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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August 2020

Some articles I found interesting this morning

No More Deaths photo at The Intercept. Caption: “Border Patrol vehicles taking part in a July 31, 2020, raid on the migrant humanitarian aid group No More Deaths.”

(Even more here)

August 3, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Bruselas considera que la pandemia y las elecciones en EE UU impiden conceder al debate “la atención necesaria”

Place your cursor over a country below to compare how the United States and China have stepped up in Latin America to address this pandemic

Rubio has effectively become secretary of State for Latin America, according to interviews with more than a dozen former White House and State Department officials and current Republican lawmakers, aides and analysts

  • Joy Olson, Kick the Can (El Faro (El Salvador), August 3, 2020).

President Trump’s nomination of Claver-Carone on June 16th was controversial not only because it breaks with tradition, but because of the nominee himself

Brazil

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has begun an inquiry into multiple reports in the Brazilian media that the U.S. ambassador was framing negotiations over ethanol tariffs in partisan terms

Brazilian news reports say the ambassador asked for a “favor.” Democrats are demanding answers

Chile

Cinco edificios edilicios están tomados desde el lunes, en apoyo a la huelga de hambre de 11 comuneros

Colombia

Las cifras presentadas en términos de erradicación de hectáreas de cultivos de coca y la destrucción de laboratorios para el procesamiento de cocaína e insumos, no corresponden con la realidad, y están siendo alteradas de manera fraudulenta por algunas de los mandos militares

Es investigado por la Fiscalía por su presunta responsabilidad en 42 ‘falsos positivos’ ocurridos cuando comandó dos batallones en Antioquia y Huila

Es peruana, británica y suiza y cuenta con 24 años de experiencia en el campo de los derechos humanos. Ha sido directora de Incidencia Política en Ginebra para Human Rights Watch

El exjefe paramilitar Salvatore Mancuso sigue insistiendo en que quiere confesar y colaborar con la justicia en temas que incriminan al senador Álvaro Uribe Vélez y su hermano Santiago

De él se pueden decir cosas tan contrastantes como que les dio cuotas a sus colegas del Partido de La U y, también, que se volcó a los territorios como ningún otro Defensor lo había hecho hasta ahora

La magistrada Linares ha conservado su moderación y mesura. Sin embargo, por primera vez responde, con lenguaje respetuoso pero firme

Una carta del comisionado Carlos Ospina, de la Comisión de la Verdad, en la que rechaza la cancelación de un simposio al que estaba invitado un militar condenado por ‘falsos positivos’, dejó ver la dimensión de las diferencias que hay en esa entidad

Debido a un mal diseño, la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz ha invadido las competencias de otros jueces. Esto produce inseguridad jurídica y puede ser perjudicial para a las víctimas

Si Trump pierde las elecciones de noviembre, Washington apoyará el proceso de paz, la protección de líderes sociales y la defensa de los derechos humanos en Colombia

Alrededor de 25.000 cuerpos no identificados permanecen enterrados en los cementerios del país, la mayoría como consecuencia del conflicto. La Fiscalía ya ha exhumado 2.400. Radiografía de una dolorosa búsqueda por decenas de camposantos

El Salvador

En lugar de intentar ocultarlas es hora de transparentarlas. El diálogo tendría que ser desde arriba, de forma franca y pública y, sobretodo, sin buscar beneficio político

Guyana

Mohamed Irfaan Ali will manage the flow of billions in new oil revenues, which are reshaping the small South American country and heightened a standoff after elections in March

Mexico

El Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima, ahora muy tocado, mantiene desde el 2018 una sangrienta guerra con el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) por el control del territorio en Guanajuato

Mexican authorities say José Antonio Yépez, or ‘El Marro,’ led an organized-crime group that siphoned fuel from pipelines and fought the Jalisco Cartel

Gobierno le atribuye actividades de robo masivo de combustible y la explosión de violencia homicida en Guanajuato por su lucha con grupos rivales

Los delincuentes se creen tan vivos y tan listos, pero al final siempre vamos a ganar los buenos, dijo el embajador de Estados Unidos en México, Christopher Landau

Parent groups spend weeks at a time searching rugged and remote areas nationwide for clandestine mass graves, known as fosas clandestinas

U.S.-Mexico Border

The Court’s order marks the second time Trump v. Sierra Club has come before the justices, and the Friday decision says as much about the unusual deference this Court gives to Trump as it does about the wall itself

The Trump administration will have used all of the money before the justices have a chance to decide the merits of the case

For the second time in two years, Border Patrol launched a raid against No More Deaths within days of the group releasing embarrassing information about the agency

El Paso, like the nation, is caught between two vastly different visions of borders and demographic change: one rooted in connection, another in division

After Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps refused to commit what he considered perjury, he was tracked by Stephen Miller

People in camps in Mexico were forced to retreat to higher ground after the level of the Rio Grande rose by 12 feet

Venezuela

Los líderes políticos expresaron en un manifiesto todas las arremetidas y violaciones que ha cometido la dictadura de Maduro en contra del derecho a elegir del pueblo venezolano, el sistema electoral, la Asamblea Nacional y el proceso fraudulento actualmente convocado

A succinct evaluation of Colombia’s President Duque at the midpoint of his presidency

On August 7, Iván Duque completes two years as president of Colombia, with two left to go. I’ve seen a lot of midterm evaluation analyses in Colombia’s press. Most are largely negative: Duque has had a bumpy ride, and he’s governing from the center-right with the support of a party dominated by the ultra, populist right.

