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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Latin America

5 links: October 15, 2021

(Even more here)

Brazil

The representatives requested that the Biden administration undertake an urgent review of U.S.-Brazil relations

Chile

The Indigenous Mapuche say they are only fighting for their ancestral lands which have been taken over by wealthy landowners and logging companies

Colombia

Ataques a la población civil, a la Fuerza Pública e incluso al presidente Duque evidencian el recrudecimiento de la violencia en Norte de Santander

Colombia, Panama, U.S.-Mexico Border

For migrants traveling north to the U.S-Mexico border from countries like Chile and Brazil, the trip has become virtually impossible without two things — a smuggler and social media

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal courts have ordered the administration to restart the Trump-era policy that sent at least 60,000 back to Mexico

5 links: October 14, 2021

(Even more here)

Colombia

This will allow the Commission to avoid becoming a punching bag during next year’s presidential election, and defer questions on its impact and legacy

Mosquera’s 2018 arrest and subsequent extradition to the U.S. was another overseas embarrassment for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which has grappled for years with corrupt cops and deadly leaks by foreign law enforcement

Mexico

La Guardia Nacional reservó por un período de cinco años el inventario de armamento no letal y el material para la contención de manifestaciones

Panama

U.S.-Mexico Border

As of the end of September, only 3,217 migrants processed under the public health law have been referred for interviews with U.S. asylum officers

5 links: October 13, 2021

(Even more here)

Colombia

The murder of two boys for allegedly shoplifting in Colombia has evoked memories of some of the country’s darkest days of armed conflict

Ecuador

El incremento de las aprehensiones de droga en territorio ecuatoriano se registra desde 2018

Mexico

La toma del control operativo de la Guardia Nacional (GN) por parte de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena) continuará, porque una jueza federal rechazó otorgar una suspensión provisional al Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez

U.S.-Mexico Border

President Biden proposed humane immigration reforms but continued harsh, Trump-era enforcement policies at the border

Venezuela

Con el fallecimiento del general retirado Raúl Isaías Baduel aumenta la cifra de presos políticos que han muerto bajo la custodia de los cuerpos de seguridad del Estado

Notes from Colombia

I spent October 3-9 in Colombia, flying back on the 10th. Most of the time, I was with a member of Congress, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), and his staff. We went to Cali, a city still reeling from intense protests and the security forces’ vicious response. We went an hour and a half south of Cali to Santander de Quilichao, in the north of the department of Cauca, which leads all of Colombia’s 32 departments in killings of social leaders and of demobilized ex-combatants. We went to Bogotá, of course, and to the formerly guerrilla-controlled Sumapaz region about 2 1/2 hours’ drive south of Bogotá.

Traveling with Rep. McGovern meant having access to a wide variety of officials, activists, and experts. This was my first chance to visit Colombia for nearly two years, as I didn’t travel during the pandemic.

Here are eight reactions that are really fresh in my mind upon returning. These aren’t final, comprehensive, or necessarily backed up by hard data. These are my reactions, not necessarily those of the organization I work for or the people I traveled with. Some of them are just feelings or impressions. But they are strong impressions, and I am disturbed by them.

