruz state; her son Luis disappeared in 2013.


After many years of accumulating home office-type gadgets, working at home is tolerable.

In the frame: Mac Mini with dual monitors, MacBook Air, sheet-fed scanner, podcasting mic, HD camera, blu-ray burner, printer, mechanical keyboard, mouse, Hue lamp, amp, LED lighting, speakers, turntable, headphones.

If you find this horrifying, I totally understand. If it’s any consolation, there’s a washer/dryer and a litterbox behind me.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Leo Correa photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A volunteer with a face mask walks past a police officer after distributing soap and detergent in an effort to avoid the spread the new coronavirus.”

(Even more here)

March 26, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

In every region, under all kinds of political systems, governments are turning to increasingly stringent measures — and deploying their armed forces to back them up


A video apparently recorded in the City of God circulated on social media this week showing a loudspeaker broadcasting the alert: “Anyone found messing or walking around outside will be punished”

The leader of Latin Americaâ??s largest country wants people out of their homes and back to work

Brazil, Mexico

The leaders of the region’s two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — have largely dismissed the dangers and have resisted calls for a lockdown


Law-and-order strategies that “stuff” Brazil’s crowded prisons with new inmates may actually exacerbate the problem, given that the PCC has effectively converted the country’s prisons into logistical hubs and training centers of illicit activity


El consejero para la Estabilización, Emilio Archila, resaltó la importancia del trabajo de los campesinos que han dado el paso a la legalidad y a través del Programa han sustituido 41 mil 370 hectáreas

Colombia, Venezuela

Con el operativo militar, que fue concertado con el Gobierno nacional, el alcalde espera enfrentar dos grandes crisis que vive el municipio: la situación sanitaria por el COVID-19 y el aumento de la migración venezolana


Vargas says communities are rightfully nervous, and recalls past illnesses like yellow fever, cholera and the H1N1 virus that caused similar alarm

El Salvador

El poder extraordinario que la Asamblea ha dado al Ejecutivo mediante los decretos de emergencia y excepción no son cheques en blanco, sino auxilios contemplados en la Constitución


Pidió al general de las Fuerzas Armadas, Tito Livio Moreno, que la entrega de los sacos solidarios sea sin ningún tipo de distinción


“People expressed fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus and announced their intention to start a hunger strike if they were not released,” the rights groups said. National Guard and INM officers deployed poles, water hoses, pepper spray and Tasers

Por redes sociales o a través de mensajes por WhatsApp, diversos grupos en el Estado de México, Oaxaca y Puebla han hecho llamados para realizar saqueos en tiendas departamentales por las noches o en la madrugada

La banda delictiva de Tlacotepec que dirige Onésimo Marquina Chapa, alias El Necho, irrumpió en las comunidades de Tepozonalco y El Naranjo para desplazar al grupo denominado Cártel del Sur, que encabeza Isaac Navarrete Celis, El Señor de la I

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The protesters demanded greater controls and screenings on southbound traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border out of concern that travelers from the U.S. could import new cases of the coronavirus into Mexico

Volunteers and aid groups are especially worried about Juarez shelters and the sprawling Matamoros migrant camp


Los militares no permitirán la entrada ni salida de nadie por estos puntos ciegos, en el territorio fronterizo terrestre y navales

U.S.-Mexico Border

Keeping Mexican nationals out of processing centers was a request made by the Mexican government and agreed to by the U.S. government

In a lengthy message Tuesday, the leader of operations in Tucson, Arizona, alerted the region’s 3,700 agents that two agents tested positive for the virus


The government of President Nicolas Maduro is hoping to renegotiate oil-for-loan deals agreed nearly 15 years ago under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez

Vivas Santana, escritor de una columna en el portal web aporrea, es el tercer periodista agredido por los cuerpos de seguridad del régimen en menos de una semana

The threat against Avila, who is now in hiding but spoke with Reuters by telephone, is one of at least seven recent episodes in which Venezuelan authorities have sought to arrest critics of the government’s preparedness for the coronavirus

International assistance will require a basic agreement between the de facto Maduro government and the National Assembly

Karl writes that one of the options Trump “had in mind was a naval blockade of Venezuela, which didn’t make sense for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Venezuela is not an island.”

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The United States’ legacy in Latin America is much older than Trump and Graham are. It’s a legacy that weighs heavily on the Pentagon’s reluctance to sail major warships through Latin American waters

The day ahead: March 26, 2020

I’ll be easiest to reach in the mid-to-late afternoon. (How to contact me)

The new computer is set up and working well. It’s a gigantic improvement.

Lots of virtual meetings today: I’m on a conference call about human rights defenders in Colombia, recording a podcast about Mexico, and guest-teaching a George Washington University class. I’ll edit and post that podcast, and try to book some new ones. In any extra time, I plan to start building an online resource for the border work.

