Adam Isacson

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


September 2020

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

September 30, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) observa con preocupación ciertas tendencias que apuntan a restricciones ilegítimas y actos arbitrarios en materia de seguridad ciudadana

The announcement — which was not sent out to media outlets, a break in the usual protocol — replaced an agency statement that ICE publicly announced in March, when it said it would “adjust its enforcement posture.”

Immigrants detained at an ICE-contracted center in Georgia said they had invasive gynecology procedures that they later learned might have been unnecessary

Chile, Mexico, Peru

A series of three case studies by AS/COA’s Anti-Corruption Working Group provides critical insights


El líder, que perdió a 28 familiares en medio de la masacre de de Bojayá (2002), asumirá el cargo de María Ángela Salazar

Dos estudios científicos señalan el impacto del herbicida en la salud reproductiva de las mujeres

HSI Cartagena and the National Police of Colombia marked an important milestone in Cartagena’s fight against the cybercrimes that have impacted the community with the opening of TC2IL Sept. 28

El Salvador

Asunto: Rechazo al ataque del presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, contra El Faro y otros medios de prensa de ese país – Solicitud de monitoreo especial y pronunciamiento público

El mandatario desata una persecución institucional contra medios como ‘El Faro’, donde se ha denunciado su deriva autoritaria


Almendares, a freelancer who used social media to criticize the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, had repeatedly complained to police and the country’s National Protection System over receiving death threats


SeguridadSinGuerra agregó: “el uso extraordinario y acotado de las fuerzas armadas hasta 2024 es un elemento fundamental de la reforma y una obligación internacional del Estado, fijado por la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos e inscrito en nuestra Constitución”

U.S.-Mexico Border

At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, border agents have forcefully broken up protests by members of the O’odham Nation attempting to block the bulldozers near ancestral burial sites and a fragile desert oasis

DHS both had more agents than ever at the southwest border and had double the detention capacity than it was using in December 2018. It simply chose to ignore the law


El Consejo Permanente de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) realizó una sesión extraordinaria en línea para tratar el tema de las violaciones de derechos humanos en Venezuela

Since Sunday, more than 100 protests have broken out in at least 17 of the country’s 23 states, sometimes resulting in skirmishes with riot police

“Why don’t they go back to Venezuela to enjoy their beloved socialism?” asked a Twitter user. “Trump should deport them,” said another

The task too great to undertake alone, the Donald J. Trump administration should instead work multilaterally, redoubling its efforts to harmonize policy with the European Union and to develop a carrot-and-stick approach

The day ahead: September 30, 2020

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

If you saw last night’s presidential debate, you probably share my regret for having stayed up late to watch it. What a poor use of scarce time.

Today I’m getting a slightly late start, but the plan is to finish drafting an article for WOLA about the border. I’ve got an internal meeting mid-day and an outdoor coffee with a reporter in early afternoon, but should otherwise be mostly reachable.

“Collapse” is unevenly distributed

I was eating a quick between-meeting lunch in a cheap Bogotá restaurant one afternoon in the early 2000s, probably during Álvaro Uribe’s first term. The TV under which I was sitting started playing a treacly theme song, and on came the opening sequence of Padres e Hijos, a long-running soap opera that was dominating Colombia’s daytime ratings at the time. It looked like this 2004 version posted to YouTube:

I stared at this sequence, open-mouthed. I found it so jarring that I remember it today. I’d just sat through several meetings with security experts and human rights activists, hearing of untold horror in Colombia’s countryside, and I would be hearing more before my day’s agenda wrapped up. Did the cultural artifact on the screen above me really come from the same country? A country that, at that moment, was grinding through the most intense period of one of Latin America’s longest armed conflicts?

As the intro indicates, Padres e Hijos focused on an upper-middle-class, dominant-ethnicity Bogotá family. Though they undergo soap-opera tribulations, the Franco family is an Uribe-era Colombian take on the American Dream, and the country’s armed conflict doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in their lives.

I dwelled on this memory while reading this very good, much-shared September 26 essay by Indi Samarajiva, a wealthy young Sri Lankan who lived alongside the brutal denouement of his country’s long civil war.

I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

Samarajiva is writing for a U.S. audience fearful that America as we know it is about to disintegrate. His message is: it’s already happening, but most people are lucky enough not to feel it.

Even as he turned out lights for air raids, waited on gas lines, and saw smoke rising from bombing sites in Colombo, Samarajiva went to concerts, went out dancing, and played Scrabble with friends. There is no moment at which the conflict defined his life. What he calls “collapse” (also the name of a grim but very popular Reddit group) is always there in the background, a steady horror, but he can tune it out.

Samarajiva argues that the United States in 2020 has collapsed, though many of us haven’t noticed it yet. COVID-19 is killing 1,000 people per day. There are mass shootings and protests, crackdowns on dissent, and very long lines at food pantries.

A thousand families are grieving tonight. A thousand more join them every day. The pain doesn’t go away, it just becomes a furniture of bones, in a thousand homes. But that’s exactly how collapse feels. This is how I felt. This is how millions of people have felt, including many immigrants in your midst. We’re trying to tell you as loud as we can. You can get out of it, but you have to understand where you are to even turn around. This, I fear, is one of many things Americans do not understand. You tell yourself American collapse is impossible. Meanwhile, look around.

The science-fiction writer William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” The same goes for armed conflict or social collapse.

Are you a U.S. resident with the free time to be reading this? Do you have the means to do so over a broadband connection? Are you reading the screen of one of a few internet-capable devices in your home? If so, then it’s likely that you—like the Franco family in Bogotá—aren’t bearing the brunt of the breakdown already underway here at home.

But first, back to Colombia. The late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was gaping over my sandwich at Padres e Hijos, was the most intense period of Colombia’s conflict. The data show it: this plotting of massacres, kidnappings, homicides, disappearances, and displacements, from the 2013 report of the Colombian government’s Center for Historical Memory, illustrates how badly the country was going off the rails at the turn of the century. That’s when everything peaks:

This was a bloody period, punctuated by paramilitary massacres and guerrilla mass kidnappings that still haunt the country today. About 1 percent of the population was being forcibly displaced each year. A peace process limped along for three years then failed. U.S. intelligence analysts were worrying about Colombia becoming a failed state.

For many Colombians, though—probably the majority, especially in cities—life went on. Even as displaced families begged at busy intersections and the possibility of visiting other cities by land grew too risky, life was, by and large, pretty normal.

Colombia’s economy, which rarely goes into recession, grew at a sluggish 0.6 percent rate in 1998 and dipped into a -4.2 percent slump in 1999. But then it recovered to 2.9 percent growth in 2000 and remained in positive territory; by 2004 it, and the local stock index, were booming. Cars had to be checked by bomb-sniffing dogs at shopping malls’ entrances, but the malls had lots of customers and few empty storefronts. In Bogotá, where mayors Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa were building parks and opening (in December 2000) the TransMilenio rapid transit system, homicide rates fell sharply. Mockus deployed an army of mimes to busy intersections to shame traffic violators and jaywalkers.

Bogotá’s Carrera Séptima in 2002.

Even as paramilitaries massacred communities in Tibú, the Alto Naya, Chengue, and El Salado, Yo Soy Betty la Fea—which ABC would later adapt for a U.S. audience as Ugly Betty—ran on RCN from 1999 to 2001. Even as the FARC kidnapped Ingrid Betancourt and 12 local legislators in Cali, Juanes released his debut album, Fíjate Bien (2000), and followed it up with Un Día Normal (2002). Even as Plan Colombia vastly expanded aerial herbicide fumigation, Shakira released Dónde Están los Ladrones? (1998) and her first English album, Laundry Service (2001), while Aterciopelados produced Caribe Atómico (1998) and Gozo Poderoso (2000). Even as peace talks with the FARC veered toward collapse, Colombia successfully hosted, and won, the 2001 Copa América soccer tournament.

Here in the United States, we’re not going to have a traditional armed conflict or civil war, with organized armed groups controlling territory and fighting pitched battles against the security forces. Instead, as a 2017 New Yorker overview put it after the Charlottesville violence, we may face “low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. [Diplomat Keith] Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it.”

