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

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Sandra Sebastian/AP photo at National Public Radio. Caption: “Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, on Sunday.”

(Even more here)

January 19, 2021


Candidates backed by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro are expected to win control of Congress next month


El capitulo de violencia que más se recuerda en esta zona fue la masacre de El Salado cuando 450 paramilitares asesinaron a más de 60 personas en este corregimiento en febrero de 2000

La defensa del policía Andrés Díaz Mercado señaló que el caso debería quedar en manos de la Justicia Penal Militar, dado que la muerte de Germán Smyth Puentes se dio en medio de un acto del servicio

Since FARC fighters disarmed in 2017 as part of the peace deal, a total of 253 have been killed, including four already in 2021

Guatemala, Honduras

Hundreds of police and military forces quickly surged forward, pushing migrants and asylum seekers south along the highway and off the highway itself

Before the pandemic, nationals from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua were able to travel freely across each other’s borders. Officials now are requiring a negative coronavirus test to cross. Some migrant advocates say this requirement is being used to block some refugees


¿Qué gobierno va a querer compartir datos sensibles con México si el respeto a la confidencialidad depende del humor del presidente en la mañanera?

Parecería una mala broma: eliminar la institución que por dos décadas se ha encargado de construir el sistema de transparencia

Behind all those perceived slights is a fear that the Democrats are more likely to intervene to promote labor rights and clean energy, getting in the way of Mr. López Obrador’s ambitious agenda

“Queremos control en Estados Unidos de la venta de las armas. Eso de que vamos a tener un equipo para detectarlas y con eso nos vamos a quedar tranquilos, eso no es lo que México está planteando”

“¿Cómo va a ser débil? ¿Cómo la DEA va a fabricar evidencia? Si nosotros fabricáramos evidencia perderíamos nuestro trabajo”

U.S.-Mexico Border

Roberta Jacobson, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, will join the NSC and help oversee an anticipated U-turn in U.S. policy on migration and asylum

The plan calls on the Department of Homeland Security to develop a proposal that uses technology and other similar infrastructure to implement new security measures along the border, both at and between ports of entry

Kerlikowske, the ex-CBP head said, “The public trust issue is pretty tough right now in law enforcement generally. But when you look at (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or CBP, I think it’s even more critical right now”


El regreso demócrata al poder en Washington aviva el recuerdo de unos lazos políticos de hace veinte años que solo han facilitado gestiones humanitarias

5 links from the past week

  • The Justice Department’s Inspector-General released a scathing and detailed report, years in the making, about the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” or family separation policy. It lays blame at the feet of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top officials, for whom separating asylum-seeking migrant families without documenting the parent-child relationship was a feature—a “deterrent”—not a bug.
  • Investigators at El Salvador’s El Faro find that a healthy top MS-13 leader was taken out of maximum security prison for “medical emergency” reasons, a likely result of negotiations between the gang and the government of Nayib Bukele.
  • At Criterio, Aimée Cárcamo takes a deep dive into Honduras’s disappointing experience with reforming its 18,486-member national police force since 2012. It concludes that police “purification” can’t succeed in the midst of a “narco-dictatorship.”
  • Days after declining to prosecute its former defense minister, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, whom U.S. agents arrested last November in Los Angeles on suspicion of working with drug traffickers, Mexico’s government shared the 750-page collection of evidence that the U.S. Justice Department gathered about the case. Most of it is text messages.
  • Human Rights Watch’s latest World Report found a lot of backsliding throughout the region in 2020.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

EFE photo at Milenio (Mexico). Caption: “Los migrantes fueron detenidos por autoridades de Guatemala.”

(Even more here)

January 18, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Key Democratic lawmakers and congressional staff have been in “constant communication” with Biden’s transition team and policy writers about the immigration plan


Aliado fiel de Donald Trump, Bolsonaro afirmou, após a invasão do Capitólio, que, se não tivermos voto imprenso em 2022, “nós vamos ter problemas piores do que os Estados Unidos”


La Fiscalía está llevando cada caso por separado y por eso no esté construyendo una visión judicial unificada de lo que pasó el 9S

El Salvador

Las historias que hemos leído en #ProhibidoOlvidarSV dan cuenta de un país en el que conviven aún el dolor de aquellos años y la determinación por sostener aquellos acuerdos como un logro mayúsculo

Guatemala, Honduras

Guatemalan migration officials estimated on Sunday that about 6,000 migrants were corralled between Chiquimula and the border with Honduras, most of them Honduran

The roadblock was strategically placed at a chokepoint on the two-lane highway to Chiquimula in an area known as Vado Hondo. It’s flanked by a tall mountainside and a wall leaving the migrants with few options

Hundreds of migrants managed to push through military and police lines on Saturday, but when others unsuccessfully attempted to do so on Sunday morning, soldiers responded with batons and tear gas

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

La persecución e intento por frenar la primera caravana de migrantes del 2021, ha provocado que miles de uniformados de México, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras hayan tenido que movilizarse en los pasos fronterizos

Guatemala, Honduras, U.S.-Mexico Border

People in the caravan “will not find when they get to the U.S. border that from Tuesday to Wednesday, things have changed overnight and ports are all open and they can come into the United States”


La presencia de elementos de seguridad mexicanos en la frontera sur disminuyó este domingo, luego de que la caravana de migrantes proveniente de Honduras fuera detenida y obligada a retroceder por la fuerza policiaca y militares de Guatemala

El nivel de confianza en las fuerzas armadas de nuestro país en general, y en particular del Ejercito, tiene altos niveles de confianza (alrededor del 70%)

The vigilantes bitterly deny allegations they’re part of a criminal gang, though they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe. They say they would be more than happy for police and soldiers to come in and do their jobs

“It’s evident that the Mexican government is more afraid of its own army than the U.S. government, to which it has been servile”

La incógnita ahora es el comportamiento de México y su mensaje a la Administración de Joe Biden, que toma posesión el miércoles

The United States can take only one message from all of this: the López Obrador administration at its highest levels is not a trustworthy U.S. security partner

