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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Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from El Faro (El Salvador). Caption: “San Pedro Sula, capital industrial hondureña, quedó aislada de Tegucigalpa, ya que las carreteras que conectan a ambas ciudades quedaron inundadas debido a las tormentas provocadas por Iota. En Villanueva, municipio del departamento Cortés, centenares de personas que viajaban hacia Tegucigalpa quedaron a la deriva.”

(Even more here)

November 19, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

While recovery is expected next year, its extent is likely to be limited, leaving economic output well below the pre-Covid level by the end of 2021

Bolivia

Vecinos de la ciudad de El Alto y representantes de organizaciones sociales encabezaron una marcha en memoria de los caídos

Chile

El hecho ocurrido en el Servicio Nacional de Menores de Talcahuano, ubicado a unos 430 kilómetros al sur de Santiago, donde la policía en un procedimiento disparó contra dos niños en una institución a cargo del Estado

Colombia

En su mayoría los soldados reconocieron que la erradicación forzada no resuelve los problemas que hacen posible la existencia de los cultivos ilícitos en el país

When the Colombian army defeated the Farc guerrillas, ending decades of conflict, General Mario Montoya was hailed a national hero. But then it was revealed that thousands of ‘insurgents’ executed by the army were in fact innocent men

Any future cooperation between the United States and Colombia on matters of mutual concern will require the support of the Colombian people. That will not be forthcoming if the United States appears to be encouraging an end-run around justice

Aunque la propuesta era extenderla por 15 años más, finalmente se prorrogó por 10 para no diferir de lo aprobado por Cámara y así no crear inconvenientes en el trámite. La iniciativa pasa a sanción presidencial

Cuba

The Treasury Department’s decision to prohibit U.S. remittance senders from using the most widely used financial intermediary in Cuba will disrupt remittance flows to families and further restrict support for the emerging private sector

Dominican Republic

Transnational criminal groups could not operate successfully without the complacency of law enforcement in the United States

El Salvador

The firm’s sole employee and executive director is Brian Dean, a Latin American specialist who led the state of Florida’s efforts to expand trade in the region when Jeb Bush was governor

Honduras

About 2.9 million people in Honduras were affected by Eta

Aguantar. Ese es el verbo que parece regir las cosas en el Valle de Sula, en el norte hondureño

  • Marna Shorack, Elizabeth G. Kennedy, Amelia Frank-Vitale, A State of Mistrust (NACLA, November 19, 2020).

Questionable homicide numbers, a murky police purge, and a pervasive distrust of authorities in Honduras reveal deep state failures that enable violence and impunity

Mexico

Un grupo de poder dentro del Ejército mexicano se movilizó para presionar al presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador para que girara instrucciones de traer a casa, sano y salvo, al exsecretario de la Defensa Nacional. Era eso o enfrentar una rebelión en la tropa

Casos como la desaparición de los 43 normalistas de Ayotzinapa, Calera y masacres como Apatzingán, Tlatlaya y Nochixtlán dejaron huella en el sexenio de Enrique Peña Nieto. En la mayoría de ellos se ha documentado la participación del Ejército

La acusación es por presuntos vínculos con la organización Guerreros Unidos, a la que se atribuye la responsabilidad de la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes de Ayotzinapa el 26 de septiembre de 2014

AMLO y Marcelo Ebrard operaron fuerte para el regreso a México de Cienfuegos, y lo hicieron porque a su vez se toparon con una enorme presión de la cúpula militar

In a country with just a single legal gun shop, on a military base in the capital, roughly 2.5 million illicit American guns have poured across the border in the past decade

“No existe un acuerdo de impunidad” en el caso del general Salvador Cienfuegos, ni se le dará “carpetazo”, sostuvo esta mañana Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Current and former law enforcement officials expressed frustration that such an important case was spiked

The Mexican government threatened to kick out the DEA and limit cooperation with the U.S. on international narcotics investigations unless criminal charges were dropped

Mexican officials made the threat after weeks of anger at the surprise arrest of a former defense minister. Their gambit appears to have worked — the charges were dropped

The announcement suggests the fallout from the arrest of former Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos — which enraged Mexico when the Justice Department announced it last month — is far broader than previously known

Peru

Like Brigada Verde, hundreds of small, decentralized organizations formed through social media to coordinate the week-long mobilizations that ousted the interim president

That could see Peru follow in the footsteps of Andean neighbor Chile, which in the wake of fiery street demonstrations last year is now rewriting its constitution

U.S.-Mexico Border

In a two-page order, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said unaccompanied migrant children who are taken into custody by border officials must be afforded the safeguards Congress established for them

The government is expected to seek an immediate stay of the injunction and appeal Sullivan’s ruling

Venezuela

In an effort to complete his consolidation of power, Nicolas Maduro is cracking down on the leftist activists who once supported him, but have begun to speak up against his administration’s corruption and cronyism

James Story will work from the capital of neighbouring Colombia

The day ahead: November 19, 2020

I’m around in the afternoon. (How to contact me)

This morning I’m doing an interview, meeting with a journalist, and have an auto maintenance-related errand. In the afternoon I’ll be writing about Colombia, doing a weekly border update, and a list of smaller tasks.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Photo from defensa.com (Spain).