“Collapse” is even less dramatic than that. Right now, I can step out my front door in central Washington DC and, within a few blocks, see the boarded-up fronts of shops that existed before March, a growing number of tents sheltering homeless people in a park, anti-police graffiti, lines of people at public kitchens during mealtime, and a construction project to counter chronic flooding. Turn on the television or Twitter and it’s lone gunmen, police killings, and protests with some violent elements seeking confrontations that the police are quick to escalate. Out-of-control open-carry militias. Profiles of people, some of them insured, forced into bankruptcy by medical bills. Evictions, cruel immigration detentions, and parents unable to feed their families. Climate events exacerbating all of it.

All of this will keep happening, even if Donald Trump loses on or after November 3, and even if the transfer of power is peaceful. Desperation won’t ease right away, and polarization won’t stop giving way to violence. But the violence won’t be everywhere. As was the case even during the worst years of Colombia’s armed conflict, for most of us it will only be something we see on TV or in our social feeds.

We’ll still have hundreds of new hit streaming shows, reality shows, and movies each year. Especially after the virus fades, there will be thriving hipper-than-thou music scenes. People will obsess over college football, new social apps, and celebrity gossip. Books about how to declutter your house and lose weight will remain on bestseller lists. Art galleries, theaters, and opera houses will be open. There will still be pumpkin spice at Starbucks.

Many of us will be outraged at “collapse” and its causes, and will dedicate our lives to fixing it. We may even succeed. But many of us—perhaps most—won’t bother. As societies all around the world have done, we’ll go through our reasonably prosperous lives while tuning out the human suffering in our vicinity.

How so many of us manage to do that—to tune it out and stay comfortable—is a mystery of human nature that I find baffling, just as I was perplexed by Padres e Hijos during my brief early-2000s Bogotá lunch. Whatever it is, it’s not resilience, and it’s not quite apathy, either. It may, I suspect, be a form of grieving.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

POPLab photo at SinEmbargo (Mexico).

(Even more here)

September 29, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Millions are getting pushed into poverty, moving from relatively comfortable lives to not knowing where their next meal is coming from

  • Felipe de la Hoz, Horror Stories (The Baffler, September 29, 2020).

There may be a sort of sordid comfort in dwelling on overt and purposeful transgressions. These are desecrations of the American project, you can reassure yourself, and not mere manifestations of its intrinsic character


El grande del continente Brasil moviliza numerosos medios y efectivos para ejercitaciones con paises vecinos


Existe un mandato constitucional de implementar las políticas del Acuerdo de Paz de buena fe, pero los resultados de la política del gobierno durante estos dos años parecen ser contradictorios

The exit of the former FARC guerrilla group marked the loss of an arbiter, and has allowed deforestation to surge

At least during the pandemic, operations at the Tajo Patilla site close to the Provincial reserve should be suspended until it can be shown to be safe

Desde 2018, el gobierno ha reportado 23 casos de víctimas indígenas por artefactos explosivos. Las comunidades Embera eyavida y Dóbida en Antioquia están entre las más afectadas

Rodrigo Tovar, also known as Jorge 40, arrived on a deportation flight

El éxito de las tres peticiones para tumbar a Carlos Holmes Trujillo dependen de que se mantenga la indignación ciudadana por los abusos policiales y las masacres

The police violence drew immediate censure from public officials, and drew battle lines similar to the ones that have emerged in the US in the wake of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests

La campaña presidencial del demócrata Joe Biden lanzó este lunes una aguerrida defensa del récord del exvicepresidente frente a Colombia, acusando a Donald Trump de querer recortar los recursos para el país


CNN reached out to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office and the Mexican Department of Defense about any inquiries into the alleged role of the military and police. So far there has been no answer

Mexico launched a special government guard force for mining operations Monday, admitting that drug cartels have preyed on the companies, many of which are foreign

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has a chance to fight corruption at the top. But he needs to uphold the law on all sides to be effective

Hay muchos números, pero todos al final de cuentas dicen lo mismo: tenemos un nivel inaceptable de violencia homicida

Durante años integrantes de los diversos grupos armados arraigados en la entidad han utilizado los suelos “de la Grandeza de México” para tratar de borrar los hechos sanguinarios

If countries are judged not to be trying hard enough, the US must cut off aid to that country, unless the continuation of aid is in the US national security interest. Who is trying hard enough is always a political question


Durante el fin de semana, el régimen de Daniel Ortega desató una ola de represión contra más de un centenar de opositores, activistas y defensores de derechos humanos

The Rama and Kriol leaders were deprived of liberty when they were documenting environmental degradation and land grabs in their Indio Maiz biological reserve

U.S.-Mexico Border

O’odham people from both sides of the border met Sunday morning to exchange blessings through an opening in the international boundary that won’t be open much longer


Maduro contabiliza más funcionarios castrenses tras las rejas, que los que hubo durante la presidencia de Hugo Chávez

The Iran-flagged tanker Forest, transporting some 270,000 barrels of fuel loaded in the Middle East, entered Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone around 8:05 a.m.

The day ahead: September 29, 2020

I should be reachable much of the day, though I may have notifications off while I write. (How to contact me)

No meetings on the agenda today! I’m not sure how I managed that. I’ll have my butt in a chair all day, writing and doing some planning for the next 2-3 months.

Latin America-related online events this week

(That I know of—I’m sure there’s more)

Tuesday, September 29

Wednesday, September 30

Thursday, October 1

Some articles I found interesting this morning

J.D. Long-García photo at America: The Jesuit Review. Caption: “Xiomara Martinez, pictured here with her two children, both U.S. citizens, and her brother, Sergio, traveled to Nogales, Sonora. They have been waiting to petition for asylum for six months.”

(Even more here)

September 28, 2020


El director de la Fundación Chile 21, Eduardo Vergara, cuestionó la aparición del logotipo de las Fuerzas Armadas entre las organizaciones de la sociedad civil que promueven la opción rechazo


¿Cuáles son los lentes a través de los cuales muchos miembros de la Fuerza Pública pueden estar viendo el fenómeno de movilización social en el país tras décadas de conflicto armado?

En informe multipartidista sobre el diagnóstico al problema de las drogas ilícitas, 14 congresistas de partidos de oposición e independientes le piden al Gobierno dejar la aspersión aérea como última opc

With her death the number of trans people killed in Colombia this year rose to 28

91 % de casos no tiene aún sentencia en firme. En imputación, juicio o ejecución de penas , el 9 %

  • Ramiro Bejarano Guzman, El Enemigo Interno (El Espectador (Colombia), September 28, 2020).

Según Carlos Holmes Trujillo, no hay excesos sistemáticos sino manifestaciones aisladas de unos pocos descarriados identificados y sancionados. Miente

En septiembre aumentaron las masacres: en algunos casos hay respuestas, en otros no

El Gobierno debe cumplir integralmente, sin demora y de buena fe la tutela de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), que protege el derecho a la protesta pacífica y busca evitar los gravísimos abusos policiales

Los focos de investigación de lo sucedido en Cauca apuntan en varias direcciones y una de ellas señala al soldado que mató a Juliana como el síntoma de una ‘enfermedad’ mayor

Es claro que la Policía requiere cambios estructurales. Pero también es claro que la Policía no es hoy lo que era hace diez años

Habla Mark Feierstein, exasesor de Seguridad Nacional considerado uno de los padres de Paz Colombia

Ya es hora de que Colombia deje de prestarle atención a esa noticia

El Salvador

El presidente de la República aseguró la noche de este 24 de septiembre que el Ministerio de Hacienda, que desde julio somete a El Faro a una auditoría, está tratando de construir un caso de lavado de dinero contra el periódico


In early 2007, the Guatemalan Nickel Company, then a subsidiary of Canada’s Skye Resources, expelled several Maya Q’eqchi’ communities from a huge swath of land in northeastern Guatemala


La mayor parte del tráfico de droga en Honduras se hace vía marítima, pero también es importante el tráfico aéreo ya que generalmente la droga que pasa de Colombia a Venezuela, y de una comunidad de Venezuela que se llama Apure, viene a dar directamente a La Mosquitia