U.S.-Mexico Border

Contractors have been working day and sometimes night, effectively racing against the clock to build the border wall in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term

A week after inauguration day, a coalition of groups across the borderlands will begin a monitoring project in order to assess the damage, and to see what needs to be done. Some hope certain sections can be removed

The 14 -mile span from the rail road bridge north to El Pico Water Plant is 90% complete in its design phase. Surveys are still ongoing, along with engineering, environmental and flood plain studies


Organizaciones nacionales e internacionales defensoras de los derechos humanos exigen la liberación de los detenidos, así como un pronunciamiento por parte del coordinador Residente del Sistema de las Naciones Unidas

Rodriguez, extending an olive branch to the incoming U.S. president, said the ruling socialist party is eager for a new start after four years of endless attacks by the Trump administration

Colombia peace update: January 16, 2021

Cross-posted from WOLA’s site. During at least the first half of 2021, we’re producing weekly sub-1,000-word updates in English about peace accord implementation and related topics.

Trump administration, citing the ELN talks’ outcome, puts Cuba on the U.S. terrorist sponsors list

On January 11, with nine days left to the Trump presidency, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government was once again designating Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism,” alongside North Korea, Syria, and Iran. President Barack Obama’s administration had removed Cuba from this “terrorist list” in 2015.

The measure carries penalties, like bans on assistance and arms sales, that already apply to Cuba through other laws. The Biden administration can remove Cuba, American University’s William LeoGrande explains, by submitting “a presidential report and certification to Congress, which then has 45 days to reject the certification before it goes into effect.”

The main pretext cited for re-listing Cuba involves Colombia. In May 2018 Colombia’s government, the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, and the government of Norway asked Cuba to host ELN-government peace talks. At the talks’ April 2016 outset, all involved—including Colombian government representatives—signed a set of protocols. These made clear that, should the ELN talks break down, the ELN’s negotiators would not be arrested—they would have 15 days to leave Cuba and receive safe passage back to Colombia. However, President Iván Duque’s administration, which took office in August 2018, was skeptical about peace talks.

In January 2019, the ELN set off a truck bomb on the premises of Colombia’s National Police Cadets’ School, killing 22 people and forcing an end to the negotiations. After that, the Colombian government rejected the protocols: it demanded that Cuba turn over the ELN’s negotiators for arrest, later formally requesting their extradition. Cuba would not do that, and the guerrilla negotiators remain stranded in Cuban territory. The ELN leaders themselves demand to leave Cuba as detailed in the protocols.

Critics of the State Department decision pointed out that Havana is being punished for assisting a peace process and obeying its rules. “They felt they were doing what they were asked to do, then being accused of being terrorists themselves,” said a source whom The Washington Post described as “a former senior U.S. official familiar with Latin American policy.”

Condemnation came from many quarters, including WOLA.

  • “Efforts to politicize important decisions concerning our national security are unacceptable,” read a letter from nine Democratic senators, led by incoming Appropriations Committee Chairperson Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont.)
  • “I am outraged,” said the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chairperson, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-New York).
  • “If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts,” read a statement from the government of Norway.
  • The Colombian government’s two lead negotiators during the FARC peace process warned “that ideology and partisan interests are being privileged over common sense and international commitments.”
  • On the other side, legislators from Colombia’s ruling rightist Centro Democrático party signed a letter calling on President Duque to consider breaking off diplomatic relations with Cuba. And Colombia’s national security advisor, Rafael Guarín, tweeted that “The Government of Colombia will be forceful against diplomats who attempt to act and interfere within the country.”

Presidency peace and stabilization official reports results, responds to critics

The Colombian Presidency official who oversees most peace accord implementation, Emilio Archila, told El Espectador that he doesn’t know why critics accuse his government of focusing too exclusively on certain aspects of the accord, like the Territorially Focused Development Plans (PDETs). “A very small part of it,” he surmised, “is that it is in the political opposition’s interest that we arrive at [the election year of] 2022 with the idea that not enough is being done, and perhaps the opposition has done better than me.”

Archila had choice words for Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco, who upon the release of HRW’s annual worldwide report said that “in Colombia you turn over a stone and a sicario comes out,” while accusing the government of “a fundamentally military response” to human rights problems. “This is an insulting statement regarding Colombia,” the presidency official replied.

In interviews and in the release of monthly results reports, Archila pointed to a Defense Ministry “intelligence bubble” to follow up on risks and threats against ex-combatants “which has saved the lives of several.” Presidency documents cite 1,134 mostly small development projects delivered in the PDETs’ 170 municipalities (counties). Archila rejected criticism that delivery of these projects has not been as consultative as the accords envisioned. To criticisms that the projects have been too small to bring fundamental change in rural Colombia, he responded that larger projects, like tertiary roads, are coming but take longer.

FARC party spokesman Pastor Alape Lascarro told El Espectador that the PDETs “are not responding to the expectations of the communities, carrying out works that are not within the framework established in the Peace Agreement.” He questioned the long-term sustainability of economic projects offered to ex-combatants, while recalling that 253 of 13,185 demobilized FARC members have been killed since the accords’ signature.

Environmental defender Gonzalo Cardona is assassinated

On January 11 the Fundación ProAves, which seeks to protect birds and other wildlife in Colombia, announced the murder of Gonzalo Cardona Molina, coordinator of a ProAves preserve in Tolima department that provides refuge for the endangered yellow-eared parrot. ProAves had reported Cardona missing on January 8, and confirmed a few days later that he had been killed.

Cardona was a founding member of the environmental group , working in Roncesvalles municipality in west-central Tolima since 1998 to save a bird species whose population in Colombia’s central cordillera, by then, had fallen to 81. His work there during some of the conflict’s most intense years placed him in periodic danger, as rural Tolima was a key battleground between the FARC and government forces. But it made a difference: a late 2020 census counted 2,895 yellow-eared parrots in the preserve.