(Even more here)

November 18, 2020

Bolivia

El ministro de Defensa, Edmundo Novillo, pidió este martes “desestigmatizar” el grito ‘patria o muerte’ al interior de las Fuerzas Armadas (FFAA), que fue erradicado por la expresidenta Jeanine Áñez

Brazil

Brazil’s municipal elections saw setbacks for the president, gains for right-wing parties outside his orbit – and promising new voices on the left

Central America Regional

Add that to the overflowing buffet of problems confronting the Biden administration when it takes over Jan. 20

The Biden administration will need to move fast on a new regional architecture to address Central American migration

Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua

The Central American toll from Iota remained unclear Tuesday as officials scrambled to help. However, Colombia confirmed at least one death

El Salvador

La intervención de agentes de la PNC para obstaculizar los allanamientos que la Fiscalía comenzó el lunes 13 en las oficinas del Ministerio de Salud es gravísima

Guatemala

The Guatemalan Congress’s efforts to press criminal charges against Constitutional Court judges over a recent court ruling are a flagrant assault on judicial independence

Mexico

Para especialistas consultados, su regreso se debe a presiones diplomáticas y a la necesidad de mantener estrategias de seguridad, pese a que la procuración de justicia en México está en vilo

En lo que va del sexenio, varias decisiones del Ejecutivo colocan a las Fuerzas Armadas en tareas que no forman parte de sus funciones constitucionales

It raises questions about the trade-off between U.S. investigations into Mexican drug trafficking and attempts to maintain a delicate bilateral relationship

Ebrard denied the decision was related to the U.S. elections or the decision not to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, noting he spoke with Barr on Oct. 26

The quick reversal may be an attempt to preserve relations between the countries or a testament to the close relationship between President Trump and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico

Una posibilidad puede ser que se haya acordado dejar a la DEA y otras agencias en su condición presente, actuando sin restricciones en territorio mexicano y con derecho de picaporte en las dependencias de seguridad mexicanas

The U.S. Department of Justice has made the decision to seek dismissal of the U.S. criminal charges against former Secretary Cienfuegos, so that he may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law

López Obrador has continued to dig in, pinning his decision on the Mexican constitution’s foreign-policy principles of nonintervention and national sovereignty, and declaring that his country is not a “colony” or a “wimp”

Nicaragua

Un reporte de investigación sobre la progresiva desnaturalización de la Policía Nacional, no solo revela las características y causas de esa descomposición institucional, sino que visualiza lo que debería ser una hoja de ruta para una reforma

The day ahead: November 18, 2020

I’ll be most reachable mid-day and early afternoon. (How to contact me)

After 10 hours of meetings, events, and appointments so far this week, today I’ve got about 2 1/2. Which means I need to put my head down and do some writing, even though there are many interesting events today that I’d like to watch. Expect a lot of updates to our Colombia Peace timeline and, in a few days, a commentary about the border.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

The police stood guard in front of Peru’s Congress in Lima after interim President Manuel Merino announced his resignation on Sunday.
Angela Ponce/Reuters photo at The New York Times. Caption: “The police stood guard in front of Peru’s Congress in Lima after interim President Manuel Merino announced his resignation on Sunday.”

(Even more here)

November 17, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

El Perú no es el único país de la región que sufre por la brutalidad de las fuerzas del orden. México, Colombia, Brasil, Chile y Argentina también sufren por lo mismo

His international policies will probably follow long-standing norms as he embraces multilateralism and traditional diplomacy

Bolivia

El presidente de Bolivia, Luis Arce, cambió a toda la cúpula de las Fuerzas Armadas con el complejo “desafío de que el pueblo vuelva a confiar” en ellas

La máxima autoridad nacional solicitó a los uniformados estar cohesionados con el pueblo, trabajar para lograr la unidad de todos los bolivianos, defender la democracia, la paz social y garantizar la estabilidad del gobierno

Brazil

President’s candidates suffer heavy defeats amid resurgence of mainstream parties

Brazilians, voting for mayors and city councilors across the country, seemed to favor experienced politicians from traditional parties, a move that may damage reelection hopes for President Jair Bolsonaro

