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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WOLA Podcast: Searching for Mexico’s Disappeared

With two very good guests in two parts of Mexico, I’m really glad the technology held up on this one. It was well worth the high-wire act.

Here’s the text of the summary at Listen above, or download the .mp3 file here.

More than 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006. As a March 23 WOLA commentary by Maureen Meyer and Gina Hinojosa notes, the current government is taking some initial steps to address the crisis. A great deal, however, remains to be done, and victims’ groups trying to locate the disappeared continue to work very much on their own.

To discuss the crisis and Mexico’s incipient efforts to address it, Meyer and Hinojosa are joined by two guests from the frontlines of Mexico’s fight to locate and identify the disappeared. Mariano Machain is the international advocacy coordinator at SERAPAZ Mexico, a non-governmental organization working for peace and positive transformation of social conflicts. Lucy Díaz (seen in a December 2019 ABC News Nightline feature) is a leader of Colectivo Solecito, a group of mothers searching for the disappeared in Veracruz state; her son Luis disappeared in 2013.


After many years of accumulating home office-type gadgets, working at home is tolerable.

In the frame: Mac Mini with dual monitors, MacBook Air, sheet-fed scanner, podcasting mic, HD camera, blu-ray burner, printer, mechanical keyboard, mouse, Hue lamp, amp, LED lighting, speakers, turntable, headphones.

If you find this horrifying, I totally understand. If it’s any consolation, there’s a washer/dryer and a litterbox behind me.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Leo Correa photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A volunteer with a face mask walks past a police officer after distributing soap and detergent in an effort to avoid the spread the new coronavirus.”

(Even more here)

March 26, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

In every region, under all kinds of political systems, governments are turning to increasingly stringent measures — and deploying their armed forces to back them up


A video apparently recorded in the City of God circulated on social media this week showing a loudspeaker broadcasting the alert: “Anyone found messing or walking around outside will be punished”

The leader of Latin Americaâ??s largest country wants people out of their homes and back to work

Brazil, Mexico

The leaders of the region’s two largest nations — Mexico and Brazil — have largely dismissed the dangers and have resisted calls for a lockdown


Law-and-order strategies that “stuff” Brazil’s crowded prisons with new inmates may actually exacerbate the problem, given that the PCC has effectively converted the country’s prisons into logistical hubs and training centers of illicit activity


El consejero para la Estabilización, Emilio Archila, resaltó la importancia del trabajo de los campesinos que han dado el paso a la legalidad y a través del Programa han sustituido 41 mil 370 hectáreas

Colombia, Venezuela

Con el operativo militar, que fue concertado con el Gobierno nacional, el alcalde espera enfrentar dos grandes crisis que vive el municipio: la situación sanitaria por el COVID-19 y el aumento de la migración venezolana


Vargas says communities are rightfully nervous, and recalls past illnesses like yellow fever, cholera and the H1N1 virus that caused similar alarm

El Salvador

El poder extraordinario que la Asamblea ha dado al Ejecutivo mediante los decretos de emergencia y excepción no son cheques en blanco, sino auxilios contemplados en la Constitución


Pidió al general de las Fuerzas Armadas, Tito Livio Moreno, que la entrega de los sacos solidarios sea sin ningún tipo de distinción


“People expressed fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus and announced their intention to start a hunger strike if they were not released,” the rights groups said. National Guard and INM officers deployed poles, water hoses, pepper spray and Tasers

Por redes sociales o a través de mensajes por WhatsApp, diversos grupos en el Estado de México, Oaxaca y Puebla han hecho llamados para realizar saqueos en tiendas departamentales por las noches o en la madrugada

La banda delictiva de Tlacotepec que dirige Onésimo Marquina Chapa, alias El Necho, irrumpió en las comunidades de Tepozonalco y El Naranjo para desplazar al grupo denominado Cártel del Sur, que encabeza Isaac Navarrete Celis, El Señor de la I

