5 links from the past week
- Colombia’s Semana magazine started the week with a bombshell scoop. The country’s army has been spying on, and hacking into the communications of, opposition politicians, high court judges, reporters (including Semana’s), human rights groups, and even other officers. The magazine claims that a mid-December Supreme Court search of an army installation where the hacking was happening is what precipitated the Army chief’s post-Christmas resignation. Over the past year, the magazine notes, officers concerned about this and other scandals have been forced out and replaced by others whose records are so questionable that they are already facing investigations.
- Alex Cuadros spent a lot of time with former and current gang members who have adopted evangelical Christianity in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The result is a good long read in Harper’s. My favorite is the gang-tied pastor who told Harper’s fact-checkers that Cuadros’s “account was ‘all lies’ and that [Cuadros] was possessed by the devil.”
- U.S. authorities have sent more than 143 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers—including families—to Guatemala, to go seek asylum there. Kevin Sieff reports in the Washington Post from Guatemala City that they’re often not even being told which country they’re going to. And once they arrive, “The Guatemalan government is completely absent in this whole process.”
- Colombia’s coca-growers are better organized than they were before the FARC peace process. But when huge nationwide protests broke out in November, the cocaleros’ participation was minimal. With Iván Duque’s government starting the year with a draft decree to restart aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing areas, that’s about to change. The growers are now starting to mobilize, Juanita Vélez reports in La Silla Vacía.
- On Friday Honduras’s government failed to reach an agreement with the OAS and will shut down the MACCIH, an anti-corruption body similar to (though always weaker than) Guatemala’s defunct CICIG. Days earlier, my WOLA colleagues Elyssa Pachico, Adriana Beltrán, and Adeline Hite wrote a useful explanation of MACCIH’s accomplishments, the disastrous record of President Juan Orlando Hernández, and how the Trump administration basically gave a green light to corruption in exchange for Hernández making concessions on migration, like taking other countries’ asylum seekers.