President Jair Bolsonaro’s cavalier handling of the coronavirus pandemic drew outrage. But as the curve in Brazil has flattened, his political standing has strengthened

Colombia

Ya son 241 excombatientes de Farc asesinados

En una operación de la Fuerza Pública realizada en el municipio antioqueño de Tarazá, fue dado de baja Emiliano Alcides Osorio Macea, alias “Caín” o “Pilatos”, principal cabecilla de la organización criminal

Emiliano Alcides Osorio estaba encargado de esa estructura delictiva desde el año 2016, cuando se separó del Clan del Golfo

El Salvador

La semana pasada, la UCA dio a conocer que, el pasado 30 de octubre, unos jueces de la Sala de lo Penal de la Corte Suprema, en una decisión no unánime (dos contra uno), ignoraron la inconstitucionalidad de la Ley de Amnistía

Guatemala, Honduras

Indigenous communities in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala were among the hardest hit. Now another hurricane is arriving

Honduras

The teams returned to Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras to coordinate a ready posture in anticipation of tropical storm Iota threatening the region

El huracán Eta llovió sobre Honduras, un país muy pobre, muy desigual, perforado por la corrupción de sus políticos y con una economía en permanente naufragio

Honduras, Nicaragua

It crossed the coast just 15 miles south of where Category 4 Hurricane Eta came ashore on Nov. 3

Mexico

Mostraron su preocupación ante la posibilidad de que el capitán José Martínez Crespo, actualmente bajo investigación “delincuencia organizada con la finalidad de cometer delitos contra la salud”, pueda salir en libertad a partir del miércoles

El objetivo de la inversión es construir un centro de evaluación con tecnología de punta, consultorios de especialidades, área de psicología y hasta piscina

Peru

He and his Purple Party bloc were among just 19 of 130 lawmakers to vote against Vizcarra’s removal

The decision to name Mr. Sagasti, an engineer, academic and first-time legislator, as the country’s new president was not expected to immediately quell popular anger

U.S.-Mexico Border

Some of the most vocal critics of border wall construction over the past four years told The Arizona Republic they would like to see Biden go a step further and consider the possibility of tearing down certain sections

The completion of President’s Trump’s signature wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is very much in doubt

Even asylum-seekers who are enrolled in the Migration Protection Protocols program, which requires them to wait in Mexico, are now indefinitely stuck as their court hearings have been postponed due to the pandemic

The day ahead: November 17, 2020

I’m in meetings for most of the afternoon, but reachable in the morning and perhaps at the end of the day. (How to contact me)

I’m doing website updates and working on a border commentary in the morning. Then I have a quick dentist trip (new crown fell out), a meeting with border groups, and a possible meeting with a colleague working on illicit crop eradication in Colombia. Replies will be delayed most of the afternoon.

WOLA Podcast—The Transition: U.S. Credibility, Cooperation, and a Changed Tone

I thought it would be a good idea to record a few podcasts with colleagues at WOLA to talk about what this U.S. presidential transition means for Washington’s relations with Latin America. Here’s the first of what should be a series of four: more of an overall view of what Biden can do in a context of diminished U.S. standing and credibility in the region.

The .mp3 file is here. The podcast feed is here. And here’s the text from WOLA’s podcast landing page.

The United States is in the transition period between the Biden and Trump administrations. For U.S.-Latin American relations, this will mean a sharp shift between two very different visions of how Washington should work with the hemisphere.

The shift will be sharp in some ways, at least—but not across the board: even amid a changed tone, there may be some surprising continuities. And the United States, beset domestically with political polarization, human rights controversies, and mismanagement of a public health emergency, suffers from reduced influence and credibility in the region.

It’s a complex moment. Discussing it in this episode are WOLA’s President, Geoff Thale; Vice President for Programs Maureen Meyer; Director for Drug Policy and the Andes John Walsh; Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt; and Venezuela Program Assistant Kristin Martinez-Gugerli.

This is the first of a few discussions in which the podcast will talk about the transition. In coming weeks we plan to cover migration and border security; anti-corruption; and the state of human rights and democracy.

Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyiHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Violeta Ayasta – GEC photo at El Comercio (Peru). Caption: “La segunda marcha nacional contra Manuel Merino dejó dos muertos, cientos de heridos y decenas de jóvenes no ubicados.”