  1. Even putting human rights concerns aside, Colombia’s security forces are in retreat. There is a notable territorial pullback in many parts of the country. Once you pass the last Army checkpoint, you’re on your own: everything after that is effectively ceded to illegal armed groups. These days, that last checkpoint is often quite close to population centers or the main road. After that, people plant coca while armed groups put up their banners and enforce their own sets of rules with a remarkable degree of freedom. I can’t remember feeling such a sharp security pullback since the Samper presidency in the mid-1990s.
  1. Some of this is because of COVID: the government has very few resources right now (or is unwilling to seek enough revenue from its wealthiest citizens). In February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, only 15 of the Colombian army’s 42 Black Hawk helicopters were reportedly functioning. Even if that particular situation improved (I don’t know if it did), the pandemic depression has likely hollowed things out further—and civilian ministries are probably in even rougher shape.
  2. In government-abandoned territories, community leaders don’t know what to do or whom they should be dialoguing with to protect themselves. When the FARC existed, and ungoverned spaces tended to be under a single illegal group’s uncontested control, at least the rules were clear. There were local commanders to whom communities could appeal when a group’s fighters became too abusive or its norms became too onerous. Now, though, there are often a few small, overlapping groups—the ELN, ex-FARC dissidents, “Gulf Clan” paramilitaries, single-region armed groups, mafias—with constantly shifting territorial control, alliances, and divisions. Caught in the middle, civilian communities don’t know whom they should even be talking to.
  1. Community leaders can’t publicly ask for the government to be present in their territories. That would be suicidal: retaliation from armed groups would be swift. The most they can call for is a “humanitarian accord” in which all armed actors agree to some degree of restraint in their actions against civilians. Though it’s hard to envision how to compel armed actors to honor them, humanitarian accords offer the best hope for protection in a situation of statelessness and abandonment, and communities’ proposals deserve support.
  2. Armed groups’ aggression against civilians seems more common than their combat with the security forces. Though of course there are ambushes and attacks, today’s small, fragmented armed groups prefer not to initiate combat with the military and police. In fact, we heard that local-level cooperation from security forces is ever more common, especially along trafficking routes. This is due to corruption, but also to incentives: who wants to give their life fighting a small local band that poses no existential threat to the state, and that most Colombians haven’t even heard of?
  1. People are afraid of their own security forces. Between the April-June paro nacional protests and violent forced coca eradication operations in rural areas, the military and police have been very hard on civilians this year, killing dozens and wounding or torturing many more. Body counts aren’t a measure of anything, but the number of armed and criminal group members that the Defense Ministry reports as killed or “neutralized” this year is greater—but not wildly greater—than reported killings or wounding of civilians. “Today, the war is the government against the peasant,” a coca farmer told the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, and I heard similar last week. I’d add, though, that the armed groups have also declared war on the civilian population, and the security forces are usually nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, in places like Cali, people who participated in protests are terrified. We spoke to people who were wounded, or who suffered torture in police custody, but are afraid to come forward and publicly denounce what happened to them.
  2. Human rights defenders are in bad shape. Longtime colleagues—lawyers, national ethnic organization leaders, campesino activists—are exhausted. They looked and sounded terrible, like asylum lawyers I interviewed at the U.S.-Mexico border at the worst moments of the Trump administration. Some broke down in tears. It was painful for them to recall the hope they felt in 2016-17 when the peace accord held a promise of tranquility and progress. For them, Colombia has taken a giant step backward from that hope—way farther back than I’d been led to believe before visiting.
  1. We’re doing old-fashioned human rights work again. For several years—from the latter moments of the FARC peace negotiations until quite recently—we had the luxury of advocating “state presence,” “crop substitution,” “rural reform,” “land restitution,” “restorative justice” and similar proposals typical of a country leaving a bitter history behind. Not anymore. There are too many new victims: victims of violence at the hands of state actors, displaced and confined communities. Too many people left unprotected. Sure, even during the more hopeful late-2010s period we were documenting unpunished murders of social leaders and ex-combatants. Now, though, the crisis feels more generalized, happening in both rural and urban areas.

Many thanks to Rep. McGovern and his staff for taking this initiative to visit Colombia, to accompany its human rights defenders and victims, and to encourage the U.S. and Colombian governments to change course. I’m really glad they came, because this is a desperate time.

Colombia already had a plan for avoiding the outcome I’m describing here. It’s laid out in the 2016 peace accord. Despite the present desperation, and even though the U.S.-backed government rarely invokes it, the accord’s development, protection, reintegration, victims, and justice provisions continue to point to the best way forward. The hour is getting late, but it’s still possible to implement that accord.

5 links: October 12, 2021

(Even more here)

Colombia

De las 130.000 hectáreas fijadas, hasta el 4 de octubre solo fueron arrancadas 58.000

La ONU condena el crimen ocurrido en Tibú, en la convulsa región fronteriza del Catatumbo, y pide investigaciones de las autoridades colombianas

At least five American families have come down with ailments, said people familiar with the matter in Bogotá

Guatemala

Guatemala’s attorney general has transferred the prosecutor leading the office that took former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and other former military officers to trial for crimes against humanity

Haiti, Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

Some say their arrival seemed more like a coordinated effort to ease the overwhelming number of migrants stuck at Mexico’s southern border

Some online events about Latin America this week

Monday, September 13

  • 2:00-3:00 at csis.org: Haiti in Crisis: What Role Can the International Community Play? (RSVP required).