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The protesters demanded greater controls and screenings on southbound traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border out of concern that travelers from the U.S. could import new cases of the coronavirus into Mexico

Volunteers and aid groups are especially worried about Juarez shelters and the sprawling Matamoros migrant camp


Los militares no permitirán la entrada ni salida de nadie por estos puntos ciegos, en el territorio fronterizo terrestre y navales

U.S.-Mexico Border

Keeping Mexican nationals out of processing centers was a request made by the Mexican government and agreed to by the U.S. government

In a lengthy message Tuesday, the leader of operations in Tucson, Arizona, alerted the region’s 3,700 agents that two agents tested positive for the virus


The government of President Nicolas Maduro is hoping to renegotiate oil-for-loan deals agreed nearly 15 years ago under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez

Vivas Santana, escritor de una columna en el portal web aporrea, es el tercer periodista agredido por los cuerpos de seguridad del régimen en menos de una semana

The threat against Avila, who is now in hiding but spoke with Reuters by telephone, is one of at least seven recent episodes in which Venezuelan authorities have sought to arrest critics of the government’s preparedness for the coronavirus

International assistance will require a basic agreement between the de facto Maduro government and the National Assembly

Karl writes that one of the options Trump “had in mind was a naval blockade of Venezuela, which didn’t make sense for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Venezuela is not an island.”

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The United States’ legacy in Latin America is much older than Trump and Graham are. It’s a legacy that weighs heavily on the Pentagon’s reluctance to sail major warships through Latin American waters

The day ahead: March 26, 2020

I’ll be easiest to reach in the mid-to-late afternoon. (How to contact me)

The new computer is set up and working well. It’s a gigantic improvement.

Lots of virtual meetings today: I’m on a conference call about human rights defenders in Colombia, recording a podcast about Mexico, and guest-teaching a George Washington University class. I’ll edit and post that podcast, and try to book some new ones. In any extra time, I plan to start building an online resource for the border work.

New feature: “Explainers” about Colombia

I’m happy to say that a new section of my website, which I’ve been overhauling since late January, is ready to go. This is the final feature that I’d planned to add. (I’ve already added a timeline, a page of important numbers, infographics, links to reports, public-domain photos, and embedded videos.)

Explainers, the new section, is a series of brief articles offering plain-language, fact-filled explanations of persistent, evergreen topics. Each looks at an aspect of Colombia’s conflict, peace effort, human rights challenges, or U.S. policy. The format is inspired by—but less ambitious than—the “card stacks” that used when it first launched, but later abandoned.

These Explainers are never “finished.” We’ll edit and update them as new information emerges or situations change. Months from now, some may look quite different than they do now.

I’ve completed three Explainers so far, and plan to add approximately one per week between now and June. Right now, you can find Explainers about:

Explainers about the ELN, and about Colombia’s efforts to build state presence in rural areas, will be coming soon. By June, I hope to stop at about 10 to 15 Explainers on the page.


Can I afford it? Barely. But a 2014 laptop with a busted trackpad connected to a big monitor just wasn’t working as my main work machine.

This fully loaded Mac Mini arrived two days earlier than expected. You may hear a bit less from me over the next day or two while I set it up.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

From Veja (Brazil).

(Even more here)

March 25, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

Amnesty International believes that authorities must show leadership by prioritizing human rights and by refraining from abusing their power in the middle of this emergency. Here is a preliminary list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”


The struggle to hold the military to account for crimes against humanity are a part of Argentinian identity. A group of grandmothers leads the story of that struggle


Santiago says that he does whatever he can to prevent infection, but his family is exposed to vectors every day, and because they don’t have the necessary access to water, he is very afraid

The immediate trigger for the so-called panelaço protests has been Bolsonaro’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which he has repeatedly dismissed as hysteria, fantasy and, a media “trick”

Guerra ao coronavírus é ‘a missão mais importante de nossa geração’, diz Pujol; fala foi às redes minutos antes da fala de Bolsonaro


