- 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 https://www.state.gov/2020-international-narcotics-control-strategy-report/>.
- 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 https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-163R>.
- 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 https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-274>.
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 https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-245>.
Songs I had on heavy rotation in March
From my regular nightly music posts from March, as Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and YouTube playlists.
The best song I washed dishes to tonight
“You’ll Need A New Backseat Driver” by The New Pornographers (2019).
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
March 31, 2020
Western Hemisphere Regional
- Michael Weissenstein, Evens Sanon, Franklin Briceno, “Coronavirus Hits Rich and Poor Unequally in Latin America” (Associated Press, Associated Press, March 31, 2020).
Many of the wealthy are already recovering, but experts warn that the virus could kill scores of the poorest people
- Edinson Arley Bolanos, “¿se Abre Paso una Mesa de Negociacion Entre el Gobierno de Duque y el Eln?” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 31, 2020).
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
- Armando Neira, “El Coronavirus Mueve la Agenda de la Paz y la Guerra en Colombia” (El Tiempo (Colombia), March 31, 2020).
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
- Jeremy Mcdermott, “The Invisible Drug Lord: Hunting ‘the Ghost’” (InsightCrime, March 31, 2020).
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
- Ricardo Monsalve Gaviria, “¿por Que Hay Que Parar la Guerra para Combatir al Coronavirus?” (El Colombiano (Medellin Colombia), March 31, 2020).
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
- Nicolas Bedoya, “Paramilitary Offensives Persist in Antioquia, Colombia” (Latin America News Dispatch, March 31, 2020).
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
- Venezuela Investigative Unit, “Rastrojos Under Siege at Colombia-Venezuela Border” (InsightCrime, March 31, 2020).
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
- Hugo Eduardo Ramirez Arcos, “Las Masacres de las Trochas, una Barbarie Sin Control” (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación (Colombia), March 31, 2020).
La situación se ha vuelto tan recurrente que incluso el diario regional –La Opinión, ya tiene una sección dedicada a Muertos en trochas
- Carlos Martinez, Oscar Martinez, Efren Lemus, “Pandillas Amenazan a Quien Incumpla la Cuarentena” (El Faro (El Salvador), March 31, 2020).
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
- Valeria Guzman, “El Dia en Que el Gobierno Fallo a los Mas Vulnerables” (El Faro (El Salvador), March 31, 2020).
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
- Jeff Abbott, “Guatemalan Deported From Us Tests Positive for Covid-19: Official” (Al Jazeera, March 31, 2020).
The man began showing symptoms of COVID-19 over the weekend while in quarantine in his family’s home
- Anna-Cat Brigida , “Coronavirus Crisis Exposes Another Pandemic in Honduras: Analysts” (Al Jazeera, March 31, 2020).
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
- Kirk Semple, Natalie Kitroeff, “‘I Can’t Stop’: In Vast Informal Economy, Pandemic Adds to Pressure” (The New York Times, March 31, 2020).
Many workers in Latin America labor without protections, surviving day to day, making them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus
- Ernesto Lopez Portillo, “Guardia Nacional, Tortura y Desaparicion Forzada” (Animal Politico (Mexico), March 31, 2020).
La información disponible permite presumir la tortura y la desaparición forzada contra un número indeterminado de migrantes, a manos de la Guardia Nacional
- “Saludo de Amlo a Mama de “el Chapo”, Falta Respeto a Victimas: Pan; Su Agenda No Favorece a Mexico: Pri” (SinEmbargo (Mexico), March 31, 2020).
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
- Douglas Main, “Border Wall Construction Expands, Despite Pandemic, Imperiling Jaguars and Other Animals” (National Geographic, March 31, 2020).
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
- Simon Romero, “Border Wall Work in Arizona Speeds Up, Igniting Contagion Fears” (The New York Times, March 31, 2020).
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
- Ivan Flores, “A Desperate Scramble to Prevent the Pandemic at a U.S.-Mexico Border Camp” (Foreign Policy, March 31, 2020).
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
- Nick Miroff, “Under Coronavirus Immigration Measures, U.S. Is Expelling Border-Crossers to Mexico in an Average of 96 Minutes” (The Washington Post, March 31, 2020).
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
- Hamed Aleaziz, “The Trump Administration Is Now Deporting Unaccompanied Immigrant Kids Due to the Coronavirus” (BuzzFeed, March 31, 2020).
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
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Illinois), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California), “Nadler, Feinstein, Durbin, Lofgren Demand Dhs Give Due Process as Required by Law to Unaccompanied Children During Covid-19 Outbreak” (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, March 31, 2020).
DHS has the ability and capacity to protect both these children and the public. We request that DHS stop this practice immediately
- Sofia Nederr, Carlos Seijas Meneses, “Control de la Fan Sobre Civiles Incluye Aval para Acceder al Combustible” (Tal Cual (Venezuela), March 31, 2020).