Tuesday, September 14

  • 10:30-12:00 at wola.org: Criminalized and Incarcerated in Latin America: How the “Drug War” Drives the Region’s Prison Crisis (RSVP required).

Wednesday, September 15

  • 4:00-5:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: Central America at 200: What does the next phase of regional integration look like? (RSVP required).

Friday, September 17

  • 9:30-11:00 at wola.org: Voices from the Frontlines: Bolstering Collective Power to End the Incarceration of Women Worldwide (RSVP required).
  • 12:00-1:30 at gwu.edu: Humanitarian and Political Crisis in Haiti: A Roadmap for the Future (RSVP required).

5 links: September 10, 2021

(Even more here)

Colombia

Si queremos rescatarla debemos reformar nuestra Policía, desmilitarizarla de las viejas formaciones y prácticas heredadas del conflicto armado; que se reclute, forme y vigile a una policía civilista que no dependa del Ministerio de Defensa ni tenga fuero militar

Only one police officer has so far been detained, under house arrest, for the killings during protests a year ago

Cuba

Cubalex says 437 remain behind bars

Ecuador, Venezuela

Lasso dijo que el plan que se está preparando es más ambicioso porque incluye la incorporación plena de los migrantes al país que los ha acogido

El Salvador

Guzmán is standing in solidarity with other judges who may still lose their jobs. His stance is that he won’t stay unless all can stay. It still isn’t clear whether the El Mozote proceedings will ever come to a conclusion

5 links: September 9, 2021

(Even more here)

Brazil

The threat to Brazil’s institutions has not lapsed, not from Bolsonaro nor from those who unquestionably back him

El Salvador

Santiago Cantón, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asks the Organization of American States (OAS) to invoke article 20 of the Inter-American Charter to redirect El Salvador to its constitutional framework

Mexico

Uno de los casos más destacables es en el presupuesto de la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (Comar), que, en términos reales, sufrió un recorte, en medio de la crisis migratoria en la frontera sur

El gobierno del presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador propuso para 2022 un incremento de más de 25 mil millones de pesos al presupuesto de la Guardia Nacional (GN) que, de aprobarse, significaría un alza de más de 60% de los recursos destinados a esta fuerza de seguridad

U.S.-Mexico Border

Anduril Industries’ sentry towers and ghost drones are just one of $2.4 billion and $1.6 billion worth in contracts doled out to CBP and ICE, respectively, from Biden’s inaugural month to the 20th anniversary of 9/11

5 links: September 6, 7, and 8, 2021

(Even more here)

September 8, 2021

Brazil

The pro-Bolsonaro protests seem to take Brazil one step closer to a “January 6” scenario, a crisis similar to the insurrection and riots at the US Capitol

At least three times — once soon after Bolsonaro’s second speech of the day — groups of demonstrators in Brasilia tried to get past police barriers, but officers repelled them with pepper spray

Colombia

Gold is not only more valuable than cocaine but easier to launder, with a fraction of the risk involved in trafficking drugs

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

Teams of prosecutors are being embedded in the U.S. embassies in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras tasked with providing backup to local law enforcement efforts. They are also being armed with a new authority to allow the more rapid revoking of visas, within days, of suspected criminals

Guatemala, Mexico

En Frontera Talismán, Chiapas, los expulsados son abandonados sin apoyo de ninguna institución


September 7, 2021

Colombia

Los generales (r) Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla Villamizar, Miguel Ernesto Pérez Guarnizo y William Fernando Pérez Laiseca, así como los otros siete oficiales, son comparecientes forzosos

El Salvador

The rollout of cryptocurrency has been upstaged by a more urgent concern: a series of withering attacks by Bukele and his ruling party on El Salvador’s three-decade-old democracy

Panama

Doctors Without Borders, which provides medical care to migrants in the hamlet of Bajo Chiquito, on the northern edge of the Darién, says it has documented 180 cases of rape since starting operations here in May

U.S.-Mexico Border

I rejoiced when you declared an end to this immoral policy on your first days in office, and despaired when the Supreme Court required your administration to implement it once again

This process of identifying vulnerable asylum-seekers, carried out by a consortium of nongovernmental organizations, has come to an end as of Aug. 31


September 6, 2021

Colombia

¿Por qué se decidió convertir los Acuerdos de paz en una razón de conflicto?