(Even more here)

November 16, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

A new Cold War between the “great powers” outside Latin America – the United States and China – has again undermined the region’s ability to defend its own interests and given impetus to new ways of establishing its autonomy

The “plain text” of the department’s order of succession showed that Wolf’s ascension to acting secretary did not follow established law and was part of several hastily crafted administration moves designed to get people into the top DHS position outside of standard procedures

Bolivia

Los militares no fueron invitados a los principales actos protocolares del Ejecutivo. En la Policía, los dos primeros tienen denuncias

Las investigaciones buscan esclarecer los hechos y fortalecer la reconciliación nacional

Brazil

Conselheiros do presidente dizem que, de zero a dez, a chance de o republicano reverter a derrota nas urnas é…“sete”

Brazil, Venezuela

Gunmen on Saturday captured a businessman linked to the Venezuelan dissidence in Brazil, shot him in the leg and forcibly took them across the border into Venezuela

Central America Regional

The storm, the second hurricane to strike Central America in less than two weeks, was expected to produce catastrophic winds and up to 30 inches of rain all week

Colombia

Lamento que el Ejército desperdicie esta oportunidad de reconocer un problema y, en cambio, asuma una actitud negacionista

En los dos años de la administración de Iván Duque las disidencias han duplicado su presencia

“Los grandes deforestadores son los gamonales que llegan en helicópteros, o incluso en avioneta, o en camionetas 4×4 blindadas”

El movimiento asegura que los homicidios y las amenazas a sus simpatizantes son un ataque sistemático. Las víctimas eran conocidas en sus territorios por liderar luchas sociales

El investigador habla de la situación que vive el país en términos de seguridad y de la urgencia de recomponer el rumbo en momentos en que la violencia se ha exacerbado en varias zonas

Honduras

Two weeks after Hurricane Eta made landfall in Central America as a category 4 storm – causing widespread destruction and hundreds of thousands to lose everything – an unprecedented second major hurricane is forecast to hit Monday night in almost the exact same spot

Mexico

La detención del capitán Crespo es solo por vínculos con el narcotráfico, hasta ahora no hay acusación sobre su participación en los hechos de Iguala el 26 de septiembre de 2014

Solo siete de cada 100 elementos de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena) que fueron transferidos a la Guardia Nacional, lo hizo de manera voluntaria, reconoció el instituto armado

Una Caravana conformada por organizaciones, colectivos y redes de apoyo al Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), documentó testimonios y evidencias de la intensificación de acciones paramilitares

El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador reconoció que tuvo que tomar la decisión de inundar a las comunidades chontales de Nacajuca y Centla, para que “no se inundara por completo” la capital de Tabasco

Alfredo Bosco came to Guerrero on assignment to document southern Mexican villages emptied out by conflict. Over repeated visits he documents the region’s story

Grupo armado se habría llevado por la fuerza a fotorreportero de esta casa editorial

La oficina de la Fiscalía de Estados Unidos en el distrito este de Nueva York y la defensa del General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda pidieron al Juez que amplíe el plazo de la apertura del juicio para preparase

Nicaragua

Expediente Público presenta el análisis de siete líderes de movimientos sociales, campesinos y partidos políticos opositores en Nicaragua, sobre cuál sería la mejor estrategia para poner fin al accionar represivo de la Policía Nacional

Peru

After several hours of closed-door negotiations, congressional leaders emerged in the early hours of Monday to announce that their session was recessing without any decision and would reconvene later in the day

Manuel Merino took power after Congress pushed out Peru’s popular president. In office less than a week, he faced mounting opposition from protesters

The politician agreed to step down after a night of unrest in which two young protesters were killed and half his Cabinet resigned

Mientras que el Gobierno no se dé cuenta y no sienta el mensaje de la calle, el mensaje de la sociedad, las marchas van a continuar y cada vez con mayor intensidad

“Las Fuerzas Armadas pondrán todos sus medios y capacidades en la defensa de su pueblo y del Estado de derecho, basados en los principios fundamentales de la libertad y la democracia”, enfatizó el comando conjunto

Además de dos muertos y más de cien heridos, aún hay decenas de manifestantes que están inubicables luego del sexto día de marchas contra Manuel Merino

U.S.-Mexico Border

Biden has said he will end construction of Trump’s wall, but activists say they hope for more than a return to the status quo

The Trump administration is scrambling to build as much of the border wall as it can before the Biden administration begins

Its board has decided not to sell the land to the Trump administration for border wall construction

The monument to nativism spans 371 miles. Border communities and activists consider it “an attack on our heritage and our identity.” But Biden hasn’t pledged to uproot it

Many changes detailed on Biden’s campaign website are couched with words such as “review.”

The Department of Homeland Security was molded in President Trump’s image, and not just on immigration policy. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will have work to do to remake it

Venezuela

La derrota de Donald Trump en las elecciones marca el fin de la estrategia de “máxima presión” para forzar la salida del mandatario Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela, mientras la llegada del demócrata Joe Biden a la Casa Blanca abre una oportunidad para promover una solución política

Cree que la administración Biden va a distanciarse de la retórica de la administración de Trump y de una política de levantar promesas falsas para la oposición venezolana

The day ahead: November 16, 2020

I’m in meetings nearly all day. (How to contact me)

I’ve got internal meetings in the morning, then a podcast recording session. I’ll have a brief window of time in the early afternoon to work on everything on my list, then I’m spending the second half of the afternoon meeting with colleagues doing research projects.