Cardona’s likely killers are not known. “It is outrageous that the second most biodiverse country on the planet continues to lose its great defenders to violence,” read a statement from Colombia’s Alexander von Humboldt Institute.

In more dismaying news, Francisco Javier Vera, an 11-year-old environmental activist in Cundinamarca, received a grisly threat of death and torture this week in a comment posted to his Twitter account.


  • Sign up for Con Líderes Hay Paz, WOLA’s new digital advocacy campaign in support of Colombia’s threatened Afro-descendant and indigenous social leaders and human rights defenders.
  • Iván Márquez, the FARC leader who headed the guerrillas’ negotiating team in Havana then rearmed in 2019, released a video endorsing the idea of a recall vote to remove President Duque. At the request of Colombia’s National Police, Twitter shut down Márquez’s account, and that of his longtime dissident collaborator Jesús Santrich. YouTube followed suit. National Security Advisor Rafael Guarín tweeted that Márquez will be “taken down” like Pablo Escobar.
  • The Duque government is inexplicably removing the Interior Ministry security detail for Iván Velásquez, the former auxiliary magistrate who suffered extensive illegal surveillance while investigating the “para-politics” scandal, then went on to head Guatemala’s CICIG anti-corruption body.
  • The restart of aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing regions, which was likely to begin in the first months of 2021, may be delayed for weeks or months further. A judge in Nariño accepted an injunction (tutela) filed by Afro-descendant and indigenous communities, alleging that required prior consultations have been insufficient.
  • El Espectador produced worthwhile sets of infographics about the reintegration of ex-combatants and implementation of the PDETs.
  • Sixteen women were killed in Colombia during the first thirteen days of 2021, a sharp rise in the rate of femicides.
  • President Duque reiterated his government’s refusal to offer COVID-19 vaccines to undocumented Venezuelans in Colombia, saying it would cause “a stampede.”
  • At War on the Rocks, Andrew Ivey explores “integral action” as a direction for the Colombian military’s post-conflict role. While we don’t share his conclusion that the military should play eminently civilian roles like carrying out development projects, Ivey presents detailed information about the evolution of the armed forces’ thinking.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Delmer Martinez photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A police officer stands by as travelers fill the back of a truck after revising their documents and allowing them to continue their journey toward the Guatemalan border, on the highway leading to Santa Barbara, after they left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, before dawn Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The migrants left with little certainty about how far they will make it as regional governments appeared more united than ever in stopping their progress.”

(Even more here)

January 15, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

When Mr Trump took office in 2017, Latin American governments suffered a “fear of coming to his attention”, says a former adviser to his administration. But many grew to like him, largely because he left them alone

La polarización que ha originado la toma del Congreso no se revertirá fácilmente. Chile puede ser un buen espejo

Argentina, Brazil

The Brazilian and Argentine armies carried out Operation Arandu at Barão de São Borja Training Camp, in Rosário do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, November 14-20, 2020

Argentina, Paraguay

Las dos niñas argentinas que fueron presentadas como “abatidas en combate” por el ejército paraguayo en septiembre pasado, habrían sido detenidas con vida y ejecutadas por los militares de ese país


hasta ahora lo que se ha visto de los PDET son pequeñas obras de infraestructura, como arreglos en vías terciarias, en centros educativos, en polideportivos, en casetas comunales, etc., que no necesariamente están generando desarrollo

Una tutela de los pueblos étnicos del Pacífico Nariñense logró que el Tribunal Superior de Pasto suspendiera una resolución del Ministerio del Interior según la cual no era necesario hacer consulta previa

Como parte del control que ejercía en el territorio, violó a cientos de mujeres, lo que llevó a que tuviera unos 21 hijos, según cuentas extraoficiales

  • Sergio Guzman, Damage Control (Colombia Risk Analysis, Global Americans, January 15, 2021).

The Colombian government’s not-so-subtle endorsement of Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential election was a failed risky gambit. After the failed coup attempt on the United States Capitol, however, it turned out to be a huge error of judgment

Colombia, Cuba

De acuerdo con los parlamentarios, mantener relaciones diplomáticas con Cuba significa un “obstáculo real para poder alcanzar esa paz con justicia que anhelamos todos los colombianos”


Taking a country off the list requires a presidential report and certification to Congress, which then has 45 days to reject the certification before it goes into effect

El Salvador

“La guerra fue una farsa. Mataron más de 75.000 personas entre los dos bandos –incluyendo los mil de El Mozote- y fue una farsa como los Acuerdos de Paz”, sentenció el presidente

An indictment was unsealed in Central Islip, New York charging 14 of the world’s highest-ranking MS-13 leaders who are known today as the Ranfla Nacional, which operated as the Organization’s Board of Directors


Giammattei añadió que busca incrementar las fuerzas armadas “con seis mil elementos más”

Guatemala, Honduras

Video shared by the Guatemala Immigration Institute showed cheering people streaming in while border agents looked on and tried to keep them from blocking traffic


Haiti braced for a fresh round of widespread protests starting Friday, with opposition leaders demanding that President Jovenel Moïse step down next month, worried he is amassing too much power as he enters his second year of rule by decree


En la sustracción participaron cuatro sujetos armados, en una camioneta con vidrios polarizados

Conforman esta fuerza de tarea Agentes Federales de Migracio?n, personal de la Secretari?a de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena), Guardia Nacional (GN), Agencia Mexicana de Cooperacio?n Internacional para el Desarrollo (Amexcid) de la Secretari?a de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE); y del Sistema Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), y las secretari?as de Salud y Proteccio?n Civil del estado

Resguardan la frontera del lado mexicano con elementos del INM, Guardia Nacional y las Secretarías de la Defensa Nacional y de Marina

El embajador Christopher Landau afirmó que EU ofreció a México la extradición de sospechosos de tráfico de armas, sin que el país hubiera solicitado alguna, y tampoco aceptó un donativo de aparatos de detección

His complete exoneration in Mexico came as a shocking about-face after the authorities had promised to bring the full weight of the Mexican justice system to bear

U.S. authorities said Cienfuegos helped a cartel ship thousands of kilos of drugs to America

“Estados Unidos se reserva el derecho de reanudar el enjuiciamiento de Cienfuegos si el Gobierno de México falla”, reveló Nicole Navas Oxman, titular de la vocería del Departamento de Estado, al periodista estadounidense Keegan Hamilton, de Vice News

Document is a large PDF file.