Tomás Zerón de Lucio, quien fue responsable de indagar la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes de Ayotzinapa el sexenio pasado, robó mil millones de pesos del presupuesto de la entonces Procuraduría General de la República

Andrés Manuel López Obrador anunció órdenes de aprehensión contra elementos del Ejército y ofreció disculpas


Under its provisions, “true” citizens would be differentiated from “foreign agents”. The proposal would suspend the latter’s political rights and allow the confiscation of their goods and patrimonial rights

U.S.-Mexico Border

60 Minutes reports on the construction firm that earned billions of dollars in government contracts after working with a conservative fundraising campaign accused of fraud to build sections of the border wall on private land that engineers say will likely fail

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema confronted the acting head of Homeland Security Wednesday over border wall construction she said has ignored the needs of local communities and bypassed environmental assessment reports

A federal appeals court handed a win to the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, saying the Democratic-led chamber could proceed with a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s diversion of funds

During their indefinite wait on the border, asylum seekers have to deal with a number of other threats, including kidnapping, torture, rape and sexual assault


El 11 de septiembre, Nicolás Maduro anunció que funcionarios de su gobierno apresaron a un ciudadano estadounidense que ejecutaba actos de espionaje contra la industria petrolera venezolana

In reading through the report, I was especially impressed by the use of satellite imagery and graphic reconstruction to illustrate some of the report’s findings

They left a divided and broken nation for one that’s divided and breaking

“It’s not useful to have Borrell’s office working on its own,” Abrams said. “It’s fair to call it cowboy diplomacy”

The day ahead: September 28, 2020

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

I’ve got a staff meeting and a dentist appointment this morning, so am effectively starting my workweek in the afternoon. I’ll be at my desk writing.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at El País (Spain). Caption: “Elementos del ejército guatemalteco custodian el sitio donde se estrello la aeronave.”

(Even more here)

September 25, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

The legislation, which is being proposed by Sens. Robert Menendez, Patrick Leahy and Tim Kaine, would give Congress the ability to point to specific human rights abuses as a reason to disapprove of arms sales to certain countries

14-Month Investigation Details Deaths, Mistreatment, Inadequate Medical Care, and Deficient Oversight

So far, there has been no evidence to support the accusations of mass sterilizations on immigrants at the ICE detention center. But several people have since come forward to accuse Amin

The House Oversight Committee has found that ICE detainees died after receiving inadequate medical care and that jail staff “falsified records to cover up” issues, according to a report released on Thursday


En Miranda (Cauca), un militar disparó al carro en que iba ella con su pareja y dos personas más, segándole la vida al instante

Aunque el presidente Iván Duque no aceptó que no acataba el fallo, señaló que debía ser revisado por la Corte Constitucional para aclarar algunos puntos

El incidente, ocurrido en una localidad conocida como Guatemala, causó gran indignación en el país, que vive momentos de alta tensión tras numerosas denuncias de abusos y exceso de violencia

Con su resistencia a acatar lealmente el fallo, el ministro Trujillo envía una nueva señal de que el gobierno de Iván Duque ha optado, ahora sí, por jugársela de frente por galvanizar la base más conservadora y uribista

“Los soldados desminadores fueron sometidos, ultrajados y humillados por la compañía disidente que está al mando de Edison Jair Bermúdez Verano, alias Hugo”

Ha pasado la hora en que todos los colombianos y en particular sus políticos –de cualquier índole ideológica o bandera partidista y aún los de doble nacionalidad– dejen de participar en la política electoral estadounidense

El Salvador

El nuevo emplazamiento a Bukele ocurre menos de dos semanas después de que congresistas demócratas dijeran estar alarmados por los ataques del Gobierno a periodistas y medios de comuncación independientes

Two books unpick the factors that led to the gang’s rise

Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela

El martes dos hombres robaron un jet en México y ocho horas después se estrelló en Guatemala con armas y droga. En el intervalo aterrizó en Venezuela tras sobrevolar siete países


El capitán hondureño Santos Rodríguez Orellana enfrentó este jueves dos querellas en los tribunales de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) por denunciar que en las Fuerzas Armadas de Honduras (FFAA) se ha estado traficando droga


The $753,000 hospital, which can care for 70 patients, will add to Jamaica’s 350-COVID-19 bed capacity


En diciembre de 2014, los investigadores sacaron cientos de fragmentos óseos del área conocida como barranca de La Carnicería. Nunca los mandaron a analizar, ni tampoco siguieron buscando

They look like an attempt to silence critical voices in the Mexican media by a populist president who has already hobbled previously independent institutions such as the Supreme Court and regulatory agencies

La Familia Michoacana tiene presencia en 55 de los 125 municipios de la entidad, lo que representa un despliegue en el 44% del territorio; el CJNG está en 31

Mexican farmers in the drought-stricken state of Chihuahua are pitted against riot squads from the national guard in an increasingly violent standoff

U.S.-Mexico Border

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee denied on Monday the Trump administration’s request to put on hold her original Sept. 4 order to end the practice


Analysts are warning that ruptured pipelines, rusting tankers and rickety refineries are contributing to a mounting ecological disaster

The European Union has sent a mission to Venezuela in the run-up to parliamentary election scheduled for December, the EU said on Thursday, as the country prepares for a vote that will likely be boycotted

Quickly establishing public order and reinstating the rule of law would be crucial for [U.S.] support to be effective. And only after it has revived institutions to credibly deliver security and dispense justice could Venezuela restore democratic governance

3 devastating reports in 11 days

In case you missed it, three shocking reports released between September 14 and September 24 document abuse, neglect, and dehumanization in ICE’s network of mostly privately run migrant detention centers.

  • September 14: a whistleblower at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, run by LaSalle Corrections, filed a complaint alleging inadequate medical care, poor COVID-19 protections, and—most shockingly, though not as clearly documented—hysterectomies or other non-consensual medical procedures performed on women. Project South, an advocacy group, compiled and submitted the complaint from Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked at the facility.
  • September 21: The House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee published a staff report based on visits to eight ICE facilities and interviews with 400 detainees over a year. It finds deficient medical care, abuse of solitary confinement as a form of retaliation, difficulty accessing legal and translation services, and unsanitary conditions.
  • September 24: The House of Representatives’ Oversight and Reform Committee published a staff report based on a 14-month investigation of for-profit contractors operating ICE detention centers. Among its horrifying findings: “several detainees died after receiving inadequate medical care, including issues that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detention contractors had previously identified.”

Though activists will tell you “it’s always been like this,” these reports reinforce the sense that our country is slipping into a new age of barbarism. Thanks to these official and non-governmental investigators for their unflinching look into ICE’s opaque and mostly unnecessary network of privatized human suffering.

The day ahead: September 25, 2020

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

This morning I’m doing a couple of interviews with researchers and journalists. From mid-afternoon to end of day I’ll be recording, editing, and posting a podcast. In the middle, doing some long-overdue planning and writing.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AFP photo at La Nación (Chile). Caption: “Temática de accidente de avioneta en Guatemala.”