Latin America-related online events this week

Monday, November 16

  • 1:30 at migrationpolicy.org: Mission Critical: The Evolution of U.S. Homeland Security in the 21st Century (RSVP required).
  • 1:30 at Zoom: Legislative Effectiveness in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 3:00–5:00 at immigrationforum.org: Leading the Way: An American Approach to Immigration (RSVP required).

Tuesday, November 17

  • 12:30–2:00 at refugeesinternational.org: Voices from the Border: Detention and the Need for Humane Alternatives (RSVP required).
  • 2:30–4:00 at wilsoncenter.org: What Does the World Expect of President-elect Joe Biden? (RSVP required).
  • 3:00–5:00 at immigrationforum.org: Leading the Way: An American Approach to Immigration (RSVP required).
  • 5:30–7:30 at clacs.nyu.edu: Bolivia’s Electoral Victory: What challenges lie ahead for MAS? (RSVP required).

Wednesday, November 18

Thursday, November 19

  • 10:00–11:30 at wola.org: Evaluating U.S. Sanctions Policy Towards Venezuela (RSVP required).
  • 11:00–12:00 at thedialogue.org: A Conversation with Iván Duque Marquéz (RSVP required).
  • 1:00–2:00 at wola.org: Race and Policing in the Time of COVID in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 3:00–5:00 at immigrationforum.org: Leading the Way: An American Approach to Immigration (RSVP required).
  • 5:30–7:30 at urosario.edu.co: Peacebuilding amid Persistence of Violence (RSVP required).
  • 6:00 at wola.org: The Three Rs: Realize, Recognize, & Reconciliation—A Panel about Environmental Justice and Colonization (RSVP required).

Friday, November 20

Saturday, November 21

  • 11:00–12:30 at urosario.edu.co: Peacebuilding amid Persistence of Violence (RSVP required).
  • 2:00–5:00 at urosario.edu.co: Peacebuilding amid Persistence of Violence (RSVP required).

Five links from the past week

  • USA Today’s Alan Gomez and Daniel Gonzalez do a deep dive into what the Biden administration would have to do, procedurally, to undo the Trump administration’s hardline border and migration policies.
  • An International Crisis Group report explains how eight months of life under COVID-19 have largely failed to alter organized crime patterns in Mexico and Central America. After a brief disruption, gangs and traffickers swiftly adapted.
  • The second in what will be a five-part Washington Postseries about Mexico’s out-of-control organized crime situation looks at how criminal groups have become enmeshed in local government, focusing on a mayor in Morelos who continued to govern his town from a faraway prison cell.
  • Colombia’s Verdad Abierta published a series of articles about the south-central department of Guaviare, which is under the heavy influence of FARC dissident groups: the security situation, the environmental damage especially deforestation, and the perilous situation of environmental defenders.
  • At Univision, Jennifer Ávila and Danielle Mackey find that “Nucor Corporation, the chief steel producer in the United States, was a powerful hidden partner” behind a much-protested iron mining project in a national park in Honduras. “Nucor was an important donor to Donald Trump’s last two presidential campaigns.”

Colombia peace update: Week of November 8, 2020

(Cross-posted from colombiapeace.org)

WOLA had a good experience this fall producing weekly updates, on a pilot basis, about U.S. border security and migration. Between now and the end of the year, we’re carrying out a similar pilot for Colombia, producing weekly sub-1,000-word updates in English about peace accord implementation and related topics. After that, we will evaluate the experience—both audience response and our own time commitment—before deciding whether to produce these permanently.

Revelations about Santrich case point to entrapment

The Bogotá daily El Espectador reported on November 8 that 24,000 audios from the Prosecutor’s office (Fiscalía) pointed to “an entrapment operation against guerrilla negotiators,” with a possible political motive against the FARC peace accord.

The revelations surround the case of Seuxis Pausías Hernández alias “Jesús Santrich,” a top FARC ideologist. The nearly blind Santrich was close to Luciano Marín alias “Iván Márquez,” the politically radical top leader who led the guerrilla group’s negotiating team during the 2012-16 peace talks. Santrich was a vocal member of that team.

