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.

Human Rights

The past week in Colombia’s peace process

(Week of April 29-May 5) Dire Warning from Former Chief Negotiator De La Calle Humberto de la Calle, a respected former vice president and the Liberal Party’s low-polling candidate for May 27 elections, led the Colombian government’s team for all four years of peace talks with the FARC in Havana. On the campaign trail, he […]

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The past week in Colombia’s peace process

(Week of April 22-28) Jesús Santrich Case Arrested FARC leader Seusis Pausias Hernández alias Jesús Santrich remains in Bogotá’s La Picota prison, where he is continuing a hunger strike that began after his April 9 arrest. He agreed to receive medical attention, but only from “trusted personnel.” Colombia’s judicial system—both the transitional system set up […]

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Use of Deadly Force in Toronto, and At the Border

Watch this New York Times explainer video showing Toronto Police Constable Ken Lam de-escalating a situation, avoiding the use of deadly force, as he singlehandedly arrests Alek Minassian, the driver of a van that ran over dozens of pedestrians on April 24. Then contrast it to the 2012 shooting of a Mexican 16-year-old through the […]

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Where some see a wave of terror, Colombia’s Defense Minister sees “skirts”

Throughout Colombia’s countryside, especially in areas of longtime influence of the former FARC guerrillas, leaders of social organizations are living in fear. Every few days, somewhere in the country, a land-rights claimant, a participant in a crop substitution program, a campesino organizer, or a leader of an ethnic community is murdered. It’s a huge threat to the […]

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U.S.-Aided Units in Honduras

As a likely election theft proceeds in Honduras, the country’s security forces are playing a central role in putting down protest. Since the U.S. government has closely supported the Honduran military and police since the cold war, we need to know whether U.S.-aided units are backing authoritarian behavior and abusing protesters’ rights. Here is a […]

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Rescuing Colombia’s Post-Conflict Transitional Justice System

Remember back when Colombian officials said that the FARC peace negotiations sought to “put victims at the center” of the process? Colombia’s Congress just finished work on the legislation that would implement transitional justice, the process of punishing the worst human rights violators and making them provide reparations to victims. They did serious damage, putting together […]

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Carson Ulrich doesn’t get it

In Monday’s New York Times, near the end of a piece about a notorious 2012 DEA-involved shooting incident in Honduras, this gem appears (boldface is mine): Carson Ulrich, who served as deputy for the FAST team missions at the time of the Ahuas shooting, stands by the D.E.A.’s assertions that the passenger boat was searching […]

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Some troubling/horrifying excerpts from the Honduras IG report

It’s taken me 2 1/2 months, as it was one task among many. But I’ve now given a close read to all 400 pages of the report on DEA activities in Honduras that the State and Justice Departments’ inspectors-general put out on May 24. It discusses three incidents in 2012 involving an elite DEA team […]

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Whoa I’ve been libeled! (and really sloppily too)

Here’s an English translation of a note I just dashed off to Roberto Pombo, director of Colombia’s most-circulated newspaper, El Tiempo.  (Other than a conversation or two with lawyers, this is the last thing I want to do about this today—there are more important things to do. But I’m looking forward to pursuing this as far […]

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“A Reluctant Warrior” by Kelly Nicholls

Kelly Nicholls had a successful few years as director of the U.S. Office on Colombia, a small organization in Washington on whose board I served. I hadn’t heard much from her after she moved back to her native Australia. Then, in April, she sent me an advance copy of her first novel, set in Colombia. […]

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WOLA Podcast: Colombia’s FARC demobilizes, but new challenges await

Here’s a half-hour conversation with Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA’s senior associate for Colombia. On June 20, 2017 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ceased to be an armed group. But as Gimena makes clear, the hard part awaits. In a wide-ranging discussion about the current moment, we discuss next steps in the FARC demobilization, the ominous […]

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WOLA Podcast: “Human Rights Trials in Guatemala”

Here’s a conversation with WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt, a professor of political science at George Mason University. Since 2012 Jo-Marie has closely monitored Guatemala’s judicial effort to hold military personnel accountable for crimes against humanity that they committed or ordered during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war. Despite some often severe pushback, prosecutors, investigators, and civil society […]

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Colombia’s New Transitional Justice Law Violates the Spirit of the Peace Accords

I just co-wrote, and WOLA just posted, a statement about a wrong turn for post-conflict Colombia. The hardest part of Colombia’s peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas—it took 19 months to get there—was “transitional justice.” How do you hold human rights abusers accountable to their victims while still convincing them to turn in their weapons? The peace accords […]

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