(Even more here)

September 24, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Saturation testing of detainees at the 1,940-bed Adelanto ICE Processing Center was expected to be completed by Sunday


The families had grown angry at the former government for delaying the search operation and giving them what turned out to be false hope


“He’s moved to the left,” said Diego von Vacano, a Bolivian political scientist at Texas A&M University. “That’s mainly because Morales shifted the entire spectrum of Bolivian politics to the left”

Far from acknowledging the abuses highlighted by major rights watchdogs, Áñez and her ministers have deflected criticism and accused organizations of bias

Central America Regional, U.S.-Mexico Border

The individuals we met didn’t leave the only homes they’d ever known by choice. They fled to avoid rape, injury, or death at the hands of violent gangs, in hopes of finding better economic opportunities and safety


Chile no está ajeno a amenazas como el narcotráfico, el terrorismo, la proliferación de armas de destrucción masiva o el crimen organizado. Lamentablemente, las amenazas a la infraestructura crítica tampoco son una excepción


Las guardias indígenas, cimarronas y campesinas garantizan la vida de cientos de defensores de derechos humanos en los territorios. Reclaman apoyo para ser más fuertes y autónomas

Algo no está funcionando bien dentro de la Policía y es propio de un Estado democrático que sus instituciones se tomen en serio las denuncias de abuso de la fuerza

Alarms are sounding in Colombia over a rising tide of violence. More than 230 people have been slain in massacres this year

Frente a la orden de que pidiera perdón por los abusos policiales cometidos en las marchas del año pasado, sencillamente se rehusó, lo que podría convertirse en una falta disciplinaria, como lo señaló el Procurador General

Colombia, Venezuela

El director de Migración Colombia, Juan Francisco Espinoza, aseguró que están estudiando abrir la frontera con Venezuela el mes próximo y se espera que muchos venezolanos aprovechen la oportunidad para ingresar y quedarse o seguir el tránsito


The Treasury Department modified the embargo regulations on Cuba to prohibit imports of rum and tobacco, as well as lodging in hotels or properties controlled by the Cuban government, government officials and the Communist Party

Costa Rica, Dominican Republic

On August 6, 2020, U.S. Southern Command, through the Foreign Military Financing program, facilitated the donation of a new Near Coastal Patrol Vessel (NCPV) to the Dominican Republic

El Salvador

El ministro de la Defensa, René Merino Monroy, declaró que el Gobierno ha entregado toda la información requerida sobre los archivos militares de los ochenta y que el presidente Bukele ha cumplido su promesa de abrir los expedientes

El Salvador, Venezuela

According to the report, Bukele and his inner circle received up to $2 million in loans, either in a personal capacity or through companies related to Alba Petróleos, a PDVSA subsidiary in El Salvador


Habría 25 personas armadas por cada elemento de seguridad, incluidos policías, militares y miembros de la Guardia Nacional

El agricultor Jaime Torres confirmó que efectivos de la Guardia Nacional (GN) dispararon contra él y su esposa, Jéssica Silva Zamarripa, cuando regresaban a su casa después de participar en la toma de la presa La Boquilla

En 2019 se cometieron 36 mil 476 homicidios en el país y por primera vez en los últimos cinco años se presenta una disminución anual de las muertes violentas al registrarse 209 asesinatos menos que en el año anterior

Los expolicías federales denunciaron discriminación al ingresar a la Guardia Nacional, debido a que no se les fue respetado su cargo y sus condecoraciones como sí sucedió con los militares que también ingresaron

2019 presenta las cifras mas altas de jóvenes, adultos mayores y personas desocupadas asesinadas

President Trump’s tough talk highlights just how out of touch he is with Mexico’s security dynamics and the urgent need for innovation


An oil tanker had engine trouble in Venezuelan waters. When it sought assistance, its crew was detained, its captain murdered – allegedly by members of the armed forces

Venezuelans on both sides of the feud weighed in with comments that seemed to reflect a mutual exhaustion from an ordeal that has brought them few solutions

The day ahead: September 24, 2020

I’m mostly reachable today. (How to contact me)

This is the first day in a while with only one meeting on the schedule, and I need to get organized and do some writing. I’ll be reachable while doing the first but may have message apps off for some of the time while doing the sedond.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Héctor Fabio Zamora photo at El Tiempo (Colombia). Caption: “La patada de un agente del Esmad a una mujer durante una protesta fue una de las pruebas que valoró el alto tribunal.”

(Even more here)

September 23, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

The gynecologist told ICE officials this week he will no longer see patients from a Georgia detention facility, according to an official with knowledge of the matter

Clark said hospital records show that Wooten’s claims are “demonstrably false”


The Bolsonaro administration has launched a public relations offensive, attempting to assuage international criticisms. They are propagating a series of lies, which require the following fact-checking


Alfonso Campo, director de la UNP, y José Albeiro Rodríguez, encargado de la protección a exFarc, responden a los cuestionamientos y a la orden que emitió la JEP

Below are incidents reported to WOLA since July

El alto tribunal declaró que la fuerza pública ejerce una desproporcionada y “constante agresión” sobre quienes salen a marchar en Colombia

La Sala de Casación Civil de la Corte Suprema de Justicia aceptó una tutela presentada por varios ciudadanos que consideran que de parte del Gobierno y del Esmad ha habido “sistemáticas agresiones” que amenazan su derecho a manifestarse

Así lo asegura en entrevista con EL TIEMPO María Victoria Llorente, directora de la Fundación Ideas para la Paz, quien analiza cuáles son los factores que siguen motivando la protesta, pero además, cuáles son los problemas que hay dentro de la Policía

Desaparecido en algún punto de Colombia, la urgencia de su captura fue el tema en el encuentro del secretario de Estado con Duque. ¿Por qué vale tanto su cabeza?

El Salvador

El juez de Instrucción de San Francisco Gotera dio cinco días al presidente de la República y a su ministro de Defensa para que informen si la negativa a abrir los archivos militares de la masacre es una postura oficial


Opium production in the Sierra de Nayarit perfectly illustrates the dialectic between accommodation and resistance, “incorporation” and autonomy

Es una de las dos únicas organizaciones criminales que, además de su control doméstico, tienen operaciones transnacionales de tráfico de drogas

Of all the districts in the Mexican capital, it is the most populous and densely populated

Some were left in funeral homes and more than 2,500 bodies were given to medical schools

Policías Comunitarios amenaza con extinguir a Guerreros Unidos, la organización criminal a quien se le adjudica la desaparición de los 43 normalistas de Ayotzinapa

La mayoría son centroamericanos y caribeños que cayeron en ‘la telaraña’ del programa “Quédate en México”, que los obliga a esperar al sur de la frontera por una cita para defender su caso de asilo


El gobierno de Daniel Ortega ha enviado al Parlamento, bajo su control, dos proyectos de ley que pretenden desarticular todo músculo opositor

U.S.-Mexico Border

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man Monday night, after the agent was stabbed “multiple times” during a struggle in the hills east of Nogales

Activists supporting the Kumeyaay used ceremonial prayer to halt construction near Campo

For five hours Monday in the blistering heat of the Sonoran Desert, they prayed, chanted and burned sage to protest the Trump administration’s efforts to put up a 30-foot wall through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

A band of the Kumeyaay Nation whose native land spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump administration seeking an injunction to stop further construction of the border wall

Asylum-seekers stranded in Mexico and faith leaders from southern Arizona held a binational rally to protest the U.S. government’s policies blocking all asylum processing


Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA has begun loading an Iran flagged large tanker with Venezuelan heavy crude for export, a source with knowledge of the situation said

El grupo que lideran Capriles y González postuló candidatos a la espera de que el gobierno acepte finalmente condiciones más justas, entre la que destaca la observación electoral de la Unión Europea

Maduro is undemocratically redrawing Venezuela’s electoral map ahead of the December 6 elections to ensure a favorable outcome that will prolong his attempted dictatorship

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from La Silla Vacía (Colombia). Caption: “Imagen de la manifestación contra la Policía en Bogotá.”

September 22, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Guards threatened to lock detainees in isolation cells in retaliation for making too many complaints or medical requests

Instead of prioritizing bed space, ICE needs to put the health of its migrants in its care first by enforcing its own standards of care and only sending taxpayer money to facilities that meet these standards

Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez, 61, a Mexican national who had been held at Stewart Detention Center near Lumpkin, died early Monday in a Columbus hospital


Al menos seis organismos internacionales de DDHH condenaron al Estado boliviano

Current polling shows a clear lead for Socialist presidential candidate Luis Arce over centrist former president Carlos Mesa and a slate of other candidates


With Brazil’s president openly campaigning for re-election in 2022, another question then arises: How would U.S. election results impact Bolsonaro’s political fortunes?