U.S.-Mexico Border

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a statement of regret Thursday while former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and current DOJ official Gene Hamilton blamed the president for the policy

Multiple Department of Justice leaders told us that Sessions understood at the time the zero tolerance policy was issued that its strict implementation would result in the Department of Homeland Security’s referral for criminal prosecution of adults entering the country illegally with children

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency responsible for housing unaccompanied children, has housed 701 minors whose parents were in Mexico under the MPP program. Most — 643 of them — have been released to family members

It concludes that top Justice Department officials were a “driving force” behind the decision to put in place policies that led to separating families

The logistical report from the resettlement agency HIAS is the latest in a growing push from immigration and human rights advocates to try to hold him to his promise


Los integrantes de la organización no gubernamental fueron encarcelados el pasado 12 de enero y este jueves fueron presentados ante los tribunales ordinarios

Oficiales iraníes están formando a militares en Venezuela “para controlar a la sociedad venezolana”, denunció el jueves la directora ejecutiva de la ONG Instituto Casla ante autoridades de la Organización de los Estados Americanos

There’s certainly a feeling in Venezuela that a new cycle is about to begin as Joe Biden takes over as President of the United States, offering a potential reset in relations. And it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there might not be room for Guaidó in that cycle

The media outlet Efecto Cocuyo, community radio channel Fe y Alegría, as well as the National Press Workers Union, VPI TV, and news journal Panorama, among other media outlets, have become the target of stigmatization campaigns and legal scrutiny

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Antonio Baranda photo at Reforma (Mexico). Caption: “En el encuentro estuvo el Secretario de la Defensa Nacional.”

(Even more here)

January 14, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

World Report 2021, Human Rights Watch’s 31st annual review of human rights practices and trends around the globe, reviews developments in more than 100 countries

The statement by the 11-member Regional Conference on Migration suggests that Mexico and Central America could continue to turn back migrants on the basis of the perceived risks of the pandemic


UNIFIL-MTF, the only U.N. naval peacekeeping mission, is also the first mission led by a nation that is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, since 2011


El patrullaje y la fiscalización realizados por los efectivos ha dejado a 364.509 personas detenidas por incumplir alguna norma sanitaria

Colombia, Cuba

If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts


“We have noticed that when community leaders are threatened they go silent, as well as their organizations, and that interrupts the creation of new groups”

El 21 de noviembre de 2020 la Unidad Nacional de Protección expidió una resolución en la que elimina el esquema de seguridad asignado al exmagistrado auxiliar de la Corte Suprema de Justicia e investigador de la llamada parapolítica Iván Velásquez Gómez

En 2020 se presentaron 227 casos de feminicidio, 33 de estos contra niñas y adolescentes. Hasta el 13 de enero de 2021 van 16

El Salvador

Despite El Salvador’s participation in international anti-money laundering efforts, the SSF’s new regulation legitimizes legal loopholes


El estado de Prevención aplicará durante 15 días en Izabal, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jutiapa, El Progreso, Petén y Santa Rosa

Precisamente unas 250 personas salieron esta noche desde Honduras en caravana hacia el punto aduanero de Corinto, fronterizo con Guatemala, con la idea de llegar a Estados Unidos

Guatemala, Honduras

The group set out on Wednesday but paused at night before reaching some 75 police officers, dressed in riot gear, who waited along the highway on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula


“The acquisition and cross-servicing agreement is fundamentally about logistics. Basic things like parts, things you might need to fix your equipment, or food or fuel and our ability to trade goods and services while exercising or operating together”


En los primeros 13 días de 2021, una docena de personas fueron ejecutadas y abandonadas en parajes solitarios con un modelo criminal denominado empaquetados


Solo ocho expedientes por tortura contra militares fueron judicializados en la última década. En ellos, únicamente cinco militares recibieron alguna condena

“Vemos nosotros que la parte, digamos, floja de las investigaciones, es la parte que tiene que ver con el Ejército mexicano, es creo donde está el talón de Aquiles de todo el conjunto de la investigación”


The stigma against the left can be seen in polls as Peru approaches a presidential election in April. Just one leftist is polling above 5%


AZUL POSITIVO is a non-profit organization with 16 years of experience that carries out important actions of preventive health in relation to HIV, gender violence and humanitarian assistance for students, young people, LGBTI communities, excluded and poor people

Elliott Abrams, Trump’s special representative for Venezuelan affairs, held at least one meeting in December with a group of Biden transition team officials

“There will be no softballs or reminiscing about the good old days,” Meeks said in an interview with The Associated Press this week

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Alex Brandon / AP photo at The Dallas Morning News. Caption: “President Donald Trump tours a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall under construction Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, near Alamo, Texas.”

(Even more here)

January 13, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Social media influencers with large followings such as Cuban American YouTube celebrity Alexander Otaola argued there is a tendency among far-left liberals to “criminalize” Trumpism and warned “the opposition” that Democrats now have “absolute power”

The president’s terrible example could contribute to a backslide erasing decades of progress in the region’s many young democracies


He and his most loyal followers really do see themselves as visionary soldiers in a global battle against socialism and other ills, and if Brasília is to become the hemisphere’s sole remaining outpost, so much the better


Military commanders advocating for integral action have clashed with civilian policymakers, who tended to favor combat solutions to the nation’s insecurity, even as the number of combatants has declined

Su familia demandó a la Nación por la ejecución extrajudicial y, luego de 13 años del crimen, un juez ordenó su reparación

El grupo armado de “Gentil Duarte” cobra más fuerza en el sur del país, mientras que el de “Iván Márquez” intenta ganarle terreno en zonas controladas por el primero