El Salvador

This week may go down in Salvadoran history as the week in which Nayib Bukele completed his consolidation of one man / one party rule in El Salvador

Nicaragua

Since June, the police have jailed or put under house arrest seven candidates for November’s presidential election and dozens of political activists and civil society leaders, leaving Mr. Ortega running on a ballot devoid of any credible challenger and turning Nicaragua into a police state

U.S.-Mexico Border

Unlike other law enforcement or intelligence agencies, CBP has been given the authority by Congress to conduct warrantless searches, which it uses to collect enormous amounts of personal information, often from U.S. citizens

Soon after the Matamoros camp was bulldozed in March, a new camp formed about 55 miles west across from the border bridge to the more dangerous, Gulf crime cartel stronghold of Reynosa

Colombia Peace Update: September 4, 2021

Cross-posted from colombiapeace.org.

Colombia Peace Update: September 4, 2021

Security deteriorates along the Colombia-Venezuela border

The ELN’s “Camilo Torres Urban Warfare Front” took credit for a bomb that detonated outside a police station in Cúcuta, the largest city along Colombia’s border with Venezuela, on the morning of August 30. The device wounded 14 people, among them 12 police, in Cúcuta’s Atalaya neighborhood.

“Cúcuta is subject to these types of terrorist acts and violence in its rural zones due to the presence of no less than 20 foreign criminal groups,” said Jairo Tomás Yáñez, the mayor of the city of half a million people. While Venezuelan organized crime operates in the area, particularly a band calling itself the Tren de Aragua, it’s not clear why the mayor would have specified “foreign” groups. Colombian groups active in Cúcuta, the conflictive nearby Catatumbo region, and on the Venezuelan side of the border include the ELN, ex-FARC dissidents, at least two groups descended from the paramilitary networks of the 1990s and 2000s (the Gulf Clan and Rastrojos), a criminal group descended from the long-demobilized EPL guerrillas which the government calls the “Pelusos,” and smaller local bands.

The latest attack follows two high-profile events in June: a car bomb on the premises of the Army’s 30th Brigade headquarters in Cúcuta on June 15, and President Iván Duque’s helicopter being hit by gunfire as it overflew the region 10 days later. Colombia’s Prosecutor-General (Fiscalía) has arrested and charged several people, including a former Army captain, for both crimes, alleging their affiliation with the “33rd Front” ex-FARC dissident group.

These incidents, including the August 21 killing of the vice president of a Junta de Acción Comunal (local advisory board) in rural Cúcuta, “are a small sample of the complexity that the area is experiencing,” warns a Peace and Reconciliation Foundation analysis of Cúcuta, which sees the situation worsening as Colombia’s 2022 presidential and congressional elections draw near. “Some of the factors affecting this reality have to do with the closing of the border [both during and before the pandemic], the reconfiguration of armed actors, and the increase in cocaine cultivation and processing” in this region, “a zone without the rule of law or institutional presence.”

Cúcuta, the capital of Norte de Santander department, is just south of Norte de Santander’s Catatumbo enclave, a cluster of about a dozen barely governed municipalities that currently grows more coca than any other region of Colombia. The region “effectively exists outside the presence of the Colombian state,” reads an analysis by Joshua Collins at The New Humanitarian. Catatumbo has easy access to Venezuela through the large border municipality of Tibú and the presence of all of the above-mentioned armed groups, while one of Colombia’s main oil pipelines (the Caño Limón-Coveñas) runs across its territory.

Catatumbo has strong campesino, Indigenous, and other organizations, including eight former FARC women, profiled this week in a lengthy Vorágine article, leading local reintegration efforts near the site where they demobilized. It has always been a dangerous place to be a social leader, though. This week, the “Madres del Catatumbo por la Paz,” a women’s organization, denounced that its entire leadership had received new and serious threats.

