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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April 2020

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images photo at The Guardian. Caption: “Jair Bolsonaro coughs as he speaks in Brasilia Sunday.”

(Even more here)

April 21, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

As the countries of this hemisphere contend with the mounting public health crisis, the relative silence of the United States is deafening

Criminal gangs are suffering from disrupted supply chains. For governments, this presents a rare opportunity to take back control of areas run by organised crime

The president’s announcement caught some senior Department of Homeland Security officials off guard, and the agency did not respond to questions and requests to explain Trump’s plan

Brazil

Indigenous Brazilians are demanding a missionary group based in Florida with deep ties to far-right President Jair Bolsonaro stay off their lands

Far-right president deemed ‘deplorable’ for flouting social distancing rules again – while coughing repeatedly – to bolster protests amid coronavirus

Colombia

Según la Comisión, la implementación del enfoque de género ha sido fragmentada e insuficiente. Consideran que el Estado no ha tenido una comprensión integral ni transversal del tema

Pablo Beltrán, del Comando Central del Eln, habló con EL TIEMPO sobre cese unilateral de abril

Una de las razones de esos ataques, dice, es la defensa que han hecho del proceso de paz

Tenemos conocimiento directo de la grave situación que afrontan las víctimas y defensores de derechos humanos en las regiones. A continuación se comparten las principales denuncias de las víctimas que acompañamos

La propuesta de Iván Cepeda fue acogida por Mindefensa: los recursos para armas irán para la salud

El Salvador

Ninguna democracia puede funcionar como funciona El Salvador ahora mismo: el presidente tuitea y los militares salen a las calles a cumplir la orden

Haiti

Three migrants the United States deported two weeks ago to Haiti, on a flight that raised objections from human rights advocates, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus while in quarantine

Mexico

Trauma is a common thread for the Central Americans, Cubans, Haitians, West Africans and others who come through this city of 350,000 near Mexico’s border with Guatemala

Los 3.5 kilómetros que tiene la avenida Gustavo Baz, en la colonia Benito Juárez, están abarrotados de negocios que, pese al llamado a quedarse en casa, mantenían sus puertas abiertas

In Cancún, at least four cartels are thought to be contesting routes to smuggle cocaine in from South America and a local drug market targeting tourists and locals

Close to 200 active criminal groups act as guardians and protectors of communities while using extortion, kidnapping, and violence

The continued flow of various weapons to the Pentagon during the pandemic will depend to a surprising degree on Mexico

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Fourteen of the infected migrants from Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba and Cameroon were staying at a migrant shelter in the city of Nuevo Laredo

About 10% of all positive cases in the state of Tamaulipas are migrants who were either repatriated to Mexico or foreigners deported from U.S.

Peru

Riot police in Peru have blockaded a major highway and fired teargas into crowds of people attempting to flee the capital city and return on foot to their rural hometowns

Peru, Venezuela

Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced borders to close in March, several governments in the region were taking aggressive steps to stem the flow of migrants

U.S.-Mexico Border

The United States, Canada and Mexico will extend restrictions barring nonessential travel across their respective shared borders for another 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic

Many of today’s asylum seekers, especially those from Central America and Mexico (which, taken together, account for most of the people seeking asylum in the United States), are fleeing non-state persecutors

Venezuela

Un abogado por escribir una queja en Facebook, un médico por tener “una conducta hostil” con la policía y en Falcón tres productores del campo y un abogado, tras las protestas en la población de Churuguara

Migrants who have been forced to return to Venezuela because of the COVID-19 crisis risk human rights abuses as the government fails to respond to the crisis

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The exodus of Venezuelans as well as Nicaraguans and Central Americans from their countries has been met with varying levels of welcome

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Andressa Anholete / Getty Images photo at Foreign Policy. Caption: “President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with supporters in Brasília on April 19.”