Many analysts are skeptical that the investigations will pinpoint the officers or politicians who ordered the spying

Al final, aunque miles de personas -sobre todo jóvenes- salieron a marchar en todo el país, la movilización fue significativamente más pequeña que las del año pasado

Hoy hay cinco cosas que se pueden hacer para mover la acción de la sociedad y del estado regional y local a la cual el Frente Domingo Laín siempre está alerta

Conservative elected officials in Colombia are also helping drum up the falsehood that Biden is a clone of left-wing Latin American dictators like the late Hugo Chávez

The country needs a stronger civilian police force that reports to the Interior Ministry instead of the Defense Ministry, and less reliance on the military as the main representative of the Colombian state in rural areas

Muchos han pedido a la JEP expulsar a los líderes de las Farc porque no han aportado aún la verdad que el país espera. Llegar a esta no va a ser fácil, pero los desarrollos de la última semana muestran una luz de esperanza

The goal for this year, to eradicate 130,000 hectares, is an important challenge in which we are moving forward with the conviction that reducing coca plantation areas will provide more security for the communities

Wílver Villegas Palomino está en la mira de la justicia estadounidense. Se trata de un hombre acusado de narcoterrorismo y de tráfico de drogas, que, al parecer, delinque para el Frente de Guerra Nororiental del ELN

El Salvador

La Fuerza Armada de El Salvador desobedeció una orden judicial e impidió el ingreso del juez del caso El Mozote a buscar archivos militares

The environment for investigative outlets in the Central American nation is dire. Journalists who’ve written critically about the president face criminal investigations and threats from government officials

El Salvador, Paraguay, Venezuela

Authorities in three countries have disproportionately held migrants, refugees, people returning to their countries of origin, and low-income communities in state-run quarantines


In his rhetoric, Lopez Obrador works to distinguish himself from his predecessors but when it comes to security problems he is repeating many of the same mistakes as previous administrations

El proyecto de presupuesto prevé una reducción e incluso la eliminación de algunos apoyos federales para la seguridad de estados y municipios, por lo que gobernadores, alcaldes y organizaciones de la sociedad civil hicieron un llamado

U.S.-Mexico Border

In a deposition, the whistleblower is asked, “So you were instructed to lie to people when turning them back. Is that right?” The response: “We were instructed, yes”


The FinCEN Files show public money pouring out of the collapsing country

Maximum pressure has not destroyed the Iranian economy, and Tehran is now sharing its lessons in resilience with Nicolás Maduro’s beleaguered regime in Caracas

Once the pandemic is over, the control mechanisms deployed will be difficult to reverse. They may remain among us for much longer than the virus itself, which had served as a pretext

The day ahead: September 22, 2020

I’ll be mostly unavailable today due to several commitments. (How to contact me)

I’m speaking on a panel this morning about civil-military relations in Latin America. Then I have interviews or meetings with a journalist, some folks from USAID, and a scholar with a research project. And then this evening, WOLA is virtually hosting its annual human rights awards (please join us). All of this will make me hard to get in touch with today.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from Milenio (Mexico). Caption: “Padres de los 43 normalistas de Ayotzinapa exigen justicia.”

(Even more here)

September 21, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions

The shocking details of Wooten’s complaint are a reminder of why long-standing calls for accountability have done little to change systematic patterns of abuse


Alter do Chao’s struggle with land grabbers has only worsened since, residents and activists say, with lawbreakers more brazen about occupying land, then slashing and burning forest to make way for houses and fields


“Uno puede entender todas las legítimas aspiraciones de los ciudadanos. Pero lo que no es posible entender es el grado de violencia que pudimos ver. La quema de las estaciones del metro pareciera haber sido concertada, no un asunto espontáneo”


Defensoría del Pueblo indicó que los autores hacen parte de un grupo armado. Autoridades tratan de esclarecer lo ocurrido

Emilio Archila, alto consejero presidencial, rinde cuentas de la implementación del acuerdo de paz

In Santander, Colombia, timber traders corrupted regulatory, police and judicial systems on their way to trafficking untold amounts of wood from the state

En mayo de 2019 se desplazaron de Puerto Asís a Puerto Guzmán, donde levantaron un proyecto piscícola del que ya comercializaron más de tres toneladas de tilapia

It calls for the national government to take control of the drug market by purchasing coca leaf harvests and regulating cocaine sales

“Esa situación de los niños no nos hace sentirnos contentos ni orgullosos”

No es la primera vez que las autoridades vinculan a organizaciones comunitarias con grupos guerrilleros como el Eln

  • Yohir Akerman, Dios y Patria (El Espectador (Colombia), September 21, 2020).

Existen relatos y evidencias desconocidas hasta ahora que demuestran que miembros de la Policía atacaron y asesinaron a personas que estaban en labores cotidianas

Dejusticia estima que entre 2005 y 2014, la estrategia de aspersión costó casi 80 billones de pesos, a precios de 2018. Lo que equivale al 33,9 % del Presupuesto General de la Nación

Hay que ir al fondo de la propia institución

El general Óscar Atehortúa Duque, director de la Policía Nacional, informó que para las manifestaciones previstas para este lunes, los uniformados no usarán armamento con el fin de proteger la vida de los marchantes

El alcalde de Buenos Aires, Cauca, Óscar Edwin López, confirmó la masacre de seis jóvenes, quienes estaban departiendo en una gallera del corregimiento de Munchique hacia el mediodía de este domingo 20 de septiembre

Hay todo un entramado de instituciones civiles que deberían dirigir y vigilar el ejercicio de la fuerza pública, pero no están funcionando

Colombia faces constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca

Colombia, Venezuela

Al menos cuatro militares venezolanos murieron en un combate con un grupo ilegal colombiano que no fue identificado y en el que fueron “neutralizados”

Según reportes extraoficiales, durante la tarde de este sábado 19 de septiembre se produjo un enfrentamiento armado en la frontera con Colombia en Apure, que dejó un saldo de 19 personas muertas


The island was able to control the coronavirus, but the dearth of tourists in the pandemic’s wake strangled an economy already damaged by mismanagement and U.S. sanctions

El Salvador

Un principio elemental de la disciplina militar es que le corresponde al superior asumir la responsabilidad por las órdenes que dictare


Juan López ha decidido oponerse a un proyecto minero por el que se ha reducido el área protegida del Parque Nacional “Montaña Botaderos Carlos Escaleras”, al norte de Honduras. Por su lucha, Juan enfrenta un proceso judicial junto con otras 31 personas

Political elites in this remote part of Honduras have maintained a profitable relationship with timber traffickers for decades


The illicit timber trade is the primary concern for many of the Indigenous communities in the Sierra Tarahumara

El Instituto Chihuahuense de las Mujeres (Ichmujeres) manifestó su rechazo a la versión del comandante de la Guardia Nacional, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, quien afirmó que la muerte de Yessica Silva, en la presa La Boquilla, en Delicias, se trató de un “desgraciado y lamentable accidente”

La Fiscalía de Chihuahua dijo haber constatado que fueron elementos de la Guardia Nacional quienes dispararon contra Jéssica Silva y su esposo

En el documento piden “detener y someter a proceso a los elementos del 27 batallón de infantería

Se reunieron con autoridades de la oficina de Asuntos Antinarcóticos y Aplicación de la Ley (INL por sus siglas en inglés) de la Embajada de los Estados Unidos de América en México, con el objetivo de reforzar los lazos de cooperación entre ambas instituciones y establecer nuevos proyectos de cooperación


The Patrones de Ucayali, a criminal network led by a former police officer, illegally felled the forests of eastern Peru to feed domestic and international black markets

The opposition’s motion to impeach the president for alleged obstruction of justice was supported by 32 of Peru’s 130 lawmakers, far short of the two-thirds majority of 87 votes required

The day ahead: September 21, 2020

I’ll be mostly reachable this afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’ve got an internal meeting much of this morning, and a conversation with legislative staff this afternoon. I’m mostly at my desk all afternoon.

Latin America-related online events happening this week

Monday, September 21

  • 11:00-12:00 at Trump or Biden: What Would it Mean for Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).
  • 2:00 at Mariana Hernández Burg – AUSM (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-5:00 at 17th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference (RSVP required).

Tuesday, September 22

  • 12:00-2:00 hosted by Racismo y Violencia Policial (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-5:00 at 17th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference (RSVP required).
  • 7:00 at Massive Fortification of the U.S. Border: A Modern History (RSVP required).
  • 8:00 at 2020 WOLA Human Rights Awards and Benefit Gala (RSVP and donation required).

Wednesday, September 23

Thursday, September 24

Friday, September 25

  • 1:30-3:00 and 4:00-5:30 at Environmental Defenders and Human Rights in Central America and Southern Mexico (RSVP required).