Daniel Samper, writing at Los Danieles, gave what I think is the fairest, most succinct evaluation of Iván Duque and his “mediocre” presidency so far. Here’s an English excerpt.

The evaluations I have read of Duque’s mid-term mandate are mostly unfavorable. Mediocre commentator that I am, I declare myself incapable of delving into all government issues and efforts. That is why I choose an evaluation formula worthy of a waiting room magazine. Here goes:

The good. Duque is not rowdy, like Uribe, or a cheater, like Santos; he belongs to the category he’s-basically-a-good guy, something that cannot be said of the other two … He does a good job in sectors such as technology and infrastructure … He fosters interesting productive projects … He has had gestures of solidarity with Venezuelan exiles … He has faced up to the virus …

The bad. He torpedoes peace [accord implementation] … He has not been able to manage or clean up the Army … The environment and culture are absent from his concerns … He does not know the value of self-criticism … Cronyism and companionship are his misguided guide to choosing personnel, so he has empowered unprepared, vain, immature and insecure officials … He designed a tax reform for the wealthy … He brought his personal religious fervor into the public arena … He kneels before the United States on many issues including the failed war on drugs …

The terrible. The abandonment of social leaders and environmentalists, the everyday drumbeat of diverse murders … His disastrous international policy, managed through phantoms and mediocre people, which worsened the relationship with Venezuela, broke bridges with a loyal ally like Cuba and betrayed Latin American interests.

The bad news. Two years of his period still remain.

The good news. If Duque changes the course of his administration, gets out from under his perverse godfathers [a reference to Uribe and his circle], governs with the best, and really seeks peace—even with the ELN—he would take the first steps toward a better country. As the mute person said, we’ll talk in two years.

Latin America-related online events this week

Monday, August 3

  • 11:00-12:00 at csis.org: Understanding the Role of the United Nations in Venezuela (RSVP required).
  • 2:00 at Zoom: Remembering the Mass Shooting in El Paso and Controlling Gun Trafficking to Mexico (RSVP required).
  • 4:00-5:00 at wola.org: The Price of Gold: The Cost of Mechanized Mining in Chocó, Colombia (RSVP required).
  • 5:00-6:00 at thedialogue.org: El cómo de las reformas educativas– una conversación con ex ministros (RSVP required).

Tuesday, August 4

Wednesday, August 5

  • 11:00 at wola.org: Threatening Democratic Norms and Closing Civil Space in Latin America (RSVP required).

Thursday, August 6

  • 12:00 at amazonwatch.org: Judicial Corruption in the U.S.: Big Oil’s Political Prisoner Steven Donziger Under House Arrest for One Year (RSVP required.

5 links from the past week

  • The New York Timesmultimedia presentation about the pandemic’s sweep through Brazil’s Amazon is unspeakably sad but a necessary historical marker, thanks to Tyler Hicks’s remarkable photos. What would be different, one wonders, if Brazilians had different leadership.
  • Six organizations (including WOLA), convened by the Latin America Working Group, published a “roadmap for transforming” U.S. relations with Central America’s Northern Triangle. It could hardly be more urgently needed. May the next administration take heed. (May there be a “next administration.”)
  • Bolivia’s unelected interim government suspended elections again this week, citing the coronavirus. Also this week, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights published a strong report on “gross human rights abuses” committed by the U.S.-backed interim government, starting with what it calls “Black November.”
  • Colombia’s U.S.-backed (a compound adjective I use a lot) forced coca eradication campaign is going full speed during the pandemic. With about six farmers/protesters killed since COVID-19 hit, the security forces accompanying eradicators appear to be more inclined to rough people up, to escalate situations, and to resort quickly to lethal force. I say “appear” because we don’t have a comprehensive picture yet, but read this account from the Guayabero River region of south-central Colombia, by La Liga Contra el Silencio, and draw your own conclusions.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime published its full report on coca cultivation in Colombia in 2019, finding a modest decrease in acreage but consistent cocaine production. (I guess the remaining plants are getting taller.) Interestingly, the epicenter of cultivation has shifted from Tumaco in the far southwest to Catatumbo in the far northeast. (UNODC also released its 2019 Bolivia report this week.)
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