(Even more here)

April 20, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Biden said to the Des Moines Register, “I’m the guy who put together Plan Colombia,” which, given the legacy of the plan, might sound like a confession, but was certainly meant as a boast

When we planned this operation and when the President approved this operation, this was before the world was rapidly engulfed in the COVID crisis

Coronavirus is dealing a gut punch to the illegal drug trade, paralyzing economies, closing borders and severing supply chains in China

ICE publicly confirmed that 105 detainees and 25 employees in at least 29 detention centers now have coronavirus. However, Acting Director Albence revealed today that only 400 detainees have been tested

In its initial denial that a hunger strike was taking place at Mesa Verde, ICE called the claims a “shameful, coordinated campaign against truth”

Brazil

Os generais não estão fazendo contas para saber quantos tanques são necessários para fechar o Congresso e o Supremo Tribunal Federal. O foco é o vírus

President Jair Bolsonaro is moving aggressively to open up the Amazon rainforest to commercial development, posing an existential threat to the tribes living there

The Brazilian president is banking on popular outrage at lockdowns if the economy falls apart—and elite fears of his vice president

Bolsonaro happily endorsed the right-wing demonstration fueled by anger over coronavirus pandemic lockdowns

Colombia

Aunque hay algunos avances, los asesinatos de líderes sociales y excombatientes de las Farc evidencian que la democracia está bajo amenaza. El Gobierno de Iván Duque defiende su gestión

“En lo que tiene que ver con la aspersión de cultivos ilícitos, se están cumpliendo con todos los requisitos que fueron definidos por la Corte Constitucional y en estos momentos se están dando los pasos institucionales que se requieren para tal efecto”

Durante la cuarentena nacional para contener el COVID-19, la Fuerza Pública ha arrancado y fumigado matas de coca en Putumayo, Caquetá, el sur de Córdoba, Chocó, Catatumbo y Nariño

Mientras las comunidades de Huellas y del norte del Cauca intentan sacar adelante el legado de Edwin Dagua Ipia, comuneros, guardias indígenas y autoridades ancestrales siguen en riesgo

Por la naturaleza del Bloque Sur, conocido como el ala militar y estratégica de la guerrilla, todos los secuestros fueron perpetrados por sus hombres, pero el cautiverio se le delegó al Bloque Oriental

Con este crimen, son 23 los reincorporados de ese grupo ex guerrillero que han sido asesinados este año, 7 desde que se decretó la cuarentena y 195 desde la firma de los acuerdos de paz en el 2016

Colombia, Venezuela

El rechazo hacia los migrantes se ha esparcido junto al virus en el país. Así lo demuestra una encuesta contratada por el Proyecto Migración Venezuela

El Salvador

Las personas que violan el decreto son detenidas y enviadas a centros de confinamiento sanitario. Algo que es ilegal, establecieron los magistrados de la Sala

Guatemala

Mr. Giammattei said that 12 Guatemalans who tested positive for coronavirus were retested by officials sent down from the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control. All of them tested positive again for the virus Friday

According to Hugo Monroy, the Guatemalan Health Minister, the recent increase of cases is the result of the massive deportation and expulsion of Guatemalan migrants from the United States and Mexico

Honduras

Lo anterior se agrava por el nivel de “hipercorrupción” al que hemos llegado como país; por el cinismo asociado a quienes toman las decisiones; y por la creencia generalizada de que el control del Estado faculta al gobernante y a su círculo cercano

Mexico

La sentencia de 22 años de prisión y 10 de inhabilitación en cargos públicos a los acusados –que ya apelaron– es la primera que se emite por uno de los 45 casos de ese delito registrados por el Comité de Derechos Humanos de Nuevo Laredo y que involucran a personal de la Armada

The Mexican government must immediately release detained migrants who are especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and grant them temporary residence rights to ensure access to health and social services, a judge has ruled

Los hechos se le atribuyen al grupo delictivo La Línea que desde por lo menos el año 2017 mantiene una pugna encarnizada por la tala de árboles

Nicaragua, Venezuela

A consultas de LA PRENSA, el vocero de la institución militar, coronel Álvaro Rivas, explicó que el involucramiento en la operación Orion es desde el 2018

U.S.-Mexico Border

The quarantine provision of the 1944 Public Health Service Act does not supersede other laws, or allow for selective application based on immigration status

Venezuela

El ejercicio versó sobre tiro al seco y triangulación, «empleando miras Red-Dot PK-A en el fusil AK-103». Este último es el fusil adquirido por la FAN a Rusia según el contrato de cooperación técnico militar suscrito en 2005

El Grupo de Trabajo de Naciones Unidas sobre Desapariciones Forzadas o Involuntarias ha dicho que en Venezuela existe un “patrón de desapariciones forzadas a corto plazo de opositores políticos o personas percibidas como tales, y sus familiares”

I wondered in 2016 if Trump would be as deft as Chávez in consolidating power and turning crises to his advantage. Mostly, he has

El representante de EEUU para Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, manifestó este viernes 17 de abril que ante un eventual gobierno transitorio en Venezuela -vía Consejo de Estado como lo dice su propuesta presentada en días pasados-, el alto mando militar debería permanecer en sus puestos

The day ahead: April 20, 2020

I’ll be most reachable mid-day. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a morning staff meeting, and two mid-afternoon meetings, one internal and one with a group of investigators evaluating a Defense Department program. Otherwise I’ll be writing a new Explainer and adding other bits for the Colombia website.