  • In April 2018, just before he was to be sworn in as one of the FARC’s five members of Colombia’s House of Representatives, Santrich was arrested for conspiring to send cocaine to the United States. Video showed him in a meeting with purported Mexican narcotraffickers.
  • The meeting was arranged by Márquez’s nephew, Marlon Marín, who was not a FARC member and was under investigation for improprieties in peace accord implementation contracts.
  • At the Mexicans’ insistence, Marín drew Santrich into a scheme to ship cocaine to the United States, bringing him into the meeting recorded on video.
  • The narcotraffickers were, in fact, DEA personnel. The U.S. government requested Santrich’s extradition, and brought Marlon Marín to the United States, where he is now a protected witness.
  • A year later, in May 2019, after failing to get compelling evidence out of the attorney-general’s office (Fiscalía) or the U.S. Department of Justice, the peace accords’ transitional justice tribunal (Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP) ordered Santrich’s release. The decision led an infuriated chief prosecutor Néstor Humberto Martínez to resign.
  • Santrich was then sworn into Congress, but disappeared shortly afterward. He and Iván Márquez turned up again in late August 2019, in a video announcing that they and other former FARC leaders had rearmed.

The episode dealt the FARC peace process its severest blow. Now, the El Espectador revelations cast doubt on the extent to which Santrich was involved in the fake drug deal. This appears to be a case of entrapment, involving the DEA and former prosecutor-general Martínez, who had bitterly opposed the peace accord’s transitional justice provisions.

The Fiscalía’s 24,000 audio clips are mainly Marlon Marín’s intercepted communications. In the weeks leading up to Santrich’s arrest, the newspaper notes, “the calls between the ‘Mexicans’ and Marín were many and extensive, and in almost all of them the fundamental characteristic was the former’s insistence on putting Marín on the phone with the former chief peace negotiator of the Farc, Iván Márquez.” They failed to do that, but Marín did get them a brief meeting with Santrich.

The revelations have the Fiscalía under a cloud. “There remains the feeling that the Fiscalía did everything possible to sabotage the reputation and actions of the JEP,” contends an El Espectador editorial. “It is regrettable to find that there was ‘friendly fire’ with something as delicate as the treatment of former Farc combatants.” At a November 11 press conference, the JEP’s new director, Eduardo Cifuentes, said that the Fiscalía had shared very little evidence from the Santrich case with his tribunal, turning over only 12 audios and keeping the remaining 24,000 secret.

As for the former chief prosecutor, Néstor Humberto Martínez: President Iván Duque’s government has just named him to be its next ambassador to Spain.

US Senate reveals its draft 2021 aid bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft of its version of the 2021 aid bill on November 10. The 2021 aid bill hasn’t become law yet, and might not until the next presidential administration. The House of Representatives passed its version of the aid bill in July.

As our latest table of aid to Colombia shows, the two chambers’ foreseen amounts don’t differ widely. The House would appropriate $458 million, and the Senate $456 million. (Another $55-60 million or so would come through the Defense budget.)

Both the House and Senate packages would dedicate a bit less than half of 2021 aid to Colombia’s military and police. This is a big contrast from the peak years of Plan Colombia between 2000 and 2015, when military and police aid in some years exceeded 80 percent of the total. It also contrasts with the Trump administration’s aid request, which would have slashed economic aid in a $413 million aid package.

Like the House bill, the Senate attaches human rights conditions to a portion of Foreign Military Financing aid, and specifies that some support go to the Truth Commission and the Unit for the Search for the Disappeared (but not the JEP).

The Senate appropriators’ bill also requires the State Department to produce a report about Colombian government actions to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for illegal military intelligence spying on civilians.

Here are links to the Senate bill and explanatory report, and to the House bill (see Division A) and explanatory report.

Links

  • Rodrigo Pardo (who has since joined the parade of journalists abandoning Semana magazine, where this appears) writes that Colombia can expect more U.S. engagement on the peace accord once Joe Biden is inaugurated.
  • La Silla Vacía believes Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, former vice-president Fransicso Santos, is staying in his post. This despite allegations by his cousin, ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, that the ambassador actively sought to help the Trump campaign.
  • “The proliferation of coca cultivations in southwestern Colombia undermines black and indigenous struggles for autonomy,” writes Lehman College’s Anthony Dest (formerly of WOLA’s Colombia program) in an article based on fieldwork in Cauca.
  • The FARC admitted on November 3 that it had twice tried to kill former vice-president Germán Vargas Lleras. The right-of-center politician responded in a column that he wants to know the full truth about what happened, and that the JEP should be allowed to work to do that.

Weekly border update: November 13, 2020

Between Labor Day and Election Day, I produced super-brief weekly border and migration updates on a trial basis. We sent them to WOLA’s “Beyond the Wall” mailing list, but didn’t advertise them widely because we wanted to evaluate how the trial run went. It went well: the “open rates” for the updates were quite high, and it proved to be a good exercise for me to take an hour summarizing, in as few words as possible, what’s been happening at the border.