Es el cuarto firmante de paz asesinado en 2021 y el 253 desde el 24 de noviembre de 2016


Cubans are ready to move on, a sentiment underlined by their president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who tweeted on Tuesday that the American decision had been made in “the death throes of a failed and corrupt administration”

El Salvador

El inusual traslado ocurrió justo un mes después de que este medio revelara las negociaciones entre el Gobierno y líderes de la MS-13 encarcelados en los penales de máxima seguridad

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Guatemalan military spokesman Ruben Tellez said on Friday that up to 4,000 soldiers would be deployed to stop the migrants from entering en masse

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

If the new president’s goal is to alleviate the pain of thousands of immigrants, he should aim to reset the relationship with Mexico, a country Trump extorted

U.S.-Mexico Border

In South Texas, Trump autographed a plaque on the barrier and told a small audience of uniformed Border Patrol agents and others that “we inherited a broken, dysfunctional and open border”

Experts say Trump’s work at the border has had a big impact — on both people and the environment

In a call with reporters last week, Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said federal contractors are averaging between 1.5 and two miles of new barriers per day

Though the federal government has the power to terminate these contracts, the government will likely still have to pay a termination fee, which Bolter says is likely still cheaper than continuing

CBP said rapid construction is important to border security, but it also means builders are going in virtually blind, without any environmental impact studies

During his remarks, Trump made several misleading or false statements about his border and immigration policies. Here are five things he said that merit a closer examination

It’s the third federal court ruling in a month that found agencies of the Department of Homeland Security to be in violation of the Freedom of Information Act

President-elect Joe Biden will name Katie Tobin as the senior director for transborder security on the National Security Council

Some immigration policy experts said Biden might be hesitant to approve any quick changes, such as fast-tracking the adjudication of the MPP cases

Its policies punish people seeking protection, separate children from their parents, and turn the system created by Congress to protect refugees from persecution into one that delivers them back to danger


Según el presidente venezolano, los intentos por retirarlo del poder y las sanciones financieras estadounidenses fueron fundamentales para el colapso de la economía nacional, la cual se prevé pase seis años de recesión

Serious efforts should be made to explore exactly what Maduro is willing to concede, and which elements of U.S. pressure can be leveraged to get him to the negotiating table

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Mauricio Alvarado photo at El Espectador (Colombia). Caption: “Según la Mesa Nacional de Víctimas, la Resolución 1049 de 2019, asociada a la Unidad para la Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas, omite los derechos y necesidades del núcleo familiar como sujeto colectivo de reparación.”

(Even more here)

January 12, 2021


Desde o início, a trajetória política de Jair Bolsonaro foi marcada pela proximidade com policiais e militares de baixa patente. Isso, no entanto, não lhe dá o direito de usar o cargo de presidente da República para fazer agremiação política com soldados e policiais.

Rather than inviting Bolsonaro to a Twitter slugfest like Macron did in 2019 – a sphere where Brazil’s president feels at ease – the U.S. government will be far more effective if it resorts to traditional off-line diplomacy


“Mediante esta modificación al Decreto 265 las FF.AA. prestarán apoyo logístico, tecnológico y de transporte a nuestras fuerzas de orden y seguridad en el control de nuestras fronteras”, concluyó Piñera


El consejero para la Estabilización entrega un balance y responde por las críticas sobre lo alcanzado hasta ahora en temas clave del Acuerdo de Paz: los PDET, la reforma rural integral, la sustitución de cultivos y la reincorporación

El líder ambiental, que durante 23 años se dedicó a evitar que esta ave endémica de Colombia se extinguiera, fue visto por última vez en la vereda La Unión, en el departamento del Valle del Cauca

La Fiscalía General de la Nación investiga, de manera diferenciada, los casos de “homicidios múltiples” ocurridos según la cantidad de víctimas: hasta tres y mínimo cuatro, los cuales corresponden a 107 y a 40

De acuerdo con sus registros, durante este tiempo, la institución es responsable por 289 homicidios, de los cuales solo el 0,69% ha terminado en condena

Colombia, Cuba

In particular, he mentioned Cuba’s refusal to extradite to Colombia members of the National Liberation Army guerrilla group following a terrorist attack in Bogotá and a breakdown in peace talks

The primary basis laid out by the administration for the re-designation is Cuba’s refusal to extradite to Colombia a group of 10 guerrilla leaders of Colombia’s National Liberation Army

Guyana, Venezuela

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told a news conference that the manoeuvres were an attempt by the outgoing Trump administration to “create provocations, threats.”


La comisionada de policía en condición de retiro, María Luisa Borjas, sostiene que la única manera de rescatar a la institución policial es sacar a la narcodictadura

Hernández has long been portrayed by US officials as a key ally. As vice president, Biden even met with Hernández in 2015 to review joint efforts to “tackle corruption and target transnational criminal networks”


La lógica de esta expansión no responde ya primordialmente a la decisión de combatir el crimen o garantizar la seguridad, sino al deseo de suplir funciones del gobierno mismo, en cierto sentido, a suplir al gobierno civil, cada día más un gobierno civil/militar

El Ejército firmó convenios directamente con las víctimas y pagó millonarias sumas a cambio de confidencialidad. Ha pagado incluso a afectados por la Guardia Nacional

U.S.-Mexico Border

A DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Wolf’s tenure was flawed

Wolf’s qualifications to lead DHS were often questioned by his critics

In a call with reporters last week, Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said federal contractors are averaging between 1.5 and two miles of new barriers per day, with the scheduled completion of about 475 miles by the time President-elect Joe Biden takes office

They have blasted ravines to make way for it, and built roads to get their machines there, which have opened new routes for people

The president-elect and his aides have cautioned that the policy reversals will take time amid the pandemic. He has also yet to say whether he will rescind the asylum limits unveiled towards the end of Mr. Trump’s tenure

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Brazilian Ministry of Defense photo at Diálogo. Caption: “Operation Ágata North incinerated a total of 3,000 marijuana plants, which is equivalent to 1 ton of the processed material.”