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

September 18, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

La Comisión Interamericana expresa su profundo rechazo a la decisión del Secretario General de la OEA, Luis Almagro quien, al haber negado esta renovación contractual quebranta una práctica establecida por más de 20 años

That it can no longer lead one of its flagship international institutions marks a nadir for Latin America. The region is dis-integrating

The 39-year-old woman from Cuba was told only that she would undergo an operation to treat her ovarian cysts, but a month later, she’s still not sure what procedure she got


El Informe señala que en las operaciones conjuntas de la Policía Boliviana y FFAA el 15 y el 19 de noviembre, en las Masacres de Sacaba y Senkata, se evidencian elementos que configuran asesinato

The move in the poor, landlocked country of 11.3 million will likely boost the candidacy of Carlos Mesa, a centrist ex-president who is polling in second place

The announcement came just a day after a well-regarded poll reported that she had slid into fourth place


Colombia’s police do not make people feel safer. They glorify combat

Massacres are not collateral damage as armed actors dispute territory. They are an intentional strategy to consolidate social control

Son 15 los exjefes guerrilleros que han dado su versión sobre el caso. Algunos de ellos lo reconocieron explícitamente


Además, en su informe, denunció que la Fiscalía del estado no ofreció justicia a las víctimas

Los más de 650 firmantes manifiestan que hoy en México la libertad de expresión está bajo asedio y que con ello “está amenazada la democracia”

Se quiere llegar a 6 mil elementos de seguridad en el estado, pero la pandemia ha detenido los procesos de selección

Iniciamos invariablemente con la cifra de homicidio doloso, que es obviamente la de mayor impacto mediático, como siempre. La tendencia histórica es de crecimiento, es muy fuerte


Se estima que son unos 100 hombres y mujeres. Pero el pequeño Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP) nuevamente tiene en vilo a las autoridades de Paraguay

Dangerous times in Colombia

It was stunning to see, over the past weekend, top Colombian officials start pushing the narrative that “the ELN and FARC dissidents” were behind last week’s confrontations between police and thousands of citizens all over Bogotá. This seems bizarre and removed from reality, but they continue to promote it.

A September 8 mobile phone video showed Bogotá police administering repeated electric shocks to Javier Ordóñez, a lawyer in his 40s, as he begetd them to stop. Ordónez died of blows to his skull later, in police custody. The images triggered citywide protests on September 9 and 10. Some of them were violent: the police reported nearly 200 agents wounded, and 54 CAIs—small posts set up as a “community policing” model around the city—were defaced, vandalized, or destroyed.

These numbers would have been lower had the police employed their profession’s “lessons learned” about crowd control, practicing de-escalating techniques. Instead, they did the opposite: they escalated aggressively.

Police in Bogotá and the poor neighboring municipality of Soacha killed 13 people on the nights of the 9th and 10th, and wounded 66, some of them with firearms. Widely shared videos showed cops beating and kicking people who were already on the ground, shooting rubber bullets into subdued people at pointblank range, and discharging their firearms indiscriminately. Bogotá Mayor Claudia López, whose direct orders to the police were ignored, gave President Iván Duque a 90-minute video compiling citizen-recorded examples of this brutality.

You’d think that the people running Colombia right now would want to treat what happened last week very seriously. They’re governing one of the most unequal societies on the planet, and it’s on the edge right now. In Bogotá, a city of 8 million, people in the middle, working, and “informal sector” classes were already angry at stagnating living standards and an out-of-touch government. Last November, they participated in the most massive protests that the city had seen in more than 40 years (which the police also, at first, escalated violently).

Their situation has grown desperate after a six-month pandemic lockdown that pushed millions out of work (or out of informal-sector subsistence), and back into poverty. People are hurting. Anxiety, stress, and mental health issues are off the charts. The police, too, are frayed after enforcing semi-quarantine for so many months.

With all that going on, if a foreign analyst were to claim that last week’s protests were the artificial result of “guerrillas” or coordinated agitators, the proper response would be “you don’t understand this country, and its complexities, at all.” It defies all belief that the ELN and FARC dissidents could have orchestrated an uprising in Bogotá on the scale of what we saw on September 9 and 10. But that is the narrative that officials like Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos are pushing.

As Ariel Ávila of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation said, if that were true, it would’ve been the guerrillas’ largest coordinated operation in Bogotá in the armed conflict’s history. Today, the ELN has 2,400 members and a support network of another 4,000 or 5,000. Over 20 “dissident” groups led by former FARC members, which often fight each other and the ELN, have a cumulative membership of 2,600 plus about 2,000 in support networks. These 11,000-12,000 people are scattered across several vast rural regions in Colombia and Venezuela. Their urban presence is minimal: most have probably never seen one of Colombia’s major cities.

They do have toeholds in Bogotá, and some of their members may have participated in, and egged on, crowds in some of the Bogotá protest actions. But this disunited collection of bands, most of them focused on narcotrafficking and illegal rent-seeking, are obviously not the masterminds of what happened in Bogotá.

There were no masterminds. There is, instead, a population pushed to the edge by economic uncertainty and a perception that the government doesn’t care. For most, emergency assistance has totaled only about US$40 to US$70 since COVID-19 measures began. More often, their interaction with government has been with the police enforcing lockdowns, at times harshly. The likelihood of a social explosion has been one triggering event away. There’s no need for guerrillas to manage it.

Taking this reality seriously, though, is hard, especially for people in the thick-walled bubble of Colombia’s clase dirigente. The sectores populares—the poor and lower-middle class, and the middle class who have fallen into poverty during the pandemic—are so distant as to be abstract. When you’ve placed your faith in the free market, in a technocratic oligarchy, and—if that fails—in the security forces, then it’s hard to stare in the face of a reality like “an immense number of people are hungry, scared, frustrated, and angry at you.”

These people need empathy right now. But Colombia’s political system isn’t set up for empathy, especially not under its current management. Instead, police fired indiscriminately into fleeing crowds as though they’d never had a day of training in their lives. That response calls into question the viability of institutions. It calls into question the assumptions underlying longstanding economic and security policies.

Instead of empathy, leaders are reaching for the tried-and-true “it was the guerrillas” narrative. It’s a common reflex. Here in the United States, factotums at the White House and Homeland Security don’t lose an opportunity to blame anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests on fictional or marginal “anarchist” or “Antifa” groups. Though most people don’t believe that, it’s rich fodder for a large minority whose views come from what they read and share on FOX News, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

In Colombia it’s the same thing, but mixed in with a perverse nostalgia for the armed conflict and its simplicity. For decades, guerrillas gave Colombia’s political elite a perfect go-to excuse whenever elements of civil society came forward with strong grievances. Just label them as terrorists, (or “spokespeople for terrorists” in Álvaro Uribe’s famous phrase): people aligned with the FARC, which until 2016 was Colombia’s largest guerrilla group by far. It usually worked: social movements had the oxygen (in the form of media attention and legitimacy in mainstream public opinion) sucked out of them.

When the FARC disappeared along with the peace accord, though, so did that convenient scapegoat. Today, when politicians want to de-legitimize a political adversary, the collection of bands now active in the countryside just isn’t as compelling. But apparently, that’s not going to stop them from trying.

Bogotanos say they’ve never seen this face of the government before. “Police shooting in the streets of Bogotá at fleeing people, like rabbits from a hunter,” writes veteran columnist and author Cecilia Orozco in El Espectador. “Even those of us who are older don’t remember having seen, in urban scenarios, such openly defiant conduct from state agents who aren’t hiding their identities.”

Colombians of a different social class, of course, see that on a regular basis. Indigenous people in Cauca say it’s common. So do displaced Afro-descendant communities in marginal neighborhoods like Aguablanca, Cali. Communities opposing forced illicit crop eradication are constantly documenting cases of aggression and inappropriate force.

This kind of authoritarianism and arbitrariness, of escalation and lack of empathy, has long marked poor and marginalized parts of Colombia. What’s new, perhaps, is its abrupt arrival in Bogotá’s middle and working class neighborhoods. And it’s happening just as the pandemic knocks millions out of the middle class (back) into poverty.