So here’s a new feature: a weekly border update.

There’s so much happening at the U.S.-Mexico border—much of it outrageous, some of it heroic—that it’s hard to keep track. With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments in 900 words or less. We welcome your feedback.

Biden’s plans for the border and migration

After narrowly taking Arizona, President-Elect Joe Biden became the second Democratic Party presidential candidate to win three border states since 1964. While Donald Trump continues to deny the result, Biden has released lists of “agency review teams” for the transition, including a list for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) heavy with former officials and think-tank experts.

Biden’s team has also telegraphed to media some of the actions it might take in the days after January 20 to undo Trump’s hardline border and migration policies. As no laws were passed (other than appropriations) during the Trump administration, nearly everything can be undone through executive action. Changes include:

  • Reinstating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides work permits and shields from deportation 650,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children. The Obama-era program, which the Supreme Court at least temporarily stopped Trump from ending, can be revived with as little as a presidential memo, and possibly expanded in include more than 400,000 more eligible people who have been unable to apply.
  • Stopping all ongoing border wall construction, which would mean terminating contracts and desisting from eminent-domain property seizures. It is not yet clear whether the Biden administration would dismantle any wall that Trump has built, or whether it would fund remediation in places where wall-building has damaged fragile ecosystems.
  • Ending the Remain in Mexico (“Migrant Protection Protocols” or MPP) program, which has forced about 70,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers to await their hearings in Mexico. Though Biden has pledged to end MPP, it’s still not clear how quickly that would happen, or when those currently waiting in Mexican border cities will be let into the United States. Still, news of Biden’s victory sparked celebrations in a tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, where nearly 1,000 people subject to MPP have been waiting for as much as a year.
  • Withdrawing from “safe third country” agreements committing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to receiving asylum-seeking citizens from third countries and allowing them to seek protection in their barely existing asylum systems.
  • Probably preserving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for approximately 300,000 migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Nepal, and Honduras, many of whom have been in the United States for many years. And most likely offering TPS to many Venezuelans currently in the United States.
  • Creating a task force to help locate hundreds of migrant parents separated from their children at the border in 2017 and 2018. The number of kids whose parents can’t be located has risen to 666.
  • Reinstating the Obama-era Central American Minors program, which allowed some documented parents of children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to bring those children to the United States, in some cases receiving refugee status.
  • Rescinding the “travel ban” on 13 mostly African or majority Muslim countries.
  • Freezing deportations for 100 days while drafting guidance reducing the scope of whom immigration agents may detain.
  • Increasing the annual refugee admissions cap to 125,000, up from the Trump administration’s 2021 target of 15,000 and from 110,000 in the last year of the Obama administration.

The Biden team has not indicated whether it would alter the March 2020 Center for Disease Control (CDC) order mandating rapid expulsion of nearly all migrants apprehended at the border, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers. CBS News reported that Biden’s campaign promised to “direct the CDC to review the expulsions policy ‘to ensure that people have the ability to submit their asylum claims while ensuring that we are taking the appropriate COVID-19 safety precautions.’”

While all of this can happen through executive action, the new administration may have to go slow with some of these steps, particularly those that were implemented with new regulations, in order to avoid or overcome likely court challenges.

A hurricane could mean more migration from Central America

The end of Trump’s hard line on immigration has triggered speculation about a wave of undocumented migration, much of it protection-seeking, at the border early in Joe Biden’s term. That wave, however, may come before January 20.

Guatemala and Honduras, already battered by gang violence, climate-related reductions in crop yields, and COVID-19, were hit hard by Hurricane Eta during the week of November 1. Eta was the worst natural disaster to hit Central America since Hurricane Mitch, which killed more than 11,000 people in 1998. Central American migration to the United States increased for years after Mitch, and we can expect something similar from the double blow of COVID and Eta.

“A new caravan is already coming together on social media due to the current situation in the country,” Karen Valladares, director of the Honduran migrant rights group FONAMIH, told Univision. Recent attempted “caravans” have been dispersed by security forces in Mexico and Guatemala; migrants are more likely to arrive by paying smugglers to get them across Mexico.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said that Guatemala would request that the U.S. government grant TPS to its citizens as a result of the storm, though he held out little hope of Donald Trump assenting.

Other links

  • DHS employees told BuzzFeed that they hope the Biden administration may end years of “chaos” at their department.
  • Vice and BuzzFeed report that women who witnessed or alleged non-consensual gynecological procedures at a Georgia ICE detention center are being deported.
  • The United States has swiftly deported 1,400 unaccompanied minors to Guatemala since March under the CDC order.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Omar Lucas photo at IDL Reporteros (Peru). Caption: “Miércoles 11 de noviembre. Ciudadanos tomaron la Plaza Bolognesi durante la tercera jornada de movilizaciones.”