(Even more here)

January 11, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Gonzalez se desempeñará como consejero de temas de América Latina en el Consejo de Seguridad Nacional


The figures represent a significant increase when compared with the reported USD3.2 billion of exports in 2018


  • Yohir Akerman, De Armas Tomar (El Espectador (Colombia), January 11, 2021).

El 27 de noviembre de 2017 la Fiscalía 106 especializada contra Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos imputó a David Bastidas por su presunto rol en 32 homicidios, 14 desapariciones forzadas y 10 casos de tortura

La propuesta de un agente israelí que condujo al exterminio de miles de militantes de izquierda y la aprobación que impartió el presidente Virgilio Barco al criminal proyecto

Al parecer miembros del Clan del Golfo entraron en una vivienda del sector La Cuarenta, en Betania (Antioquia), donde acabaron con la vida de tres personas

“Esto no es un conflicto nuevo. Buenaventura vive unos episodios de violencia de manera cíclica, producto de las reconfiguraciones del conflicto armado”

A la fecha solo se ha reparado al 17 %

Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela

Así lo señalaron tras un encuentro en la zona fronteriza ecuatoriana de Mataje, desarrollado menos de dos meses después de la realización del IX Gabinete Binacional

El Salvador

Más de un centenar de académicos han suscrito una carta para reprochar la ligereza con la que el presidente Nayib Bukele calificó como “una farsa” los Acuerdos de Paz firmados el 16 de enero de 1992


In addition to the debilitation of the investigative capacity of the Public Prosecution Service, Congress nominated new prosecutor generals that represented the interests of congressmen instead of those of the judicial system

In the most explosive allegation in the filing, it said the president, 52 years old, boasted to Mr. Fuentes Ramirez that “he wanted to shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos”

President Trump has heaped praise on Hernández, who has visited the Oval Office multiple times, perhaps because he has been a willing partner in controversial Trump administration immigration measures


The new caravans forming have caught the attention of U.S. officials, which have called on the Central American countries to stop them

“Cuando se le pregunta a la gente sobre la confianza en las instituciones, están casi parejas en aceptación con más de 80 por ciento de aprobación la Secretaría de Defensa y la Secretaría de Marina, pero ya le sigue la Guardia Nacional”


The Supreme Court’s lack of independence is just one scandal added to a long list of instances of nepotism, bribery, extortions, and even drug trafficking tied to the judiciary branch in this country


Cinco condenados por el ‘andahuaylazo’ salieron de prisión esta semana, y todos con objetivos distintos. Antauro Humala mira la campaña solo y en silencio

U.S.-Mexico Border

The visit will likely be the president’s first public appearance since he addressed supporters on Wednesday riling up a crowd that later staged a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol


The bloodshed began on Friday afternoon with an operation by two police units – the Special Action Forces, known as FAES, and the Special Tactical Operations Units, known as UOTE – in the gang-ridden neighborhood of La Vega

Algunas manifestaciones particulares, como el homicidio y cierto tipo de lesiones, tuvieron mermas momentáneas. Mientras tanto, otras actividades ilegales han ido en pleno crecimiento

5 links from the past week

  • At Nexos, scholar Fernando Escalante Gonzalbo offers a devastating assessment of civil-military relations in Mexico, as the López Obrador government further increases the armed forces’ role in Mexicans’ daily lives. “We had a parenthesis of civilian rule that lasted about 50 or 60 years. That parenthesis has closed.”
  • At Mexico’s SinEmbargo, veteran crime journalist Ricardo Ravelo offers a sweeping who’s-who of the country’s current constellation of cartels and regional organized crime structures. Pair this with Ravelo’s January 1 look at the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which may be eclipsing Sinaloa as Mexico’s largest and deadliest.
  • The UN Verification Mission in Colombia released its latest report on the peace process. With a lot of new statistics, it puts front-and-center concerns about rampant killings of social leaders and ex-combatants.
  • OpenDemocracy provides a grim point-by-point evaluation of Colombia’s compliance—or lack thereof—with each chapter of the 2016 peace accord.
  • DHS’s Office of Immigration Statistics is an island of seriousness at the troubled agency. Its latest Enforcement Lifecycle Report has a wealth of information, including detailed appendix tables, illustrating what happens to undocumented migrants after DHS apprehends them, including those who make claims of fear.

Colombia peace update: January 9, 2021

Cross-posted from WOLA’s site. During at least the first half of 2021, we’re producing weekly sub-1,000-word updates in English about peace accord implementation and related topics.

This edition is a “double issue,” longer than usual. Following a holiday break, it covers events of the past three weeks.

U.S. Congress passes 2021 foreign aid bill

On December 27 Donald Trump signed into law the U.S. government’s budget for 2021, including the foreign aid appropriation (see “Division K” here). As in nearly all of the past 30 years, that bill makes Colombia by far the number-one recipient of U.S. assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The law appropriates $461,375,000 in State Department and USAID-managed aid for Colombia this year, about $30-40 million more than the past few years’ laws and about $50 million more than the Trump White House had requested in February.

The proportions between programs and priorities are similar to prior years. Our best estimate (derived here) is that 47% of the $461 million will go to economic and civilian institution-building aid programs; 18% will go to strictly military and police aid programs; and 34% will go to programs, mainly counter-drug programs, that can pay for either type of aid but for which we don’t have a breakdown.

In addition to the $461 million in the foreign aid bill, a significant but unknown amount of military and police aid will come from the Defense Department’s $700 billion-plus budget. In 2019, according to the Congressional Research Service, Defense accounts contributed another $55.39 million or more to benefit Colombia’s security forces.

As in previous years, the law includes human rights conditions holding up about $7.7 million in military aid until the State Department can certify to Congress that Colombia is holding gross human rights violators accountable, preventing attacks on human rights defenders and other civil society leaders, protecting Afro-descendant and indigenous communities, and holding accountable senior military officers responsible for “false positive” killings.

