Adam Isacson

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

April 2020

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Ricardo Monsalve photo at El Colombiano (Medellín Colombia). Caption: “Los Caparros (foto) tienen su accionar delictivo en el Bajo Cauca antioqueño y Sur de Córdoba, zonas donde mantienen una confrontación armada con el Clan del Golfo.”

(Even more here)

April 30, 2020

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

It is necessary to augment the regular Armed Forces of the United States for a named operational mission, specifically the “Enhanced Department of Defense Counternarcotic Operation in the Western Hemisphere”


From January to March, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose 51% from a year ago

The ouster of the former police chief had led to the resignation of Bolsonaro’s highly popular justice minister, Sérgio Moro, who alleged political interference, pitching the administration into political turmoil

Brazil, Colombia, Mexico

At least five defenders of the environment have been killed in different Latin American countries since March 11, the date the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic


En la plenaria de la Cámara, el representante uribista Edward Rodríguez, le propuso al gobierno que parte de esos 8 billones se redireccionen

Colombia will offer individuals who leave crime gangs and rebel dissident groups legal benefits including reduced sentences in an effort to weaken illegal armed groups

La Comisión de la Verdad expresa preocupación por la decisión del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) de retomar las acciones armadas a partir del 1 de mayo de 2020, después de una tregua unilateral de todo el mes

I, therefore, encourage the ELN to extend its ceasefire. I also call once again on all groups that generate violence to suspend their actions

Según el documento, los departamentos más afectados por este fenómeno son, en su orden, Nariño, Chocó, Cauca, Norte de Santander, Antioquia y Caquetá. Además, OCHA informó que más de 100 personas fueron afectadas por minas antipersonal

Mucho antes de conocerse esta determinación del Gobierno de Iván Duque, todos esos GAO, a excepción de las disidencias de las Farc, ya habían expresado su intención de una negociación con el Estado

De acuerdo con la Jurisdicción, a la fecha han sido asesinados 193 exmiembros de las Farc y han sido hostigados 16 integrantes de la fuerza pública

Of the 64 migrants deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) on a March 30 flight, approximately 24 have tested positive for COVID-19

Colombia, Venezuela

The flight may return to its former level when covid-19 ravages Venezuela. But the next wave of migrants will find Colombia less welcoming

El Salvador

We are concerned by several recent actions that you have taken which jeopardize the human rights of the Salvadoran people and your country’s democracy

While imprisoned gang leaders may be directing gang activity on the street, flouting harsh and abusive treatment of incarcerated populations does nothing to make Salvadorans safer

The strongman image projected by Bukele in recent months stands in contrast with the picture of the young, energizing change agent many in the international community saw him as before he took office

Experts warn that the popular president’s harsh move could backfire, unite the country’s powerful gangs against his government and return El Salvador to the days when it was one of the world’s deadliest countries

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Sin Fronteras deploró que el INM deportara de manera masiva a 3 mil 653 personas guatemaltecas, hondureñas y salvadoreñas –algunas solicitantes de asilo–, sin proteger a los grupos vulnerables


On behalf of convicted former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez and his brother the president, Bonilla Valladares oversaw the transshipment of multi-ton loads of cocaine

Document is a PDF


Content is a PDF

México no tiene obligación legal de recibir a los centroamericanos expulsados, mucho menos de ser un eslabón más en la deportación exprés. Al aceptar las reglas de juego impuestas por Trump, participa en un sistema que niega derechos fundamentales como el de pedir asilo


Since 2015, more than 40 members of indigenous communities along Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean coast have been killed and many more wounded and kidnapped, according to the Oakland Institute


Nine inmates were killed and scores of guards wounded when rioting broke out at a prison in Lima after two inmates died from COVID-19

U.S.-Mexico Border

Advocates say the administration is ramping up lawsuits against South Texas landowners to take their land for border wall construction and is accelerating the approval of construction contracts


Venezuela is asking the Bank of England to sell part of the South American nation’s gold reserves held in its coffers and send the proceeds to the United Nations to help with the country’s coronavirus-fighting efforts

The day ahead: April 30, 2020

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

I’ll be sitting in on WOLA’s Colombia event at 12:00, and recording a podcast in the mid-afternoon. (After a two-week break, the podcasts are coming back.) When not doing that, I’ll be prepping for two podcasts tomorrow, working on a commentary about military roles in Latin America during coronavirus, and taking myself outside for a long run.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Russ McSpadden photo at Center for Biological Diversity. Caption: “Wall construction in the Tinajas Altas Mountains.”

