Adam Isacson

Defense, security, borders, migration, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. May not reflect my employer’s consensus view.

Latin America

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, December 4

  • 8:30-10:00 at Prospects and Pitfalls for Security Assistance in Haiti (RSVP required).

Tuesday, December 5

Wednesday, December 6

  • 9:00-10:30 at the Inter-American Dialogue: La agenda ambiental y climática en Colombia: autoridades locales hablan (RSVP required).
  • 9:30-11:00 at the Brookings Institution and online: Tackling global corruption to strengthen democracy and security (RSVP required).
  • 10:00 at Race and Equality: Challenges And Lessons Of The Brazilian Trans Movement (RSVP required).
  • 11:30-12:45 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Mobilizing Youth for Democracy and Human Rights (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-3:00 at Pivotal States: Is the United States Overlooking Mexico’s Potential? (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-5:30 at CSIS and online: Progress and Possibility: Reflecting on 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-5:00 at the Atlantic Council and online: Elections everywhere all at once (RSVP required).
  • 6:30 at How Can We Solve The Border Crisis? (RSVP required).

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, November 27

Tuesday, November 28

  • 10:00 at the Atlantic Council and Venezuela 2024: A democratic opportunity (RSVP required).

Wednesday, November 29

Thursday, November 30

  • 10:00 at the Atlantic Council and Assessing the future of US-Colombia cooperation on drugs and security (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:30 at the The State of Community-based Care and Support Systems for People with Disabilities in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-7:00 at IberoMx YouTube: Conferencia Internacional sobre Reducción de Homicidios.
  • 11:00 at Zoom: Reforming “The Dictators’ Bank”: Revelations from recent investigative reporting into the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) (RSVP required).
  • 12:00 at International Crisis Group Zoom: Mexico: Women’s Rise in Organised Crime (RSVP required).
  • 2:00 in Room 210 of the Capitol Visitors’ Center and online: Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on The U.S. Border Crisis and the American Solution to an International Problem.
  • 4:00-6:30 at the Keough School Washington office: Lasting and Sustainable Peace in Colombia: The seventh anniversary of the peace accord and opportunities that lie ahead (RSVP required).
  • 5:00-7:00 at George Washington University: Assessing Argentina’s Election Results: Prospects for the Future (RSVP required).
  • 6:00-8:00 at George Washington University: Human Rights in Latin America: Challenges and Growth (RSVP required).

Friday, December 1

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, November 13

  • 10:00-11:30 at the Wilson Center and online: US–EU Cooperation: Strengthening Democracy in Latin America (RSVP required).

Tuesday, November 14

Wednesday, November 15

  • 8:00-10:00 at The Caribbean gender empowerment forum (RSVP required).
  • 9:00-12:00 at Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on Worldwide Threats to the Homeland.
  • 11:00-12:30 at Georgetown University: CLAS Ambassador Series: A Conversation with H.E. Catalina Crespo Sancho of Costa Rica (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-3:00 at Examining the Impact of Elections in Argentina with Former President Macri (RSVP required).
  • 6:00-8:00 at WOLA and at Racism in the Americas: A Path Forward (RSVP required).

Thursday at 5:00 Eastern: Crowd-Control Weapons in the Americas: Evidence From the Ground and How to Stop Their Harm

A big group of non-governmental human rights organizations, from around Latin America, has a hearing on Thursday at the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission to discuss how security forces are misusing supposedly “non-lethal” crowd-control weapons to maim or kill participants in political protests. The United States, through arms sales, is a top source of those weapons.

Join me later on Thursday, at 5:00—at WOLA or online—when I have the honor of moderating a discussion with some of them.

Here’s the explanatory text from WOLA’s website:

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) warmly invite you to the hybrid event “Crowd-control weapons in the Americas: Evidence from the ground and how to stop their harm”. The event will be held in-person and on Zoom on Thursday 9 November from 5:00-6:30 PM EST.

The right to protest in the Americas is regularly undermined when crowd-control weapons (misleadingly called non-lethal or less-lethal) are used and misused in ways that are disproportionate, indiscriminate and illegal. They inflict life-changing injuries, long-term psychological harm and even death. Despite growing recognition of their dangers, the manufacture, marketing, trade and use of law enforcement equipment including less lethal weapons continues to rise.

Join us for a civil society discussion on how to tackle the negative impacts of crowd-control weapons used by law enforcement in protests across the Americas with experts from the US, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. 

The discussion will include a presentation of Lethal in Disguise 2: How Crowd-Control Weapons Impact Health and Human Rights, reflections on an IACHR hearing on the subject to be held earlier that day and growing call at the UN for a binding global Torture-Free Trade Treaty.


  • Adam Isaacson, Director for Defense Oversight at WOLA (moderator)
  • Erika Dailey, Director of Advocacy and Policy of PHR
  • Alicia Ruth Tapuy Santi, INREDH / Widow of Byron Guatatuca
  • Camilo Mendoza Zamudio, Researcher for the police violence observatory and platform GRITA of Temblores NGO
  • Juliana Miranda, Researcher for Citizen Security and Police Violence teams of CELS
  • Michael Perloff, staff attorney at ACLU

The event will be in Spanish and English with simultaneous interpretation available virtually. For those joining us in person and need interpretation, we ask that you bring a device and headphones to connect to the virtual meeting and access the simultaneous interpretation. Wifi will be available.

There will be ample time for Q&A, as well as a short reception following the discussion with beverages and snacks.

** Registration is required both for in person and virtual participation. Please RSVP through this link. 

The event will be livestreamed and accessible afterwards on WOLA’s Youtube Channel.