South and east of Norte de Santander, the oil-producing border department of Arauca is also seeing increased tensions. The department has been under heavy ELN influence since the 1980s, endured a bloody mini-war between the ELN and FARC in the 2000s, and is now seeing a growing presence of ex-FARC dissidents. In Saravena, Arauca’s westernmost border municipality, members of an armed group this week stopped employees of the Unit for the Search for the Disappeared (UBPD, an agency created by the 2016 peace accord) and demanded that they hand over their official vehicle. Municipal authorities meanwhile held an “extraordinary security meeting” after an ex-FARC dissident group calling itself the 28th Front threatened local Indigenous communities, accusing them of petty theft.

An internal dispute between leaders of the 10th Front, a large and fast-growing ex-FARC dissident group, brought a jump in homicides in Arauca in August: at least 28 in a department of 230,000 people. La Silla Vacía notes how the dissidents have increased their territorial control on the Venezuelan side of the Arauca river. Across from the departmental capital, “We can stop at the river’s edge and look them in the face,” said Arauca’s chief of police.

Corruption enables this on both sides of the border. “In Arauca,” on the Colombian side, “there are rumors that all spheres of power are permeated by the dissidents,” La Silla notes. “The most frequent [rumor] is that a good part of the political class of the department works with them.” In the departmental capital, the accusations “even touch the municipality’s security forces.”

Relations between the ELN and local government have been alleged for decades in Arauca. This is the region of Colombia that the ELN, through its powerful Domingo Laín front, is believed to control most tightly. While the dissidents’ presence grows, though, the ELN “has been conspicuous by its absence,” La Silla Vacía observes. “According to a source close to a commander of that group, they continue in the tone of not confronting them in order to avoid a guerrilla war like the one the region suffered ten years ago. However, the tension between them continues to grow.”

Reuters reporter Sarah Kinosian documents the extent to which the ELN and dissidents have increased their territorial control on the Venezuelan side of the border. In a village in Zulia—across from Colombia’s department of Cesar, which lies north of Catatumbo—ELN members from Colombia “function as both a local government and a major employer,” recruiting people—including children—to work in Colombian coca fields, Kinosian writes. “Rebels who once hid from Colombia’s military in Venezuela’s jungles,” mainly ELN and ex-FARC dissidents, “have moved into population centers, ruling alongside Maduro’s government in some places, supplanting it in others.” ELN leader Pablo Beltrán, speaking from Havana where he was a negotiator until peace talks ended in January 2019, told Reuters that while guerrillas cross into Venezuela, he denies that they are present with the permission of Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

Gen. Montoya will not be indicted in regular justice system

In a decision that, El Tiempo reported, “didn’t cause surprise for the majority of sectors,” Bogotá’s Superior Tribunal refused to allow the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) to charge or indict Gen. Mario Montoya, the commander of Colombia’s army between 2006 and 2008, for human rights crimes. The court ruled on August 30 that Colombia’s regular criminal justice system, led by the Fiscalía, may continue to investigate Gen. Montoya’s role in the military’s numerous killings of non-combatants during his tenure. But while his case remains before the 2016 peace accords’ special transitional justice system (Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP), the Fiscalía cannot separately charge him or bring him to trial.

Gen. Mario Montoya, now 72, faces allegations of creating a command climate and incentive structure that led soldiers to kill thousands of civilian non-combatants. Throughout the country, under pressure to increase “body counts,” officers claimed falsely that civilian victims were armed-group members killed on the battlefield. The JEP is investigating these abuses, known as “false positives,” and has charged former commanders in two regions of the country so far. It surprised the country earlier this year by releasing a very high estimate of the number of civilians killed by the military: 6,402 between 2002 and 2008, which would be well over 40 percent of the armed forces’ claimed combat kills during those years.

A highly decorated officer whom many Colombians associated with the country’s security gains of the mid-2000s, Gen. Montoya resigned in November 2008 after a particularly egregious example of “false positive” killings came to light, blowing the scandal open after years of human rights groups’ denunciations. Former subordinates have portrayed the general as a key architect of the incentive system that encouraged officers to pad their units’ body counts even if it meant paying criminals to kill the innocent.