Conservationists and scientists are concerned that Macarena’s exceptional biodiversity may fall victim to economic interests

Santos había renunciado a su puesto el pasado 17 de enero

A joint team of U.S. service members providing medical aid and training in the remote La Guajira region of Colombia found their options to leave the country dwindle in mid-March

El Salvador

El presidente de El Salvador ha tenido una estrategia que parece eficaz, aunque criticada, ante la pandemia

El Salvador, Honduras

Although gangs operate in rural areas, the violence is worst in marginalized, urban areas that have been poorly planned


Migration authorities will resume processing applications on April 20, Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR said

Despite criticism that he is responding to the crisis too slowly, the president has targeted his response to the millions of Mexicans who live day-by-day, many in informal or precarious working conditions

López Obrador, who most know as Amlo, has responded to the coronavirus crisis with nonchalance – never missing an opportunity to contradict the advice of public health officials or paint the pandemic as a plot

Medical staff held strikes and walkouts across the country this week, warning that a lack of resources increases the risk

U.S.-Mexico Border

US troops are still at the southern border, despite waning migration and COVID-19 restrictions

These findings indicate no systematic relationship between border wall construction and crime rates

The children who have been separated include newborns who’ve been taken from their migrant mothers shortly after being born in U.S. hospitals

The “vast majority” — 70 to 80% — of migrants apprehended by US Border Patrol are being “immediately returned” to Mexico, said the DHS official

Those requesting protection at official ports of entry (including those who, due to policies like “metering,” have been waiting for months) will be turned away


“I want to see Maduro go, I think that Maduro is a dictator. But that doesn’t mean that the only solution is to starve Venezuelans to death”“

At Key Questions About How the U.S.-Mexico Border Shutdown Will Impact Vulnerable Asylum Seekers and Migrants

Here’s an analysis we posted yesterday in response to the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border to “inessential” travel. As noted in yesterday’s podcast, such travelers apparently include threatened people seeking asylum or protection in the United States, who are being turned away.

The result is a potential death sentence, once COVID-19 really hits, for people confined in crowded shelters, encampments, and substandard housing in Mexican border towns. This could get really ugly.

Read the piece at WOLA’s website.

The day ahead: March 25, 2020

I’m around until mid-afternoon. (How to contact me)

I had two cancellations or postponements, so today’s calendar is lighter than I expected. I also don’t have a podcast interview booked today, so today will stop my streak of weekday podcasts at six. (I’ve got three interviews scheduled for Thursday and Friday, so it will recover.)

Other than a late-afternoon conference call with groups that work on Colombia, I’ll be at the computer, posting a new “explainers” section to the Colombia peace website and starting to build a new web tool to assist my border work.

Also, today is when some groceries I ordered a week ago will finally be delivered, so that’s exciting.


While looking for a photo of coca bushes, I came across this shot from Putumayo, Colombia in 2016. Isn’t that cute.

WOLA Podcast: “There are 15,000 people waiting without access to asylum”

Savitri Arvey of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S.-Mexico Center has co-written a series of reports documenting U.S. authorities’ two-year-old practice of “metering” asylum seekers along the Mexico border, forcing them in precarious conditions in dangerous Mexican border towns for weeks or months at a time.

The quarterly reports that Arvey and colleagues at the University of Texas’s Strauss Center produce are an essential source for understanding the number of people waiting, the number whom U.S. Customs and Border Protection allow to cross and petition for asylum, who is running the “waiting lists” on the Mexican side of the border, and what risks asylum-seeking families face wile they wait.

With the current COVID-19 border closure, Arvey says, U.S. authorities aren’t letting anybody cross to ask for asylum, which is a violation of the United States’ international law commitments, and probably of U.S. law.

Listen above, or download the mp3 here.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from El Universo (Ecuador). Caption: “Los militares custodiarán Guayaquil y el resto de localidades de la provincia. Se identificarán sectores.”

