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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Saturday evening’s sunset at Washington DC’s MacMillan Reservoir.


Northeast Washington DC’s Metropolitan Branch Trail this morning.

That explains it

I was feeling very calm and “in control” yesterday. Serene, even.

Not until the end of the day did I realize why: I’d forgotten to turn WhatsApp notifications back on after returning from vacation.

I’m back to normal now.

Returning soon from vacation

I’m just finishing my second week of vacation time. My daughter just turned 17, college is looming in a year, so we drove all over the eastern seaboard looking at schools. Seventeen of them, as you can see here from these photo albums.

We’re at the beach for a few days, and coming back to Washington over the weekend. I’ll resume normal posting soon.

Busy day today

I’m not sure why items tend to congregate around a single day, but August 5 is one of those days for me.

  • The New York Times just published my column (second one in three months!) about Colombia’s troubling surplus of retired soldiers, who are massively entering the international market for contractors and mercenaries.
  • I’m moderating a WOLA event about forced eradication of illicit crops in Latin America, with colleagues from Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.
  • WOLA will be publishing a big analysis / explainer piece about the situation at the border.
  • We’re recording a podcast this afternoon about Cuba, which we’ll post shortly afterward.
  • I’m on a panel this evening hosted by Colombia’s El Espectador to talk about coca cultivation and drug policy.

I look forward to posting links to all of those.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Spotted this guy (male red-bellied woodpecker) on a mid-day walk in the National Arboretum, in northeast Washington DC.

The day ahead: June 15, 2021

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

I’ve got no meetings on the schedule today—an artifact of being out last week and not scheduling anything. I’ve agreed to do a few interviews but with no fixed times, so I should be available as I dig through many past unanswered messages and do some planning for the next few months.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Orlando Estrada/AFP photo at Diálogo. Caption: “A woman watches soldiers patrolling a street in Mixco, Guatemala, on January 17, 2020. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei declared a state of alert for two municipalities near the country’s capital, deploying police and service members to counter gangs and criminals.”

(Even more here)

June 14, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

To enforce the law, police officers and service members do not follow a mathematical model; they need to reason and find the best way to solve problems — that is, to understand the spirit of the law

More than one year into the pandemic, it is hard to overstate how much China has improved its standing in Latin America in terms of both its reputation among the general public and its influence with leaders and policymakers

Central America Regional, U.S.-Mexico Border

Advocates say the vast majority of domestic violence victims arriving at the border have almost no chance of gaining protection while restrictions are still in place


Perdió su vida hace menos de 15 días en Villagarzón durante enfrentamientos con la Policía en medio de una manifestación. El Espectador visitó su casa para reconstruir la historia y alzar la voz de su familia, que hoy reclama justicia

En promedio, dos de cada tres solicitudes de restitución han sido negadas por la Unidad de Restitución de Tierras en 10 años de vigencia de la Ley de Víctimas

Colombia’s peace process gave the space for these protests to happen

Aunque todavía internamente los miembros del Comité del Paro se debaten sobre el camino a seguir, lo más probable es que no convoquen por ahora nuevas movilizaciones

El uso excesivo de la fuerza y las malas actuaciones de algunos agentes han reabierto el debate sobre nuestra Policía. Estas son algunas reformas necesarias

Colombia, Venezuela

“Pareciera que el acuerdo que se dio hace unos días, llegó a su fin. Parece que este acuerdo de retirada y de cese al fuego era solo por la liberación de estos ocho militares”


De acuerdo con las informaciones, Granera fue sacada en un vehículo no oficial de su arresto domiciliario, no obstante, no se informó a dónde la trasladaron y si sería interrogada

The four arrests Sunday and one Saturday suggest Ortega has moved beyond arresting potential rival candidates in the Nov. 7 elections, and has begun arresting any prominent member of the opposition

Senadores piden al presidente Joe Biden valore la permanencia de Nicaragua en Tratado de Libre Comercio que Centroamérica tiene con EE.UU.


In Peru’s runoff election, a razor-thin victory by leftist Pedro Castillo will likely put an end to the country’s neoliberal consensus. However, political turmoil is set to continue

Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori on Saturday said she trusts she will not be sent back to prison after a judge reviews her freedom in a money laundering case and insisted that fraud was committed by her rival

U.S.-Mexico Border

Following a review of the border wall construction projects, the Biden administration will also divert DHS funds to clean-up of construction sites formerly funded by the Pentagon, “including drainage, erosion control, site remediation, and material disposal”

Newly released data show that migrants were stopped 180,034 times across the southwestern border in May, and the majority were single adults who were immediately expelled

The day ahead: June 14, 2021

I’ll be unreachable until the latter part of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m back from vacation and will be spending the day catching up. I also have three internal meetings that I know of, and a border coalition meeting, which will take up all morning and at least the first half of the afternoon. I should be reachable after that.

The day ahead: June 7, 2021

I’m off this week and won’t be responsive. (How to contact me)

I’m taking a week of vacation. I may spend a lot of it just doing maintenance: updating contacts, lists, websites, and procedures that have fallen way behind, during this year of 65-hour weeks brought on by the border situation and Colombia’s protests. While I may be at my desk a lot, “vacation” means I’m taking the prerogative of shutting down communications, barely updating my news database, and writing no border or Colombia updates this week. By design, I will be nearly impossible to contact. See you next week.

The day ahead: June 4, 2021

I’m doing a lot of writing, but mostly around today. I’m out all of next week. (How to contact me)

I rolled out of bed this morning and got to work on our weekly border update, forgetting to do this “day ahead” post. I’m done with that, it’ll be posted soon, and am otherwise mostly around.

This is my last day on the job until June 14: I’m taking next week off to rest up after 5 nonstop months, and to get organized for the next several months.

The day ahead: June 3, 2021

I’m mostly around, except for meetings mid-day and late afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m finishing up a very overdue weekly Colombia update, which fell victim to there simply not being enough hours in the day during an insanely busy time. I also plan to write most of a weekly border update today. This should be easier as my schedule is opening up a bit: only two meetings on the calendar today, one about communications strategy and one to talk about Colombia with legislative staff.

I am taking next week off, so will be spending today and tomorrow tying down loose ends.

The day ahead: June 2, 2021

I’m hard to contact today. (How to contact me)

I’m writing like crazy this morning through mid-day. Then we’re recording a podcast about Peru, and then I’ve got a Colombia coalition meeting. Then I’m going to keep writing.

I like cicadas actually

Here in the northeastern United States there’s a big insect called a cicada, which makes very loud noise and moves very slowly. The most common ones here spend 17 years underground, then emerge each spring. Every year, their numbers are different, but the largest “brood” by far, last seen in 2004, is out now.

I live in central Washington, which is heavily paved and has few cicadas. My wife and I went for a walk yesterday in a park about 9 miles south of here, along the Potomac River, and there were clouds of them. They’re everywhere. They’re so dumb and clunky that they just fly into you:

And they’re loud. Their collective sound is like a sine wave, at the volume of a car alarm going off down the block:

I’m sure if the area around my house sounded like this, I’d be sick of them. But since I only hear them when I get to take a walk in the woods—and it makes the experience eerie and bizarre—I’m a big fan of the cicadas.

Oh also, we saw some bald eagles. This is the best I could do with my phone camera:

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