In 2018, Gen. Montoya agreed to have his case tried in the JEP instead of the regular justice system, even though the Fiscalía at the time was barely moving on its investigation of him. In his appearances before the transitional justice tribunal so far, Montoya has insisted on his innocence. This is risky: if he were to confess to his role in false positives and take actions to make amends to victims, Gen. Montoya would most likely be sentenced to up to eight years of “restricted liberty”—not prison. However, if he pleads “not guilty” and the JEP determines otherwise, he could go to regular prison for up to 20 years. The JEP has not yet formally charged Montoya with anything.

The Fiscalía, led by chief prosecutor Francisco Barbosa, surprised many in July when it announced it would seek to indict Gen. Montoya for his role in 104 “false positive” killings that took place after a 2007 order requiring the military to de-emphasize body counts. With his case already moving in the JEP, it was not clear whether the regular justice system had the legal standing to issue charges against Gen. Montoya at the same time. On August 30, Judge Fabio Bernal decided that it did not.

For now, Gen. Montoya’s case will proceed in the transitional justice system. While the Fiscalía is not appealing the August 30 decision, relatives of some “false positive” victims plan to do so, because they believe that separate charges in the regular justice system would increase the chances of the General being held accountable. According to Sebastián Escobar of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective, who represents some of the victims, a Fiscalía indictment would have helped because of Gen. Montoya’s reticence so far before the JEP:

If the Fiscalía were to continue with these investigations and charge him for at least some of these acts, it would contribute to the participants reaching a scenario of recognition [of responsibility for crimes]. In the case of Montoya, although he submitted voluntarily to the JEP, because his case was not advanced in the regular justice system, he has come to the [transitional] jurisdiction with an attitude of denying his participation in the policy that promoted these acts, and of not recognizing his responsibility from any point of view.”

Government blames Nariño violence on court-ordered freeze in coca eradication

A firefight between anti-narcotics police and members of the “Óliver Sinisterra” ex-FARC dissident group left 14 police wounded in a rural zone of Tumaco, Nariño, not far from the Ecuador border, as they sought to raid a cocaine laboratory on August 20.

This is part of a worsening climate of violence in Nariño’s Pacific coast region, in Colombia’s far southwest, which is one of the country’s busiest and most fought-over drug trafficking corridors. The same municipalities host coca fields, processing laboratories, and coastal transshipment points. Just north of Tumaco, in the “Telembí Triangle” region, fighting between various armed groups, most of them ex-FARC dissidents, has displaced over 21,000 people—a large part of the population—so far this year.

Reporting from El Tiempo mentions fighting between three factions of ex-FARC dissidents, mostly derived from former Tumaco-area FARC militia members who did not demobilize: the “Óliver Sinisterra,” whose highest profile leader, alias “Guacho,” was killed in 2018; the Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico; and more recently members of the Putumayo-based “Comandos de la Frontera,” a group made up of former guerrillas, former paramilitaries, and organized crime. The latter group is apparently aligned with the “Segunda Marquetalia,” the dissident faction founded by former chief FARC peace negotiator Iván Márquez and other top ex-FARC leaders.

All the armed groups “are looking to control coca crops and production,” a “church spokesperson who knows the region” told El Tiempo. “Everyone here has a Mexican ally, from a cartel, that’s what I’m talking about.”

Defense Minister Diego Molano is blaming increased violence on a court ruling. In May 2021, in response to a judicial appeal (tutela) from the Nariño Pacific Human Rights Network, which represents several Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities, the Superior Tribunal of Pasto prohibited all coca eradication—including that done by manual eradication teams—until the government engages in prior consultation with affected communities. The court ordered the Interior Ministry to carry out consultations within 100 days, with a possible 60-day extension. It is not clear how much progress the Ministry has made, if any, on consultations with residents of these remote, poorly governed zones.

Since May, then, coca eradication has been on hold in much of 10 municipalities along coastal Nariño. This includes Tumaco, which ranks second in coca acreage among Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities. Nariño, however, has seen a decline in coca cultivation, from nearly 42,000 hectares in 2018 to 30,751 in 2020, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Long the number-one coca-growing department, Nariño has been surpassed by Norte de Santander (see the Venezuela discussion above). About one-fifth of Nariño’s coca is planted in indigenous reserves, the UNODC estimates.

Molano, the defense minister, calls the result of the court order “a case of national security,” adding that “denying the possibility of manual eradication in 10 municipalities of Nariño has had an impact on the increase in homicides and forced displacements in that area.”