(Even more here)

November 13, 2020

Western Hemisphere Regional

The rise of the proxy president is partly a result of term limits and partly a consequence of the commodity boom of the 2000s, which helped leaders fortunate enough to be in office at the time to become popular and politically strong

The trip is tentatively scheduled for the week of Dec. 7, and it could include stops in El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador

Argentina

El funcionario reiteró que los militares y policías que tratan de incidir sobre las políticas de defensa y seguridad buscan “conspirar, desestabilizar y desgastar” a la actual conducción castrense y al Gobierno

Brazil

Biden plans to label countries as “climate outlaws” for failing to address climate change. Brazil might be at the top of his list

Central America Regional

Forecasters believe a weather front forming in the Caribbean has a 90% chance of becoming a cyclone, making it the 30th named Atlantic storm of 2020

Colombia

Adriana Villegas habla sobre la citación bajo juramento que enfrentará por orden el Batallón Ayacucho del Ejército, tras denunciar los cantos misóginos de la institución

El diario El Espectador reveló pruebas según las cuales se infiere que tras la investigación judicial hubo un “intento de torpedear el proceso de paz durante la Fiscalía de Néstor Humberto Martínez”

El grupo más grande que siguió ese mismo camino lo integran 36.376 excombatientes de las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (Auc), en el gobierno de Álvaro Uribe; y 13.394 de las Farc-Ep

A la empresaria y lideresa la mató el Clan del Golfo de tres tiros, según la Fiscalía. Estaba montando un hotel con su esposo y, al parecer, se enfrentó a este grupo armado con irreverencia

Ambos son primos lejanos de Ana Catalina Noguera, quien ayer renunció al cargo de directora del grupo contra las finanzas criminales de la Fiscalía

Ecuador, Western Hemisphere Regional

UNITAS LXI, the world’s longest running multinational maritime exercise concluded with a closing ceremony in Manta, Ecuador, Nov. 11

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity

Mexico

El capitán José Martínez Crespo fue detenido por los delitos de delincuencia organizada y desaparición forzada

Mexico’s asylum system is generous on paper, but in practice it faces several challenges that undermine its effectiveness

Under the reforms, children would also have their legal status provisionally recognized to avoid the risk of immediate deportation before having the opportunity to explore possibilities of seeking protective status

When El Marro was arrested at the beginning of August, the violence in the central state of Guanajuato was at a peak and the CSRL was largely blamed for the surge in killings

The high-profile arrests of federal cabinet officials have obscured a crisis of governance at the local level, where mayors and police chiefs have formed alliances with cartels

As long as AMLO stopped migrants from coming to the U.S. southern border (which he has by and large done), the White House hasn’t bothered to check in on what else is happening in Mexico. This neglect has been a gift

Peru

People marched in the center of Lima and in other cities Thursday evening in what analysts said were the country’s biggest demonstrations for two decades

Manuel Merino, who was Congress’s speaker until he took over as president on November 10th, will probably hold on to the office until his term expires next July. But that does not mean Peru will enjoy stability

En los últimos tres años, hubo cuatro procesos de vacancia presidencial, se disolvió un congreso y Merino resulta el tercer mandatario

Fue una mala decisión, según parece. Causada en parte por la tensión bajo la que Vizcarra vivió los últimos meses

  • Gustavo Gorriti, ¿Como Sucedio? (IDL Reporteros (Peru), November 13, 2020).

La victoria de los derrocadores resultó más táctica que estratégica y quizá más pírrica que permanente

U.S.-Mexico Border

Untangling the moves will be even more difficult given that so many of them overlap, forcing the Biden administration to carefully peel them back one by one without overwhelming the immigration system or encouraging a new wave

The monthly figure is expected to be in the thousands based on federal statistics from recent years that show the average 30,000 to 60,000 people arrested each month make up about 75% of the total

The plans are ambitious. And this bodes well, because it suggests at least the possibility that Biden won’t be trapped in an old, defensive political mind-set reminiscent of 1990s centrist Democrats

The three men who identified themselves as smugglers from different transnational networks told Reuters they save about $1,000 or more each time U.S. Border Patrol expels one of their Central American clients at the Mexican border rather than returning them back by plane

The detentions, which include both unaccompanied children and children with their families, peaked last year at over 300,000, with 40 percent held longer than the 72-hour limit

Venezuela

A Trump video targeting Florida’s growing Venezuelan American population falsely claimed that Venezuela’s socialist regime wanted Biden to win. But President Nicolás Maduro has said that he opposed both

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