For the rest of their lives, these people will think about what they did this week

This is from my weekly e-mail newsletter, in which I vent about how worried I am about COVID-19’s potential to kill a lot of people stuck in ICE’s network of immigrant detention centers.

People are going to die. It is going to be bad. And it’s totally preventable: alternatives to detention programs have good records of keeping people on the outside from slipping through the cracks.

WOLA and other organizations are making a lot of noise. Members of Congress—though no Republicans I’m aware of—are making a lot of noise too. But the top levels at ICE, DHS, and the White House are immovable.

I can’t stop wondering what’s going through the minds of the people directly managing these detention centers right now. Most of them are employees of private corporations like CoreCivic and Geo Group. They’ve got to know what’s about to happen. Many of them were raised to value human life—in their churches, in their upbringings, in their educations.

What are they doing now? If detention centers get hit by a wave of COVID-19 deaths, what will the record show that they were doing—right now, this week—to prevent it? Are they frantically making phone calls, sending e-mails, leaking to reporters, making their CEOs and boards miserable, contacting their local mayors, governors, and congressional representatives?

Tweets that made me laugh the most this week

Latin America-related online events this week

Monday, April 20

  • 2:00–3:30 at cato.org: Economic Sanctions during a Pandemic (RSVP required).

Tuesday, April 21

  • 1:00–2:30 at forumarmstrade.org: Gun Violence in Mexico and Central America: Facing the Challenges and the Path to Solutions (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 22

  • 1:00–2:00 at wola.org: Human Rights in Bolsonaro’s Brazil: The fight for the rights of Brazilian ethnic and minority groups during COVID-19 (RSVP required).
  • 4:00–5:00 at wilsoncenter.org: Immigration and the US-Mexico Border during the Pandemic: A Conversation with Members of Congress (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 23

  • 12:00-1:30 at cina.gmu.edu: Using Economic Principles to Identify and Understand Drug Trafficking Networks (RSVP required).
  • 2:30-3:30 at University of Miami: COVID-19 in the Americas: Politics and Policy (RSVP required).

U.S. COVID-19 cases in the past week

When I get anxious about something, I may make a spreadsheet about it to try to understand it better. (Doesn’t everyone?) So I made these using the New York Times case data at Github, and the COVID Tracking Project Google Docs.

In the end, I don’t know what this all means—this is far from my specialty. But what I think it means is:

  • Northeastern states still have some of the fastest growth in coronavirus cases, but this may also be a measure of more aggressive testing. As a percentage of population, New York has done five times more testing than Texas.
  • The South is showing up a lot more, more than when I ran these numbers last week.
  • Some states (California, Minnesota) have low testing, but also may genuinely have slow growth because they’ve been strict about social distancing. Others (Texas, Georgia, Iowa) have low testing, and may be missing a lot of what’s happening.
  • Virginia and Alabama are among states with the highest percentage growth in cases despite being in the bottom 15 for testing. That seems alarming.

5 links from the past week

  • Why does Venezuela’s military remain so loyal to the Maduro regime? Some give credit to a Cuban-managed counter-intelligence capability that sniffs out dissident officers. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a network of investigative journalists, finds another explanation: a cache of internal military documents shows how top commanders benefit from massive corruption. State contracts get channeled through private corporations connected to generals. The report profiles 35 of the generals.
  • The International Crisis Group published a very current situation report on conditions along the Colombia-Venezuela border, where the effects of coronavirus are just starting to be felt.
  • At La Silla Vacía Kyle Johnson, who works for the Kroc Institute’s Colombia team but does a lot of independent writing, recounts a recent visit to rural Tumaco, Nariño, where he meets with the head of a FARC dissident faction, which splintered last November from a dissident faction whose founder was killed in late 2018. The story portrays life in an ungoverned zone along what may be Colombia’s busiest cocaine route, where narcotraffickers have undisputed authority.
  • At The El Paso Times, Lauren Villagrán visits Tapachula, Chiapas, near Mexico’s busiest border crossing with Guatemala. There, she talks to Haitian migrants who are adjusting to the idea of settling in Mexico rather than the United States. A common destination is Mexicali, a city bordering southeast California with a growing Haitian population.
  • El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has responded to coronavirus by dramatically curtailing civil liberties, even ignoring unanimous Constitutional Court rulings striking down his edicts. Bukele has ordered Salvadorans to open their homes to warrantless security-force raids. El Faro alarmingly documents soldiers carrying out such raids in a slum on San Salvador’s outskirts.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Moises Castillo/Reuters photo at Al Jazeera. Caption: “Indigenous women wearing masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand near the National Palace in Guatemala City”