After some very concerning military intelligence scandals in 2020, the law includes a new condition on the $7.7 million: the State Department must also certify that Colombia is holding accountable those responsible for “illegal surveillance of political opponents, government officials, journalists, and human rights defenders, including through the use of assets provided by the United States.”

Killings of former FARC combatants accelerate

The UN Verification Mission’s latest quarterly report, dated December 29, voices strong concerns about “248 killings of former combatants (six women), including 21 during the reporting period (two women, three of indigenous origin and two Afro-Colombians) and a total of 73 during 2020.”

The problem is worsening. Five demobilized FARC combatants were murdered over a 12-day post-Christmas period.

  • Rosa Amalia Mendoza Trujillo and her infant daughter were among several victims of a December 27 massacre in Montecristo, Bolívar.
  • Manuel Alonso, killed on December 27 on the road between Florida, Valle del Cauca, and Miranda, Cauca.
  • Yolanda Zabala Mazo, killed on January 1, together with her sister, on January 1 in Briceño, Antioquia.
  • Duván Armed Galíndez, shot on January 2 in Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá.
  • Diego Yule Rivera, who had been displaced from Caloto, Cauca after receiving threats, was shot in Cali on January 7.

This, according to the FARC political party, brings the number of assassinated ex-combatants to 252 since the peace accord went into effect.

The chief prosecutor’s office’s (Fiscalía’s) Special Investigative Unit has managed 289 cases of killings and other attacks on ex-combatants, the UN report informs. Of these, the Unit has achieved convictions of responsible parties in 34 cases, while 20 cases are on trial, 38 are under investigation, and an additional 49 have arrest warrants issued.

The report notes that conditions are most perilous for ex-combatants in the zone surrounding the triple border between Meta, Caquetá, and Guaviare departments in south-central Colombia. This area, once the rearguard of the FARC’s Eastern Bloc, is now under the strong influence of the largest FARC dissident organization, the 1st and 7th Front structure under alias “Gentil Duarte.”

Coca eradication hits record level as a restart of fumigation nears

In an end-of-year security declaration, President Duque announced that Colombia, with U.S. backing, had met its 2020 goal of eradicating 130,000 hectares of coca. This is a manual eradication record, the first time Colombia has exceeded 100,000 hectares and an area “roughly the same size as the city of Los Angeles” according to AFP. The 130,000-hectare goal will remain in place, Duque added, for 2021.

(Any discussion of eradication statistics must mention mid-2020 allegations from former officials and contractors, who contend that eradication teams may have inflated their results by as much as 30 percent.)

Duque added that Colombian forces had seized 498 tons of cocaine in 2020, which would shatter the 2017 record of 434.7 tons.

We probably won’t find out how much coca was planted in Colombia in 2020 until the U.S. government and UN Office on Drugs and Crime release their estimates in mid-2021. In the meantime, the Colombian government continues to move closer to relaunching a program, suspended in 2015 for health concerns, that would eradicate coca by spraying the herbicide glyphosate from aircraft.

On December 19 and 20 Colombia’s environmental authority (ANLA) held a virtual public hearing on one of the main requirements that must be fulfilled to relaunch fumigation: the National Police’s application to modify its environmental management plan to allow aerial glyphosate spraying. This hearing was delayed for months, as communities in remote areas with poor internet service objected to holding a “virtual” consultation due to pandemic restrictions.

At the hearing, National Police Gen. Julio Cesar González presented a summary of the force’s proposed modifications to the environmental management plan (available here as a large trove of Google documents). “We’re going to go to areas that are already deteriorated, so we don’t expect to affect them further. This is based on technology, and aerial spraying will focus on large plots.” The General insisted that the spray program’s technology has advanced over what it was before, allowing greater accuracy over the area to be sprayed and the amount of herbicide to be applied. More than 60% of the spray mixture will be conditioned water, glyphosate will be 33% (less than some commercially available mixtures), and the rest will be a mineral coadjuvant.

Diego Trujillo, the delegate for agricultural and environmental issues at Colombia’s inspector-general’s office (Procuraduría), voiced concerns about the proposed renewal of spraying. He argued that it runs counter to the peace accord’s commitments, and relies on purchases of Chinese-produced glyphosate that, according to El Espectador’s summary, “led in 2015 to an investigation into corruption in the this herbicide’s acquisition, which was was not recommended by health and environmental authorities.”

Mauricio Albarracín of the legal NGO DeJusticia objected to the process, citing a lack of prior and informed participation of possibly affected communities who were being asked to consider an environmental management plan “that consists of more than 3,000 pages, contains language that is not accessible to the possibly affected population, and suffers a lack of transparency in information.” Albarracín added that information about harms and risks is “insufficient, poorly structured and biased,” and that the spraying plan fails to meet the obligation to implement the 2016 peace accord in good faith. (The accord sets aside aerial spraying as a last resort, when coca growers who have been offered help with alternatives persist in growing the crop, and when conditions on the ground are too dangerous for manual eradication.)

María Alejandra Vélez, director of the University of the Andes’ CESED (Center for Studies on Security and Drugs), argued that fumigation is not cost-effective and could carry unacceptable health and environmental risks. Vélez, an economist, found fault with the police proposal’s methods and quality of information.

Following the hearing, the daily El Espectador published a tough editorial titled “insisting on the useless.”

Presidency officials are investing their time complying with the requirements imposed by the Constitutional Court to resume an ineffective and insufficient activity that destroys ties with communities in the most affected areas. One would think that after decades of failure, the political consensus in Colombia would show signs of reflective capacity. But this is not the case. The useless is presented as the magical solution.