Los civiles dependen de militares para abastecerse de combustible. Productores agrícolas denuncian que están «en manos» del Comando Estratégico Operacional
- Reynaldo Mozo Zambrano, “Foro Penal Registra 328 Presos Politicos en Venezuela Este #30mar” (Efecto Cocuyo (Venezuela), March 31, 2020).
9.089 personas siguen sujetas a procesos penales políticos bajo medidas cautelares
- Deisy Martinez, “Denuncian Amenazas y Persecucion Contra 33 Politicos Opositores, Incluidos 13 Diputados” (Efecto Cocuyo (Venezuela), March 31, 2020).
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
- Lara Jakes, “U.S. Counts on Global Crises to Press Again for Power Shift in Venezuela” (The New York Times, March 31, 2020).
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.
The best song I washed dishes to tonight
“Moment” by Pinegrove (2019).
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
March 30, 2020
Western Hemisphere Regional
- Terrence Mccoy, Mary Beth Sheridan, “Coronavirus Collides With Latin America’s Maid Culture — With Sometimes Deadly Results” (The Washington Post, March 30, 2020).
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
- James Blake, Colin P. Clarke, “Latin America: Local, Not Central, Is Key to Reducing Crime and Violence” (Just Security, March 30, 2020).
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
- “Eln Decreta Cese Unilateral al Fuego por el Nuevo Coronavirus” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
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
- “Asesinatos de Excombatientes de las Farc en Medio de la Pandemia del Covid-19” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
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
- Felipe Morales Sierra, “El Fallido Motin de la Carcel Modelo Que Acabo en Matanza” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
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
- “Organizaciones Campesinas Denuncian Ejecucion Extrajudicial en el Catatumbo” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
Denuncian amenazas por parte del Ejército Nacional de abrir fuego contra quienes se encontraran en asentamientos campesinos, oponiéndose a la erradicación manual forzada
- “La Guerra en Colombia No se Detiene, a Pesar del Coronavirus” (El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
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
- Pablo Gomez, “A Dos Anos de Apertura de la Jep, los Terceros Van a Medio Camino” (DeJusticia, El Espectador (Colombia), March 30, 2020).
Quizá su principal reto será comunicar a la ciudadanía los alcances de una justicia basada en un esquema institucional único en su especie
- Molly o’toole, “Central America Fears Trump Could Deport the Coronavirus” (The Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2020).
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
- Andrea Navarro, “Hugs, Kisses, Dining Out During Virus Raise Fear in Mexico” (Bloomberg, March 30, 2020).
“Mexico’s response was late, wrong and slow, and many people are going to die”
- Arturo Angel, “Violencia No Frena en la Pandemia: 2 Mil Personas Han Sido Asesinadas” (Animal Politico (Mexico), March 30, 2020).
El promedio de homicidios en marzo supera los 82 casos diarios, el promedio más alto desde junio de 2019
Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border
- Alfredo Corchado, “Mexican Governors Call on Amlo to Do More to Close Border With U.S.” (The Dallas Morning News, March 30, 2020).
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
- Dan Collyns, Sam Cowie, Joe Parkin Daniels, Tom Phillips, “‘Coronavirus Could Wipe Us Out’: Indigenous South Americans Blockade Villages” (The Guardian, March 30, 2020).
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
- Sofia Nederr, “Acusacion Contra Maduro Pone a la Fan en una Encrucijada y Crea Incertidumbre” (Tal Cual (Venezuela), March 30, 2020).
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
- Joshua Goodman, “Guaido Urges Unity Government Backed by Loans to Fight Virus” (Associated Press, Associated Press, March 30, 2020).
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
- Anatoly Kurmanaev, Clifford Krauss, Andrew E. Kramer, “Russian State Oil Company Rosneft, in Sudden Move, Sells Assets in Venezuela” (The New York Times, March 30, 2020).
The sanctions, which have hurt the company’s business elsewhere in the world, were cited by a Rosneft spokesman Saturday in describing the sale
- Jose Luis Carrillo, “Politologos Aseguran Que Arrinconamiento a Maduro Puede Ser Contraproducente” (Tal Cual (Venezuela), March 30, 2020).
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.
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.
The best song I washed dishes to tonight
“Night Terrors” by Diet Cig (2020).
Tweets that made me laugh the most this week
Latin America-related online events this week
Tuesday, March 31
- 4:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: 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 thedialogue.org: Price War Meets Pandemic – Energy’s Perfect Storm in Latin America (RSVP required).
Thursday, April 2
- 9:00–10:30 at thedialogue.org: Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Migrants and Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).
- 11:00 at migrationpolicy.org: 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.