The communities themselves, though, blame a near-total absence of government presence, including security and other basic services. “We have been negotiating with the governments in power for almost 26 years, and we have not been able to get roads we need to transport our legal products,” a leader of Nariño’s Juntas Comunales La Cordillera organization told El Tiempo. “We have no roads, we have no schools. We want to substitute [coca], but they do not present us with options.” Community leaders note that the government is badly behind on payments promised to those who voluntarily eradicate their coca, in the framework of a program set up by the 2016 peace accords.

Unable to eradicate coca in coastal Nariño, “the authorities have opted for a path that, paradoxically, is the one that many experts recommend because of its effectiveness: attacking other links, such as inputs or capital for the purchase of coca leaf and coca base,” reads an El Tiempo editorial. It is not clear how energetically the government is pursuing these alternative measures, though, or whether they could possibly be enough to substitute for state presence in a climate of worsening combat between guerrilla dissidents and other armed groups.

Links

  • WOLA’s latest alert details numerous cases of human rights abuse committed around the country during July and August.
  • VICE reports on the National Police’s practice, during the April-June Paro Nacional protests, of taking arrested protesters to unofficial “black sites” in Cali, where hundreds were beaten and forced to make false confessions.
  • Colombia’s universities “were not exempt from the conflict, and were stigmatized. When I was director of police intelligence, I contributed to stigmatizing it, because I considered them to be related to armed groups and that guerrilla fighters were linked to them. What a big mistake,” said former National Police chief and vice president Gen. Oscar Naranjo, in an appearance before the Truth Commission.
  • Colombia and Panama have agreed to limit, to 500 people per day, the flow of migrants from other countries traveling northbound from Colombia through Panama’s dangerous Darién Gap jungle region. “So far this year, Panama estimates more than 50,000 migrants have come through the dangerous Darien route,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “An estimated 15,000 migrants are currently en route through Colombia heading for Panama.”
  • U.S. Army South, the Army component of U.S. Southern Command, held a two-day seminar for members of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), who will soon deploy to Colombia, Panama, and Honduras for a lengthy military training mission. The SFAB’s first visit to Colombia, between May and October 2020, generated much publicity and some controversy.
  • An investigation by La Silla Vacía finds that the Land Restitution Agency—a body created in 2011 by the government of Juan Manuel Santos—has recently been inaccurately inflating the amount of land that it has been distributing to small farmers dispossessed by the conflict.
  • Interviewed by the New York Times, President Iván Duque said “he had done more than his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, to put in place the peace deal’s landownership overhauls and development plans that would give poor farmers and former rebels jobs and opportunities.”
  • WOLA laments the unexpected and premature death of our longtime colleague and friend Yamile Salinas, a great and generous legal mind, teacher, and fighter for land rights and human rights in Colombia’s countryside.

5 links: September 3, 2021

(Even more here)

Brazil

A massive debate continues to bubble inside the US government, as well as in academic and policy circles, over whether any short-term gain from engaging with Bolsonaro, even with the two presidents at arm’s length, is worth the possible long-term damage doing so might cause to Washington’s reputation

Colombia

“I was having problems focusing, I was so disoriented from the beatings,” he said. “But I could hear screams coming from other rooms—the sounds of other people being beaten too”

Colombia, Panama

An estimated 15,000 migrants are currently en route through Colombia heading for Panama

Mexico

Por tercera ocasión, la caravana de migrantes fue interceptada por un operativo del INM y la Guardia Nacional. Autoridades han negado información sobre el saldo de heridos y detenidos

U.S.-Mexico Border

Bashant has not yet decided what she will order as a remedy in the four-year-old class-action case. She asked both sides to submit additional briefings on the subject by October 1

5 links: September 2, 2021

(Even more here)

Colombia, Venezuela

The guerrillas pay villagers, including children, to staff narcotics operations, extortion rackets and wildcat gold mines in both countries

El Salvador

Lo aprobado implica una purga a todos aquellos jueces y fiscales mayores de 60 años o con 30 años de servicio

Honduras

The case has set an important and worrying precedent. Honduran authorities charged local leaders defending rivers and a protected natural area with criminal association based on the mining company’s groundless claims

Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s president has created an insular dynastic tyranny that eerily resembles the one against which he fought decades ago

Venezuela

Lamentablemente, la idea de una negociación exitosa también es frágil. La razón: la oposición no lleva ninguna alternativa real a la mesa y su poder de negociación es más bajo

Arms transfers in Latin America: some notable links from the past quarter

August 31, 2021

El Salvador

El Comando Sumpul está a cargo de vigilar 195 puestos de Paso Fronterizo No Habilitado (PFNH) situados a lo largo del país

August 26, 2021

Venezuela

EN 2006 el gobierno venezolano, a través de la Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares (CAVIM), suscribió con Rosoboronexport los contratos para la construcción de una planta de fabricación de armamento

August 25, 2021

El Salvador

U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) delivered a Metal Shark Defiant 85 coastal patrol vessel to the Salvadoran Navy (FNES, in Spanish) at La Unión Naval Base, on July 22, 2021

Venezuela

Se vienen ejecutando desde 2006 en las instalaciones de la Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares

July 28, 2021

El Salvador, Honduras

Tanto Honduras como El Salvador necesitarían al menos uno, y óptimamente, dos Desafiante 85 adicionales y, en el caso de El Salvador, uno o dos más modelos FCS-5009/Spa-5009 para mejorar sus patrullas

July 22, 2021

El Salvador

A esta fase se le denomina “Incursión” y pretende duplicar la capacidad humana, alcanzando los 40.000 efectivos militares en los próximos cinco años

June 21, 2021

Venezuela

Warships have “practically absolute sovereign immunity”, says Cornell Overfield of cna, a think-tank, meaning that the United States cannot lawfully seize or attack them

June 18, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Many Russian C-UAS systems are small and portable, and are relatively inexpensive, enabling their potential export to LATAM

June 3, 2021

Venezuela

El Instituto Naval de EEUU informó este martes 2 de junio que un barco de guerra perteneciente a la Armada de Irán salió de su puerto a finales de abril con siete de barcos de alta velocidad con armamento antiaéreo

June 2, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Analizamos en estas páginas los próximos programas de aeronaves de ala rotatoria en esta variopinta región

Colombia

Entre 2017 y 2021, 20 entidades estatales suscribieron al menos 30 contratos y dos órdenes de compra por $45.684.261.058 para adquirir armas de letalidad reducida y elementos de dispersión de multitudes

5 links: September 1, 2021

(Even more here)

Mexico

La Sedena también mantiene el control completo de las 32 coordinaciones estatales de la Guardia Nacional, y no solo de su alto mando operativo. Al frente de cada una de dichas coordinaciones esta nombrado un general en activo

The DEA even have a term for it – it is the essential building block of the war on drugs. They call it divide and conquer. But it is the drug wars dirty little secret

Alrededor de las 9 de la mañana, unos 200 agentes llegaron al municipio, rodearon las calles que llevan a la plaza central, y tomaron por sorpresa a hombres, mujeres y niños que descansaban

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

In private, Mexican officials said they are waiting to see how U.S. officials propose to restore “Remain in Mexico,” and whether they have a plan to avoid the aspects of the program’s last iteration when rights groups documented the abuse of returned migrants

U.S.-Mexico Border

Alexander Halaska of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation told U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant that the present administration is reassessing the policies that officials often refer to as “metering,” but which critics call a “turnback” of asylum-seekers

5 links: August 31, 2021

(Even more here)

Brazil

The president, a former army captain, has responded by attacking other branches of government, sowing doubts over election security, and flaunting his increasingly cozy relationship with the armed forces

Colombia

Catatumbo, which still produces more coca – the raw ingredient in cocaine – than just about anywhere else in the world, effectively exists outside the presence of the Colombian state

Mexico

Mexico’s National Guard seems intent on blocking asylum seekers from leaving Mexico’s poor south, even if it threatens the stability of the region or, worse, might produce a xenophobic and racist eruption

The Zetas proved that via fearsome messaging and brutal tactics, you could control territory and thus secure numerous local criminal rents, even while you vied for action in the international market

U.S.-Mexico Border

The report, which can be read here, details thirty-five cases of violations by CBP agents documented by KBI from October 2020 to mid-August 2021

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