(Even more here)

April 29, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

There were 232 likely ICE Air deportation flights to Latin America and Caribbean countries between February 3, 2020 and April 24, 2020


“The president of the republic … is also subject to the laws, just like any other of the country’s citizens,” the supreme court judge Celso de Mello noted in his decision

As Brazil careens toward a full-blown public health emergency and economic meltdown, President Jair Bolsonaro has managed to add a third ingredient to the toxic mix: political crisis

His behavior has overlaid the health and economic emergencies with a political crisis, pushing Brazil into a period of extraordinary volatility

“So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”


Desde el pasado 16 de marzo, una semana antes de que se decretara la cuarentena por el COVID-19, la articulación entre Fiscalía y Fuerzas Militares ha dejado 25 operaciones contra redes criminales que se lucran del tráfico trasnacional de drogas

More than 15,000 unarmed guardians from the Guardia Indigena (Indigenous Guardians or Guards), a civilian, community defence force, have mobilised throughout the country to prevent the virus from reaching Indigenous reserves

Así está contemplado en el decreto 601 de este martes, firmado por el presidente Iván Duque, en el cual se establece que el Alto Comisionado para la Paz y las personas autorizadas por él, deberán verificar la voluntad real de paz y reinserción

No puede ser visto como un diálogo con esas organizaciones sino que se enfoca en darles las posibilidades a sus miembros de conseguir unos beneficios, que van más allá de lo judicial, si deciden volver a la vida regular

Se exige el desmonte de estructuras heredadas del paramilitarismo y alternativas para sus miembros

Le preocupa sobre manera, los constantes homicidios contra líderes sociales y defensores de derechos humanos en departamentos como el Cauca, donde, en la última semana, fueron asesinados cuatro de ellos


“In large part, I would go back,” Biden said in an interview with a CBS affiliate in Miami. “I’d still insist they keep the commitments they said they would make when we, in fact, set the policy in place”

El Salvador

The most popular leader in Latin America is a slender, casually dressed millennial with an easy manner on Twitter and a harsh approach that critics call increasingly frightening

Ante el desconcierto, el Gobierno optó por mostrar todo el músculo posible. El Faro conversó con policías, un funcionario y un líder pandillero para buscar piezas de este rompecabezas

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Ideally, the U.S. and Mexico should immediately pause all deportations


Besides the loss of jobs and savings, personal frustration and depression, could it translate to more malnutrition? And will this in turn lead to crime and unrest?


La parálisis de todas las instituciones carentes de un plan de respuesta para enfrentar la pandemia, lo que agrava la incertidumbre de los nicaragüenses con consecuencias a corto, mediano y largo plazo

U.S.-Mexico Border

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday heard arguments over a Democratic challenge to the Trump administration’s use of defense funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border

The move, which is laid out in a memo dated Monday and obtained by POLITICO, drew an angry response from Democrats, who say the administration is “trampling” on Congress’ power of the purse

The Pentagon is moving to scuttle nearly 19 more military construction projects ? including $274 million worth in Europe to deter Russia ? as a means to backfill a number of building projects at home that were deferred to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall

New drone footage shows border-wall construction blasting through a wildlife refuge and mountain range in one of the most remote regions of the United States, along a Mexican UNESCO biosphere reserve


Los familiares desmienten a Saab y aseguran que Chirinos y Torrealba «han manifestado de manera clara, firme y contundente su inocencia». Asimismo, denuncian que Alfredo Chirinos y Aryenis Torrealba han sido torturados en los calabozos de la Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar

As the current stalemate drags on, it has become clear that there can be no solution to Venezuela’s political crisis unless there is improved coordination between geopolitical actors, namely Russia, China, and the United States

“Le pedí a mi equipo la semana pasada, que tenga nuestros planes listos para cuando el día llegue”, dijo Pompeo en una mesa redonda con un grupo reducido de medios

El 28 de abril, en la sesión del Consejo de Seguridad se habló de la necesidad de expandir la presencia de la ONU en Venezuela y de un mayor acceso para llegar a más personas en situación vulnerable

The day ahead: April 29, 2020

I’m most reachable in the mid and late afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m in 3 internal meetings with colleagues in the morning and lunch hour. Then I’m discussing some legislative strategy with another organization. Then, I’ll be at my desk. I’ll be recording 3 podcasts on Thursday and Friday and need to prepare for those, and I’ll be putting together a report on military roles in Latin America during the coronavirus era. Yesterday I finally caught up our Colombia peace page’s Timeline through the month of March (it looks pretty cool) and will do similar updates today for its Numbers page and list of Explainers.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Fernando Vergara – AP photo at NPR/KCRW. Caption: “Venezuelan migrants in Colombia walk toward the border amid the coronavirus lockdown. Colombian officials say 12,000 Venezuelans have taken buses back to their home country since Colombia imposed restrictions to stop the outbreak.”