New feature: “Explainers” about Colombia

I’m happy to say that a new section of my website, which I’ve been overhauling since late January, is ready to go. This is the final feature that I’d planned to add. (I’ve already added a timeline, a page of important numbers, infographics, links to reports, public-domain photos, and embedded videos.)

Explainers, the new section, is a series of brief articles offering plain-language, fact-filled explanations of persistent, evergreen topics. Each looks at an aspect of Colombia’s conflict, peace effort, human rights challenges, or U.S. policy. The format is inspired by—but less ambitious than—the “card stacks” that used when it first launched, but later abandoned.

These Explainers are never “finished.” We’ll edit and update them as new information emerges or situations change. Months from now, some may look quite different than they do now.

I’ve completed three Explainers so far, and plan to add approximately one per week between now and June. Right now, you can find Explainers about:

Explainers about the ELN, and about Colombia’s efforts to build state presence in rural areas, will be coming soon. By June, I hope to stop at about 10 to 15 Explainers on the page.


Can I afford it? Barely. But a 2014 laptop with a busted trackpad connected to a big monitor just wasn’t working as my main work machine.

This fully loaded Mac Mini arrived two days earlier than expected. You may hear a bit less from me over the next day or two while I set it up.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

From Veja (Brazil).

(Even more here)

March 25, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Amnesty International believes that authorities must show leadership by prioritizing human rights and by refraining from abusing their power in the middle of this emergency. Here is a preliminary list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”


The struggle to hold the military to account for crimes against humanity are a part of Argentinian identity. A group of grandmothers leads the story of that struggle


Santiago says that he does whatever he can to prevent infection, but his family is exposed to vectors every day, and because they don’t have the necessary access to water, he is very afraid

The immediate trigger for the so-called panelaço protests has been Bolsonaro’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which he has repeatedly dismissed as hysteria, fantasy and, a media “trick”

Guerra ao coronavírus é ‘a missão mais importante de nossa geração’, diz Pujol; fala foi às redes minutos antes da fala de Bolsonaro


Conservationists and scientists are concerned that Macarena’s exceptional biodiversity may fall victim to economic interests

Santos había renunciado a su puesto el pasado 17 de enero

A joint team of U.S. service members providing medical aid and training in the remote La Guajira region of Colombia found their options to leave the country dwindle in mid-March

El Salvador

El presidente de El Salvador ha tenido una estrategia que parece eficaz, aunque criticada, ante la pandemia

El Salvador, Honduras

Although gangs operate in rural areas, the violence is worst in marginalized, urban areas that have been poorly planned


Migration authorities will resume processing applications on April 20, Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR said

Despite criticism that he is responding to the crisis too slowly, the president has targeted his response to the millions of Mexicans who live day-by-day, many in informal or precarious working conditions

López Obrador, who most know as Amlo, has responded to the coronavirus crisis with nonchalance – never missing an opportunity to contradict the advice of public health officials or paint the pandemic as a plot

Medical staff held strikes and walkouts across the country this week, warning that a lack of resources increases the risk

U.S.-Mexico Border

US troops are still at the southern border, despite waning migration and COVID-19 restrictions

These findings indicate no systematic relationship between border wall construction and crime rates

The children who have been separated include newborns who’ve been taken from their migrant mothers shortly after being born in U.S. hospitals

The “vast majority” — 70 to 80% — of migrants apprehended by US Border Patrol are being “immediately returned” to Mexico, said the DHS official

Those requesting protection at official ports of entry (including those who, due to policies like “metering,” have been waiting for months) will be turned away


“I want to see Maduro go, I think that Maduro is a dictator. But that doesn’t mean that the only solution is to starve Venezuelans to death”“

At Key Questions About How the U.S.-Mexico Border Shutdown Will Impact Vulnerable Asylum Seekers and Migrants

Here’s an analysis we posted yesterday in response to the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border to “inessential” travel. As noted in yesterday’s podcast, such travelers apparently include threatened people seeking asylum or protection in the United States, who are being turned away.

The result is a potential death sentence, once COVID-19 really hits, for people confined in crowded shelters, encampments, and substandard housing in Mexican border towns. This could get really ugly.

Read the piece at WOLA’s website.

The day ahead: March 25, 2020

I’m around until mid-afternoon. (How to contact me)

I had two cancellations or postponements, so today’s calendar is lighter than I expected. I also don’t have a podcast interview booked today, so today will stop my streak of weekday podcasts at six. (I’ve got three interviews scheduled for Thursday and Friday, so it will recover.)

Other than a late-afternoon conference call with groups that work on Colombia, I’ll be at the computer, posting a new “explainers” section to the Colombia peace website and starting to build a new web tool to assist my border work.

Also, today is when some groceries I ordered a week ago will finally be delivered, so that’s exciting.


While looking for a photo of coca bushes, I came across this shot from Putumayo, Colombia in 2016. Isn’t that cute.

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