Think about that. Already, many Colombian analysts are sounding alarms about mounting authoritarianism. They see a weakening of checks and balances: a narrow congressional majority for the ruling party built with political favors, close presidential allies now in charge of the prosecutor’s office and other oversight bodies, and an ongoing assault on the independent judiciary that intensified after ex-President Uribe was put under house arrest in early August.

A backlash is underway from the people running Colombia, the people who are so slow to show empathy, but so quick to deny reality with fairy tales about guerrillas orchestrating mass protests. Last week gave us a vicious preview of what that backlash might look like once it consolidates.

New national protests are called for Monday. Even though neither the ELN nor guerrilla dissidents are in evidence, don’t expect a democratic or reasoned response on the streets of Bogotá.

The day ahead: September 18, 2020

I’m only reachable in the late afternoon due to meetings. (How to contact me)

I’ve got 2 meetings with congressional staff, and 3 meetings with NGO coalitions, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, which will make me pretty unresponsive for much of the day.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Kitra Cahana/MAPS photo at The Intercept. Caption: “Nellie Jo David, an O’odham activist, addresses a crowd of protesters near the construction site of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on Nov. 9, 2019.”

(Even more here)

September 17, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Mexico will be at serious risk of being found to have failed demonstrably to uphold its international drug control commitments


Paranoia never stopped haunting Brazilian politics. Now, with Jair Bolsonaro in charge, it’s as powerful as ever—and its practitioners have learned a lot from the American internet

Pazuello, a logistics expert with no prior health experience before taking the deputy health minister position in April, follows two predecessors who departed after disagreements with President Jair Bolsonaro

The Brazilian Army has received a shipment of thirty armored tanks donated by the United States

Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname

We have been I think pretty clear that we – we’re not running around saying don’t deal with China. We’re saying – I mean, we deal with China and other countries deal with China. They’re a big economy. There’s really no choice but to deal with them


Es razonable que en situaciones excepcionales las Fuerzas Armadas protejan instalaciones críticas, pero para evitar su exposición a situaciones de orden público lo óptimo sería crear cuerpos policiales altamente especializados

Chile’s Mapuche have long demanded official recognition of their culture and of their claims to ancestral lands. A referendum over a new Constitution provides them a chance to be included


Han pasado más de cuatro años y la diligencia sigue sin realizarse

La mayoría de casos fue contra mujeres indígenas y el 67% de responsabilidad de estos hechos se le atribuye a grupos neoparamilitares

La víctima fue un niño de 12 años, llamado ARILLANSEY SALCEDO TASCUZ perteneciente al Cabildo Villa del Sol del pueblo Awá, quien fue impactado en su rostro con una granada de gases

Videos como estos, lo que demuestran es que, lo coordinado, más que la quema de los CAI, fueron los disparos a mansalva contra la población civil

¿Cuántas personas hay capturadas y cuál es su paradero? ¿Por qué fueron agredidos ciudadanos que solo caminaban por el lugar?

Es una estrategia que le puede traer réditos electorales al Centro Democrático en 2022 pero aleja aún más las posibilidades de discutir la reforma a la Policía

Culpar al narcotráfico de los recientes hechos de violencia es la salida fácil a un problema que resulta mucho más complejo


“El desvío estaría siendo canalizado por mangueras clandestinas hasta el río Putumayo con una distancia aproximada de 170 metros, desde donde se presume que el combustible era cargado en embarcaciones para ser transportado río abajo”

El Salvador

Pactar con las pandillas no debe rechazarse, pero debe hacerse de manera eficiente y con transparencia


Secretary Pompeo will travel to Georgetown, Guyana, September 17-18


Observan con preocupación la extensión del periodo de intervención del sistema penitenciario nacional por parte de la Comisión Interventora de la Fuerza de Seguridad Institucional (FUSINA)


Feminists seize human rights office to force President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to tackle grim toll of rape and murder


They are terrified of Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign

U.S.-Mexico Border

Two O’odham women arrested at the border were taken to a private prison where they were denied access to the outside world

Migrant rights advocates allege in at least three recent lawsuit against the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Border Patrol that migrants are being summarily expelled without any paper trail or interview process


President Maduro and the Ministers of the Interior and of Defence were aware of the crimes. They gave orders, coordinated activities and supplied resources

“Los funcionarios militares, al mando de un capitán (GN) de apellido Pérez Lopez, sin dar orden de alto, procedieron a disparar ráfagas de disparos contra el camión Triton 350 en el cual se trasladaba Joiber junto a sus familiares”

“The U.S. government did not send Mr. Heath to Venezuela,” Abrams said

President Nicolás Maduro and other high-ranking officials were accused of being behind the detention, torture and killing of government critics and assaults by state security services

The day ahead: September 17, 2020

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

Getting a late start because I worked late last night. I’ve got a long-ish media interview in the morning, a border coalition meeting in the early afternoon, and an event at the end of the day. I should be at my desk the most in the afternoon, if needed.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Reuters – Andrés Martínez Casares photo at France 24. Caption: “An on-duty Haitian National Police (PNH) officer asks protesters to move away during a protest organised by the Fantom 509 group in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti September 14, 2020.”

(Even more here)

September 16, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Una situación de mayor alcance: los efectos de la llegada de Donald Trump a la Casa Blanca, el giro a la derecha de varios gobiernos de la región y, no menos importante, una fragmentación extrema de América Latina

Policies towards the region have assumed extra importance in the US campaign with polls showing the two White House contenders tied in Florida

The 35-year-old woman has been held in the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for about a year and told lawyers about a “pattern and practice” of abuse there

Wolf didn’t have the authority to impose the asylum rules that are being challenged, Xinis ruled. The new requirements, which court documents say took effect in late August, concern employment, and the case is ongoing

I never imagined that the United States would have to confront our very own Caudillo in the making, not after the misery and devastation so many of us have seen inflicted by anti-democratic and failed leaders from Caracas to Havana to Managua

Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela

Pompeo visitará la ciudad fronteriza de Boa Vista (Roraima) y está programado una reunión con migrantes venezolanos


Quieren saber por qué lo hicieron y que exigen saber qué pasó con los secuestrados desaparecidos

En el proceso de escuchar a las víctimas y reconocer la verdad sobre lo ocurrido ante un tribunal de paz, “se van configurando unas FARC que yo entro a odiar porque no tiene nada que ver con las FARC a las que yo ingresé”, dijo

Even though the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Nation called Santiago Uribe Vélez in for questioning in 2016, Prado’s investigative work has been on the heels of the Uribe Vélez family since 1997, when he was looking into several cases of enforced disappearance

En esta ocasión el hiperbólico Gustavo Petro tiene razón, hubo una masacre en la capital

El Ministro de Defensa, Holmes Trujillo, se refirió a los hechos de la semana pasada en Bogotá y aseguró que los actos de vandalismo y violencia fueron un ataque coordinado, sistemático, planeado, premeditado y doloso contra la Policía Nacional, que debe ser investigado

Esta pequeña población ha sido escenario de violentas disputas armadas entre grupos armados. La comunidad, que ha quedado en medio de la confrontación, expulsó a la fuerzas militares

Este ejercicio operacional, planeado entre el Comando Sur de los Estados Unidos y la Fuerza Aérea Colombiana, el cual ha sido denominado “Poseidón”, se llevará a cabo del 18 al 21 de septiembre del presente año


El Congreso simplemente se niega a proceder con la elección de magistrados del Organismo Judicial. En el Estado, sigue pasando de todo, sin que haya contrapeso


Hundreds of protesting Haitian police officers and their supporters, many of them armed and wearing masks, sparked panic in the capital Port-au-Prince on Monday, setting cars on fire as they voiced their anger at the ruling party


El enfrentamiento entre la policía y quienes protestaban se dio minutos antes de que el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández encabezara la ceremonia del Día de la Independencia


Mexican president delivered document to senate asking for plebiscite to be held alongside midterms in June 2021

What truly bothers López Obrador, and fellow travelers such as Taibo, is the frequent criticism of the president and his policies that Nexos, Letras Libres and others publish

Durante el primer semestre del año, ARTICLE 19 documentó 406 agresiones contra periodistas y medios. Esto es 45% más que el año pasado

Un corredor criminal que durante una década perteneció a la organización criminal de Los Zetas, pero que hoy es una región controlada por el Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación

Existen al menos 60 pozos secos en el municipio de Huixcolotla, los cuales fueron usados como fosas clandestinas por huachicoleros y otras bandas delictivas que operaban en el Triángulo Rojo


El Grupo de Trabajo Contra la Corrupción (GTCC) ante los hechos acontecidos a raíz de los audios que involucran al presidente Martín Vizcarra, señala lo siguiente

U.S.-Mexico Border

Of the nearly 72,000 MPP migrants whose cases are complete, only 525 of them – less than 1 percent – were granted asylum or another form of relief

The day ahead: September 16, 2020

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

I’ve got two internal planning meetings and a lot of writing to do, some of it to plan future border work, some of it on the situation in Colombia. I plan to be at my desk well into the evening trying to finish all of that.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Colprensa photo at El Colombiano (Medellín, Colombia). Caption: “El caso de abuso policial en el que murió Javier Ordóñez pasó a manos de la justicia ordinaria.”