(Even more here)

April 28, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Latin America’s prisons hold 1.5 million inmates, and the facilities are often quasi-ruled by prisoners themselves because of corruption, intimidation and inadequate guard staffs

The kind of firepower now being deployed is expensive for counterdrug operations — and is not the most effective, either

The study found that 72% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under the optimistic scenario, while nearly 100% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under a more pessimistic scenario

“The report’s directives as to how ICE is to exercise its detention authority exceeds this court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate cases and controversies,” ICE attorneys said


Brazil’s supreme court has authorized an investigation of alleged corruption and obstruction of justice by President Jair Bolsonaro after the country’s outgoing justice minister accused him of attempting to interfere with federal police probes


Defendamos la Paz se pronuncia en contra de designios para que las reformas del Acuerdo de Paz, que el Gobierno y el partido de Gobierno fracasaron en obtener por vía legislativa, se hagan realidad por la puerta de atrás, mientras la ciudadanía permanece concentrada en la pandemia

Escudándose en la pandemia por el COVID-19, la ANLA propone que esta audiencia se haga por Facebook Live, Youtube y radios. Porque es inequitativo, inconstitucional y con efectos nefastos, pedimos que se suspenda este trámite

El Ejército de Liberación Nacional informa que el Cese el Fuego Unilateral…

A través de un comunicado, esa guerrilla anunció que el próximo jueves 30 de abril finalizará el cese al fuego unilateral que había decretado el pasado 29 de marzo

Preocupación en Cauca; el Pacífico nariñense; la zona del bajo Putumayo; el occidente de Antioquia y el Atrato chocoano

Por causa del coronavirus, las regiones más apartadas del país y donde históricamente menos ha llegado el Estado pueden verse golpeadas simultáneamente en términos de salud, economía, seguridad alimentaria y sobre todo, en su esfuerzo de los últimos años por superar el conflicto armado

Colombia, Venezuela

Things have gotten so bad that half of all Venezuelan migrants in Colombia face malnutrition or starvation, according to a new report from the World Food Program

Contrabando, narcotráfico, trata de personas y confrontaciones entre grupos armados ilegales y autoridades venezolanas o colombianas es el pan diario en la frontera colombo-venezolana

El Salvador

Right groups condemned El Salvador’s president on Monday for releasing startling photos of hundreds of jailed gang members stripped to underwear and pressed together in formation

El presidente de El Salvador decreta el estado de emergencia máxima en las cárceles tras el número de homicidios, al menos 40 en las últimas 72 horas, de los que se acusa a las maras


At least 100 migrants deported from the US have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Guatemalan officials. For many, the stigma they faced by some in the US has now followed them back to their homes in Guatemala


Even though border restrictions in Central America have meant a 90 per cent drop in average weekly asylum claims in Mexico in April, hundreds of people continue to apply for refugee status in the country

The fact criminal groups do not necessarily seek to topple a government or have an ideology does not mean that they do not seek to build influence with populations and governments

  • Juan Jesus Garza Onofre, Sergio Lopez Ayllon, Issa Luna Pla, Javier Martin Reyes, Pedro Salazar Ugarte, Gobernar por Discurso (El Universal (Mexico), April 28, 2020).

Más cerca de Santa Anna que de Juárez, el presidente quiere gobernar por decreto

En este estado y en esta ciudad, incapaces de proteger a sus ciudadanos, cada quien hace lo que le viene en gana, sólo necesita la suficiente fuerza política, económica o colectiva para evitar las consecuencias jurídicas


El presupuesto para Defensa Nacional y el aparato represor del régimen como es la PO es 326 por ciento más que lo destinado a la compra de medicamentos para los hospitales y centros de Salud pública

U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal judges are being told so little in court proceedings that it’s hard for them to “follow the money.”