(Even more here)

March 24, 2020


The US-backed government was oppressive and murderous, and Pau Barjau’s family endured it


Electoral body says May 3 vote is unviable, calls for new date


Far-right president has resisted strong measures to stop spread of what he calls a ‘little flu’

The Bolsonarista movement had demonstrated its willingness to intimidate Brazil’s existing democratic institutions. It is not clear, however, what Jair Bolsonaro wants to do with them


Three social leaders were killed last week after quarantine measures were introduced

It is clear that state building from the local level, and with the arrival of the plans of entities responsible for the effective enjoyment of rights, requires joint work with social leaders who know their regions

Fue líder en muchos procesos de derechos humanos en el sur del país, pero su última labor estaba enfocada en transformar el corredor Puerto Vega – Teteyé

Experts warned that the riot could augur future unrest at chronically overcrowded lockups throughout Latin America as the number of coronavirus cases in the region multiplies

Macaco regresó a Colombia el pasado 19 de julio, luego de que Estados Unidos lo deportara

Colombia, Venezuela

El 89,6 por ciento de los venezolanos ocupados en Colombia labora en la informalidad. La cuarentena para evitar la expansión del coronavirus merma sus fuentes de ingresos y los pone en mayor vulnerabilidad


Las Fuerzas Armadas van a controlar la zona y para ello se nombrará a un encargado, que puede ser un general o alto representante de la Armada, quien será la máxima autoridad

Los militares custodiarán Guayaquil y el resto de localidades de la provincia


La Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal (ATIC) y la Fuerza Nacional Anti Maras y Pandillas (FNAMP) iniciaron su búsqueda, que sigue siendo infructuosa


El general Luis Rodríguez Bucio, comandante del cuerpo de seguridad creado en la actual administración, confió en que el próximo año se cumpla con la cantidad de elementos proyectada al inicio de la administración, esto es de 150 mil agentes

Los 52,4 millones de personas que viven en la pobreza y casi el 60% de los que trabajan en la informalidad asumen con terror al hambre las medidas del Gobierno para enfrentar la epidemia

We analyze the steps the Mexican government has taken to address this crisis, the obstacles ahead that may hinder these efforts, as well as how the U.S. government is supporting this undertaking

La lista de los migrantes indocumentados que desde hace más de una semana que se encuentran privados de su libertad, la encabezan de Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haití, Siri Lanka, Congo, Angola y de otros países africanos

One of the hubs for the Chinese fentanyl trade is Hubei province

The president clearly does have strengths of leadership that led him to the presidency. He now needs to use that leadership to embrace the crisis

Aunque las muertes violentas en México continúan siendo exasperantemente elevadas y su disminución a partir del primero de diciembre de 2018 es pequeña, el funcionario señaló que cuando menos se ha logrado que dejen de aumentar

U.S.-Mexico Border

Hearings set through through April 22 will be rescheduled

Five Border Patrol agents who work in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California told the Washington Examiner that for weeks, the agency’s Washington and regional headquarters had done little to explain how they should protect themselves on the job


Venezuela’s mothers and fathers, determined to find work, food and medicine, are leaving hundreds of thousands of children in the care of grandparents, aunts, uncles and even siblings

Cualquiera de estas opciones implica que Guaidó y Maduro tengan el valor coincidir y de trabajar, ante todo, para el bien de los venezolanos

En la “cuarentena social” hay actores que se fortalecerán aun más. El primero de ellos son las Fuerzas Armadas

Entre los años 2010 y 2018 han fallecido a manos de las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado unas 23.688 personas

Despite Venezuelan attempts to reach out to the Trump administration, no such aid offers have been made to Maduro, according to a senior U.S. official

The day ahead: March 24, 2020

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

This is my most open-scheduled day of the week: Other than recording a podcast mid-afternoon, I am around. I’m just a few footnotes (links, really) and a close edit away from adding the final new feature to the website. So expect that and a new podcast about the border today.

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