(Even more here)

April 17, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

In a region that’s still overcoming a legacy of dictatorships, the pandemic could once again make it normal to have soldiers indefinitely patrolling the streets

“The White House wants ORR [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] to be an immigration enforcement office”

Brazil

“I know … life is priceless. But the economy and jobs must return to normal,” Bolsonaro said

Sao Paulo has reported 11,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and almost 800 deaths, the highest in the country. As governor, Doria has become one of the nation’s foremost advocates of strong restrictions on daily life

Colombia

  • Ariel Ávila, Sos (Semana (Colombia), April 17, 2020).

En las últimas horas se han producido tres hechos de violencia, que demuestran que varias regiones de Colombia se están desangrando

Colombia, Venezuela

With at least 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia and a lengthy shared border, the two countries should re-establish official cooperation during the pandemic

El Salvador

«Así como no acataría una resolución que me ordene matar salvadoreños, tampoco puedo acatar una resolución que me ordena dejarlos morir», publicó en Twitter

Guatemala

A study by the Guatemalan Health Ministry in 2017 found that the Guatemalan government was spending less per capita on health services in largely Indigenous departments than departments with a majority of non-Indigenous communities

Cuarenta y cuatro migrantes que arribaron a Guatemala el lunes tras ser deportados de Estados Unidos dieron positivo el jueves a COVID-19, dijo a The Associated Press un oficial de gobierno

Haiti, Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Haitian applications for asylum or refugee status in Mexico surged from just 76 in 2018 to 5,548 in 2019

Mexico

The Frente Unido de Policías Comunitarias de Guerrero is a coalition of militias which claim to have taken up arms against drug trafficking gangs, according to its Facebook page

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Narcotics investigators have noted that street-level drug dealers are trying to stretch their supplies and there’s been a slight increase in the prices of illegal drugs at the wholesale and retail levels

U.S. immigration officials have expelled at least 299 minors traveling alone or without legal guardians, according to CBP. Reuters put the number at 377 children, and reported that around 120 of them were sent on planes

U.S.-Mexico Border

In the past 12 months, the administration opened 41 cases in federal court to seize land to build a wall along the southern border of Texas. Nearly half of those cases – 16, or 39 percent – were filed in the past two months

Since the start of March, the federal government has filed 16 new cases — encompassing more than 1,000 acres of land — even as Trump was announcing social distancing guidelines

Venezuela

llegal mining raises three fundamental issues for policymakers: (1) the implications of further instability in an already failed state, (2) the impact on sanctions policies, and (3) the challenge of getting these territories back from armed groups once there is a transition

The day ahead: April 17, 2020

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

It was nice having a couple of days with very few meetings or deadlines to catch up on reading and research (I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I did a lot). Today, though, it’s time to put on a button-down shirt. I’ve got a writing deadline about the border, another for an internal organizational document, and in the afternoon will be talking about the border with a group of supporters.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Valeria Olivares photo at The Dallas Morning News. Caption: “Street vendors at traffic lights throughout Ciudad Juarez have swapped their usual stock of cigarettes, toys and candy for face masks.”

(Even more here)

April 16, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Contemporary Latin American liberalism suffers from two weaknesses

De ahí están llegando múltiples donaciones de equipos médicos, expertos y consejos para combatir la covid-19: forman parte de lo que algunos analistas ya han bautizado como la nueva “diplomacia de las mascarillas”

  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Ricardo Lagos, Juan Manuel Santos, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Mauricio Cardenas, Roberto Chang, Jose de Gregorio, Ilan Goldfajn, Ricardo Hausmann, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Federico Sturzenegger, Rodrigo Valdes, Andres Velasco, A Roadmap for Confronting Covid-19 in Latin America (Americas Quarterly, April 16, 2020).