The change could take place in September, according to one of the officials

In the past, if migrants experienced violence and persecution while waiting, they could try to get removed from the program by requesting something called a non-refoulement interview. COVID-19 has complicated the process

Why are we turning away refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants rather than adopting sensible measures recommended by experienced public health experts


La lista actualizada reporta 347 ciudadanos detenidos por delitos de conciencia

Mr. El Aissami, who is also vice president for the economy and industry minister, has denied the charges

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Tal Cual (Venezuela).

(Even more here)

April 27, 2020


Federal police investigators have identified his son as one of the alleged key members of a “criminal fake news racket” engaged in threatening and defaming Brazilian authorities

It remains unclear what the recent developments will mean for his support base, which includes evangelical Christians and a stable of military leaders he appointed to top jobs


Según las cifras del Ministerio de Defensa, que van desde el 7 de agosto de 2002 hasta hoy, se han desvinculado de los grupos armados 4.695 adolescentes entre los 15 y 17 años, 817 que estaban entre los 11 y los 14 años y 12 niños que tenían entre 7 y 10 años

María Alexandra Marín says she joined the leftist FARC guerrillas at age 15 to escape machismo. Adjusting to civilian life has not been easy

La comisión creada para la seguridad no arranca con vigor

“Uno no puede decir que la paz no llegó a ninguna parte del país, pero no llegó a estos territorios muy lejanos, pobres, donde hay ausencia del Estado y una situación muy difícil. Esto es lo que queda por hacer”

Peace is not a linear process. Even if these two unilateral gestures do not immediately bring the parties to a negotiation table, they give oxygen to pro-peace elements

El jefe de la delegación del CICR deja sus labores en el país, y un legado en el trabajo por la paz

Las investigaciones iniciaron desde el pasado 14 de abril, cuando se conoció la primera denuncia de presuntos sobrecostos en contratos relacionados con elementos de protección para los uniformados

¿Se ha excedido el Gobierno? Aún en medio de la crisis, necesitamos preservar el Estado de Derecho y el régimen democrático

El Salvador

Police said that 24 murders had been reported on Friday, making it the deadliest day since President Bukele came to power in June 2019


La fuerza armada regular para combatir a la delincuencia organizada en territorio nacional asciende a 321 mil 636 elementos, expuso el general secretario de Defensa Nacional Luis Cresencio Sandoval

Central America Regional, Mexico

Lo que no aclara el boletín es cuántos de los centroamericanos deportados habían sido previamente entregados por Estados Unidos

Guatemala, Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

A los migrantes que siguen llegando en autobús desde México, el Gobierno les hace chequeos médicos en los centros de retornados y, si no presentan síntomas de la enfermedad, les envían de regreso a sus comunidades


En el pueblito estiman que podrían ser más de 30 los desaparecidos durante los últimos 3 años

U.S.-Mexico Border

Migrants are still afraid that the pandemic will rip through the camp and that they won’t have the medical resources to endure it


El número de milicianos no es auditable. Al mismo tiempo, da la idea de una fuerza de complemento convertida, en enero de 2020, en el componente de la Fuerza Armada Nacional (FAN) que supera al total de la organización castrense

La Región Estratégica de Defensa Integral (REDI) Capital ordenó desplegar unidades de restitución de orden público en las áreas comerciales para evitar acciones desestabilizadoras que generen saqueos

An examination of the timeline reveals the last month of U.S. policy towards Venezuela has been nothing if not chaotic

WOLA comment on the CDC border ban

Under something called an “Interim Final Rule,” the Trump administration has sealed the U.S.-Mexico border since March 20 to all “inessential” travel. This means those without proper travel documents are getting expelled in as little as 90 minutes.

These expulsions are happening even to people asking for asylum or protection in the United States. Right now our government is sending hundreds of people directly back to danger.

This rule comes with a public comment process, and last Thursday was the deadline for getting in comments. With the text linked here and as a PDF here, WOLA was among dozens of organizations to submit comments. While I doubt it will get the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services to alter the rule, the collection of comments from organizations, taken together, is a remarkable document.

The day ahead: April 27, 2020

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

I’ve got a long morning staff check-in, a lunchtime call, and an NGO coalition meeting in the late afternoon. In the intervening time, my to-do list says I’m quite behind in updating sections of our Colombia website, so I’d like to knock that out if I can.

Tweets that made me laugh the most this week

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