(Even more here)

September 15, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

“Jarring medical neglect” within the facility, including a refusal to test detainees for the novel coronavirus and an exorbitant rate of hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women

Presumably noticing the lethargy and divisions in Latin America, Claver-Carone seized the moment in June to advance his own candidacy

Given Claver-Carone’s curriculum vitae and the circumstances leading to his election, could he serve as an able consensus-building politician who, as president of an international institution, will put the region’s interest above all others?

Irwin Detention Center, run by LaSalle Corrections, has refused to test detainees and underreported Covid-19 cases, the nurse says

Because Jane Doe 1 fears persecution and torture in Mexico, she will be difficult for investigators to find as they continue their investigation, her attorney said

Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela

Venezuelan immigrants commit substantially fewer crimes than the native born, relative to their share in the overall population

Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela

The Senators also condemned the administration’s record of deporting individuals and families back to the dictatorships they were forced to flee, what would amount to a violation of U.S. law prohibiting refoulement


En el documento titulado Alétheia los investigadores recopilaron 31.156 homicidios y 5.479 desapariciones forzadas de miembros de la Fuerza Pública

Así las cosas será la Fiscalía general de la Nación quien investigue en la justicia ordinarias las conductas en las que habrían podido incurrir los siete policías procesados

Varios funcionarios del SAT —y también líderes y organizaciones sociales— temen que el nuevo defensor: el político cordobés Carlos Camargo, quien se posesionó la semana pasada, frene, engavete o modifique esos informes

According to the latest reports received, at midnight on September 10 police continued to shoot live rounds at protesters in several cities

Eight commanders called the kidnappings an “extremely grave mistake” and acknowledged the pain they had caused

Queremos decirles que el secuestro fue un gravísimo error del que no podemos sino arrepentirnos

  • Sandra Borda Guzman, Otra Vez (El Tiempo (Colombia), September 15, 2020).

Vincularla y reducirla a una fachada de la insurgencia armada. Así se evitan tener que tomarse la protesta y sus demandas en serio y justifican el uso indiscriminado de la violencia

Reactions to the unrest have exposed the country’s political polarisation amid anxieties about the coronavirus and the 2016 FARC peace agreement

Después de meses de investigación al respecto, la Fundación Paz y Reconciliación –Pares, presenta este informe sobre la crítica situación de seguridad de Colombia

The disgraced agent, Jose I. Irizarry, pleaded guilty to 19 federal counts, including bank fraud and having diverted millions of dollars in drug proceeds from DEA control


Víctimas denunciaron que la Fiscalía mexiquense obstaculiza la investigación y presentaron un amparo para que FGR atraiga el expediente

Una exageración, pues por lo general mienten, fue la respuesta del presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador a quienes acusaron la ocupación militar de la Catedral Metropolitana el fin de semana: el Frente Nacional AntiAMLO


Óscar Denis was taken by Paraguayan People’s Army days after military killed two 11-year-old girls in unclear circumstances

U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal border officials are worried what would happen if Biden cancels bilateral agreements with Mexico that have dramatically slowed the migrant flow


Doctors we spoke to say Venezuela’s government has been using motels and other makeshift facilities to quarantine patients suspected of having the novel coronavirus

Venezuela se mostró complacido con algunos de los comentarios de Michelle Bachelet sobre la situación en el país, pero omitió mencionar las críticas que ésta lanzó a la gestión de Nicolás Maduro

The authorities said cellphones taken from the men when they were arrested last week included images of suspected targets

The day ahead: September 15, 2020

I should be reachable much of the day. (How to contact me)

Nothing on the calendar today for some reason. Which is fine—I spent more than 4 hours yesterday on an article about the unrest in Colombia, which should show up soon on the World Politics Review website. I hope to move a few projects ahead today and should be at my desk all day.

What’s New About Trump’s New “Strategic Framework?”

In mid-August the Trump National Security Council published a “Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework.” (You’re forgiven if you missed it—it got a super-low-profile launch.) Here’s an English translation of an analysis that I published about it last week for Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung en Colombia.

Three and a half years in, the Trump administration has published a “Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework.” It didn’t launch it with much publicity, nor is it a document of transcendental importance.

The document (or at least its declassified summary) says few truly new things. This shouldn’t surprise us from an administration that has said little about policy toward Latin America beyond Cuba, Venezuela, and immigration. But there are a few notable nuances.

The framework makes clear who the enemies are. Within the region it identifies Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, “repressive dictatorial regimes [that] threaten regional security.” Other regimes that have shown authoritarian characteristics but are more aligned with Washington, like Bolivia, El Salvador, or Honduras, escape this label.

Extra-regional powers, and their “malign influence,” are also adversaries. The document only mentions China, although documents from Southern Command, among others, also warn about Russia and Iran. That desire to exclude other powers from the hemisphere recalls the Monroe Doctrine (according to which the United States reserves the right to keep other powers from having a presence in the American continent), something that according to the last national security advisor, John Bolton, is “alive and well.”

In reality, this focus on external powers has more to do with an effort to stay relevant to the National Defense Strategy that the Defense Department published in 2018, under then-Secretary James Mattis. That strategy says a lot about the threat of “great powers,” but hardly mentions the threats that have most oriented policy toward Latin America in recent years. In its public summary, it doesn’t even mention the words “organized crime” or “cartel.”

While none of these documents discusses in detail transnational organized crime—the issue that was most discussed during the Obama years—it’s worth noting that it was the Trump administration, in April 2020, that launched the largest naval deployment to the region in decades, justifying it as an anti-organized crime effort.

Another new nuance are the document’s sections about immigration, the Trump administration’s banner issue. The first objective that the Framework discusses is the protection of the homeland, with the first sub-objective to “Prevent illegal and uncontrolled human migration, smuggling, and trafficking.”

It’s also notable that “Align asylum policies and harmonize visa and immigration regulations” appears as another sub-objective in the section about strengthening democracies: it’s not clear what one has to do with the other.

In 2012, during the Obama administration, the Defense Department published a Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Statement. That document focused on institutional strengthening, fighting organized crime and terrorism, peacekeeping missions, and humanitarian assistance. The new Trump administration document leaves all those issues aside.

These abrupt changes in emphasis not unusual for U.S. policy toward Latin America, whose central paradigm has shifted several times over the past 30 years. From Cold War anti-communism, it morphed into the War on Drugs, and later the War on Terror, from there to “transnational organized crime” and, now, to “countering external influence” with a bit of anti-immigration. There’s no reason to think that the priorities expressed in this new document might be any more long-lasting.

Latin America-related online events that I know of this week

Monday, September 14

  • 3:00 at Latin America during and after COVID-19: A conversation with IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno (RSVP required).

Tuesday, September 15

Wednesday, September 16

  • 12:00-1:30 at Youth Movements and the Fight against Corruption in Central America (RSVP required).

Thursday, September 17

Friday, September 18

  • 10:00 at La Seguridad Cooperativa en América Latina y el Caribe: ¿Se queda corta en el alcance para la región? (RSVP required).
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