A look at the ethics and economic imperatives of the pandemic, by a group of former Latin American presidents, former officials and distinguished scholars

Bolivia

Para 37 de los aprehendidos ya se dictó una condena por atentar contra la salud. Además, se prevé detener a otros agentes que ayer duplicaron dos páginas estatales para vender permisos de circulación falsos

Brazil

In a defiant news conference, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta acknowledged his differences with Bolsonaro and said he had discussed a search for his replacement with the presidential chief of staff

Brazil, El Salvador

Brazil’s ultra-conservative president Jair Bolsonaro and El Salvador’s leader Najib Bukele stand out for their efforts to intimidate independent media

Caribbean Regional, Cuba

Over eight days the Caribbean island, which has remodeled medical cooperation into its most profitable source of revenue, sent at least 473 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to eight Caribbean nations

Central America Regional

Leaning on the pandemic as a pretext, all offices under the executive branch have stopped responding to public information requests

Colombia

Andrés Stapper, director de la Agencia para la Reincorporación y la Normalización (ARN), aseguró que desde el Gobierno se están realizando todas las gestiones necesarias para garantizar que el impacto de esta coyuntura sea el mínimo posible

Pablo Beltrán, el jefe de la delegación de paz del ELN, responde en directo desde La Habana, Cuba, qué hace falta para iniciar una mesa de conversación con este Gobierno

Desde hace un mes no se han registrado acciones ofensivas atribuidas al ELN y en consecuencia no hay reporte de víctimas asociadas a la violencia de ese grupo guerrillero

A través de un temerario panfleto instan a los campesinos de la Amazonia a acabar con los bosques y adueñarse de las tierras. Amenazan con declarar objetivos militares a Parques Nacionales, Instituto Sinchi, Misión Amazonia y corporaciones autónomas

Desde Potosí ciudadanos grabaron cómo sobrevolaba el helicóptero de la policía desde la media noche. Hubo ESMAD, gases, aturdidoras, bala, represión, fueron los reclamos de habitantes de Ciudad Bolívar

70 grupos y movimientos de víctimas le exigen al Gobierno medidas humanitarias especiales por crisis

Una crónica sobre la disidencia El Alfonso Cano y como se vive el conflicto desde la costa pacífico nariñense

Colombia, Venezuela

Photographs shared with the Guardian showed scenes of squalor: blocked toilets, muddy bathroom floors and people sleeping on the ground of the derelict building

Costa Rica

There is little to suggest the situation in Limón will change anytime soon. Organized crime continues to be a growing economic engine

El Salvador

El procedimiento, que se repitió en cinco casas más, se llevó a cabo sin presencia del Ministerio de Salud, siete horas antes de que Presidencia anunciara un nuevo decreto que ordena a los salvadoreños a abrir sus casas cuando las autoridades lo requieran

El presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, dijo el miércoles que no cumplirá varios fallos de la Corte Suprema de Justicia que le impiden realizar detenciones de personas que supuestamente han incumplido una cuarentena

President Nayib Bukele’s statements have encouraged excessive use of force and the draconian enforcement of measures imposed by his government

Mexico

In the first sixteen months of López Obrador’s term, the president has so far shown indifference toward the anti-corruption system, failing to capitalize on its potential

Condenamos enérgicamente los hechos ocurridos el pasado 8 de abril en el que agentes del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) transportaron en camiones a centenares de personas migrantes desde diversas estaciones migratorias hacia la frontera de México con Guatemala

En un comunicado, la SSPC indicó que el despliegue se llevó a cabo en 84 unidades médicas de los estados de Baja California, Chihuahua, Ciudad de México, Coahuila y Estado de México

Las ciudades con mayor sensación de inseguridad fueron Ecatepec de Morelos, Uruapan, Coatzacoalcos, Fresnillo, Iztapalapa y Villahermosa

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Red tape and rules on exporting medical gear have delayed work on a field hospital for migrants in an asylum camp near Mexico’s border with Texas, undercutting efforts to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, according to organizers of the project

Nicaragua

Ortega said the pandemic was “a sign from God” against militarism and hegemony

U.S.-Mexico Border

a bicameral letter with 25 U.S. Senators and 66 U.S. Representatives to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, urging them to halt ongoing wall construction

Venezuela

La ONG Foro Penal denunció la mañana de este miércoles 15 de abril que un contingente indeterminado de funcionarios adscritos a la Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar (Dgcim) pretende ingresar de manera violenta en la cárcel militar de Ramo Verde

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