  • Colombia’s Defense Ministry announced that the country’s homicide rate fell 4.6% in 2020 to a rate of 23.79 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the lowest level since 1974. However, the country suffered a jump in massacres—killings of three or more people at a time—with 89, claiming 345 victims.
  • President Iván Duque said that his government has no intention of providing COVID-19 vaccines to undocumented Venezuelan migrants in Colombia. “Of course they won’t get it,” he told Blu Radio. “Imagine what we would live through. We would have calls to stampede the border as everyone crosses asking for a vaccine.”
  • La Silla Vacía wades through the Fiscalía’s record on bringing social leaders’ killers to justice, and finds 30 percent of cases have reached the indictment stage but only 7 percent have concluded with a conviction. Meanwhile, WOLA published a second alert, just before Christmas, about threats to social leaders, a week after warning of a large number of urgent situations. And on January 1 Gerardo León, a community leader in Puerto Gaitán, Meta, became the first murdered Colombian social leader of 2021.
  • Colombia expelled two Russian diplomats, accusing them of espionage. The Putin government followed suit, expelling two diplomats from Colombia’s Moscow embassy.
  • As of December 22, Joe Biden still hadn’t given a call to Iván Duque to acknowledge his post-election congratulations. If a call has taken place since, the Colombian government hasn’t announced it. Governing-party officials’ meddling in the U.S. campaign is the most likely explanation for the presidential ghosting.
  • Colombia has a new National Police chief. Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, an officer with an intelligence background and the son-in-law of 1990s chief Gen. Rosso José Serrano, replaces Gen. Óscar Atehortúa, whose tenure was marked by protests against brutality and allegations of corruption. An El Espectador editorial urges the new chief to carry out badly needed reforms to the force.
  • Hernán Giraldo, a former top paramilitary leader from northern Colombia whose name is synonymous with systematic rape of young girls, is being extradited back to Colombia nearly 13 years after being sent to the United States to serve a sentence for another crime, drug trafficking.
  • Retired military officers are becoming more politically active. La Silla Vacía reports on a late October meeting at which former soldiers and police agreed to form a political party to run candidates in 2022 national elections, in order to counter what they see as “a radical left.” Meanwhile retired Gen. Jaime Ruiz, president of Colombia’s hardline association of former officers (ACORE), shared with El Nuevo Siglo his view that, largely because of the FARC peace accord, “2020 was not a good year for the security forces.”
  • December 31 was the deadline the government set for the FARC to hand over all illegally obtained assets, as mandated by the peace accord. The ex-guerrillas appear to have fallen short on turning over land and property, but claim that they face security and legal obstacles to doing so. El Espectador explains the “ABC” of the controversy.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Damián Sánchez Adrián photo at ChiapasParalelo (Mexico).

(Even more here)

January 8, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

By giving environmental defenders legitimacy, they say it should be able to play an important role in ending the region’s environmental conflicts


As more military forces, more weapons, and more ammunition arrived, more money was destined for the construction of bases and war bunkers in the midst of our houses. And that was when the shootings started to return


En este artículo tratamos de explicarle en qué va realmente la entrega de los bienes, por qué se ha entregado tan poco hasta el momento y qué dificultades atraviesa el proceso

Se trata de Diego Maria Yule Rivera, quien dejó sus armas en el espacio de reincorporación de Monterredondo, en Miranda (Cauca). Es el asesinato 252 que registra el Partido Farc

En una entrevista con la cadena de noticias CNN, Michelle A. Mannat, estratega lo confirmó: “Habrá investigación en Cámara y Senado contra quienes intervinieron. Sin duda es un tema que va a tener un énfasis en los primeros días de gobierno de Biden”


Transnational mining corporations, most of them Canadian, their personnel, and state security forces have been accused by human rights groups of a litany of abuses in Central America

Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Una nueva caravana de inmigrantes hondureños hacia EE.UU., que saldría el 15 de enero, está siendo promovida en redes sociales


El INM, que apenas el pasado 4 de enero reanudo el servicio, se encuentra rebasado en su capacidad, lo que sumado a la suspensión temporal que hubo provocada por la pandemia, ha hecho que la población migrante deba esperar más de seis meses

El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador sugirió eliminar el principal órgano de transparencia del país, que es autónomo, y que se hagan cargo de esa tarea del INAI incluso funcionarios de la Función Pública

The bloodshed in Guanajuato is largely the result of a territorial dispute between the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel and the larger and more powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel

De acuerdo con informes de la DEA y de la Fiscalía General de la República (FGR), más de la mitad del territorio nacional está controlado por 14 cárteles, en su mayoría violentos, que están relacionados con altos mandos de las policías estatales y municipales

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s pick for national security adviser, spoke on Wednesday with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard

“How can you censor someone: ‘Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful,’” López Obrador said in an extensive, unprompted discourse

Some articles I found interesting this morning

AP/Matt York photo at Yahoo! Caption: “In this Aug. 22, 2019, file photo, U.S. Customs and Patrol agents sit along a section of the international border wall that runs through Organ Pipe National Monument in Lukeville, Ariz. A public-private project that maps the bodies of border crossers recovered from Arizona’s inhospitable deserts, valleys and mountains said this week of Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 that it documented 227 such deaths in 2020, the highest in a decade following the hottest, driest summer in state history.”

(Even more here)

January 7, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Habrá algunos cambios en las reglas y es aquí donde se perfila la puesta en escena de una segunda estrategia que llevaría adelante el gobierno demócrata

Future regional leaders, he said, may respond to U.S. critiques of their democratic processes with incredulity

If Americans were shocked by what they saw, the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, who have been accustomed to U.S. interference in their elections and domestic politics, were aghast


“I followed everything today. You know I’m connected to Trump, right? So you already know my answer”


El Secretario General recomienda como primera prioridad para el 2021 asegurar la protección y seguridad de excombatientes, comunidades afectadas por el conflicto y líderes sociales y los defensores(as) de los derechos humanos

None of these has yet been achieved, and the political will required today to advance on these key issues for the stability and future of the country is nowhere in sight

U.S.-Mexico Border

The bill expands funding to process unidentified human remains and help resolve missing persons’ cases so that families can find closure

Enforcement efforts in California and Texas over the years have pushed migrants into dangerous terrain in Arizona without easy access to food and water


Desde ese día permanece en los sótanos del organismo junto a otros cuatro militares que están bajo sospecha de estar relacionados con un presunto plan que supuestamente iba a ejecutar un camarero del Palacio de Miraflores

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