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, November 6

Tuesday, November 7

  • 8:30-5:30 at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission: 188 Period of Sessions.
  • 3:00-4:30 at Zoom: Migrant Justice in Times of Militarized Borders (RSVP required).
  • 5:00-6:30 at American University: Cafecito Talk: Gender, Tech, and Sustainability (RSVP required).

Wednesday, November 8

Thursday, November 9

Friday, November 10

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

I’ll soon be traveling for work for a couple of weeks. These “events posts will resume again on November 5.

Tuesday, October 17

  • 2:00-5:00 at the Wilson Center and online: Building a High Quality US-Mexico Pharmaceutical Supply Chain (RSVP required).
  • 5:00 at CINEP Facebook Live: Entre la continuidad y el cambio: creencias y comportamientos sociales que condicionan el derecho a la tierra y el territorio de las mujeres (RSVP required).
  • 7:00-8:30 at IPS and online: The Rising Latin American Left: México and Beyond (RSVP required).

Wednesday, October 18

  • 2:00-3:15 online: Organized crime in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-4:00 at Fordham University Zoom: The FERM Program: A Three-Month Assessment Highlighting the Need for a More Family-Centered Approach (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-5:00 at American University Washington College of Law: Book Conversation: Mexico, A Challenging Assignment.
  • 4:30-5:15 at the Atlantic Council and online: Addressing inequality in Colombia: A conversation with Vice President Francia Márquez (RSVP required).

Thursday, October 19

  • 1:00-6:00 at Georgetown University: Brazil in Transition Conference (RSVP required).
  • 6:00 at the National Press Club: In the Mouth of the Wolf: A Conversation about Press Freedom in Mexico (RSVP required).

Friday, October 20

  • 9:00-6:00 at Georgetown University: Brazil in Transition Conference (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:15 at the University of Chicago and online: Disparity: Origin and Consequence of the Latin American Pre-Development Trap (RSVP required).
  • 10:30-11:30 at Georgetown University: Frontlines of Freedom: Conversations on Democracy, Activism, and Anti-Authoritarian Efforts (RSVP required).

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, October 9

  • 3:15-8:30 at Inter-American Human Rights Court EventBrite: A 75 años de la Declaración Americana y 45 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos: logros y desafíos (RSVP required).

Tuesday, October 10

  • 12:00-1:00 at Washington College of Law: Confronting Authoritarianism in Latin America: A Conversation with leading Human Rights Lawyers in El Salvador (RSVP required).
  • 12:00-1:00 at Managing Geopolitical Risk in Mexico’s ICT Sector (RSVP required).

Wednesday, October 11

  • 1:30-2:50 at University of Chicago (hybrid): Journalism Under Threat (RSVP required).

Thursday, October 12

  • 10:00-11:00 at Council of the Americas Zoom: China in the Americas: Assessing the Impact and Implications of Authoritarian Capital (RSVP required).
  • 4:00-5:00 at Georgetown University: The Power of Public Opinion in Latin American Climate Policy (RSVP required).

From CRS: U.S. Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean FY1946-FY2021

Chart entitled "U.S. Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY1946-FY2021."

Includes aid obligations from all U.S. government agencies, adjusted for inflation. Comprehensive data for
FY2022 and FY2023 are not yet available.

Shows peaks in the 1960s (Alliance for Progress, the largest peak), the Reagan 1980s, Plan Colombia 2000, the Mérida Initiative and Haiti earthquake 2010, and launch of the Central America engagement strategy 2015-16. The current moment is about average, perhaps below average, a bit over $3 billion adjusted for inflation. The 1960s peak is about $7.5 billion.

This chart comes from a September 27 Congressional Research Service report, by Peter Meyer, about U.S. aid to Latin America and the Caribbean, going through the 2024 appropriations request (which Congress hasn’t funded yet).

When you adjust for inflation, nothing comes close to the amount of U.S. assistance the region received in the 1960s, during the Alliance for Progress, an aid program the Kennedy Administration launched in large part to prevent other countries from turning to Communist revolution like Cuba did.

The next biggest peaks are the 2010 response to Haiti’s earthquake just as the Mérida Initiative aid package was getting underway in Mexico; the Reagan administration’s Cold-War funding of civil wars in Central America; the Plan Colombia years of the 2000s; the Central America strategy that the Obama administration started (and Trump did not continue) after a 2014 wave of child and family migration; and the onset of the Drug War in the late 1980s.

My own career started during that deep trough of assistance during the post-Cold War Clinton 1990s. (I graduated college in 1992 and grad school in 1994.) Ironically, it was right at the absolute nadir that I co-founded a project to monitor U.S. security assistance in the Americas. (The data from that project, going back to 1996, is still part of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor.)

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Tuesday, October 3

  • 11:00-12:30 at IDPC Zoom: In defence of decriminalisation –a baseline upon which to build sustainable drug policy (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-4:00 at Violent crime in South America (RSVP required).
  • 4:30-5:30 at the Wilson Center and online: ‘Primavera Democrática’: A Conversation with President-Elect Bernardo Arévalo of Guatemala (RSVP required).

Wednesday, October 4

  • 12:00-1:30 at Georgetown University: Elections in Argentina: Will the Country Turn to the Far Right? (RSVP required).
  • 6:00-8:00 at Georgetown University: The Dictator’s Destructions: Facing Pinochet’s Power in Chile (RSVP required).

Thursday, October 5

  • 10:30-12:00 at George Washington University: Expanding South-South Climate Change Collaboration (RSVP required).
  • 11:00-1:00 at Advancing Caribbean development through women’s empowerment (RSVP required).
  • 6:30-8:00 at IPS: Inside Biden’s Cuba Policy: Film Screening (RSVP required).

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, September 25

  • 3:00-4:00 at,, or A Conversation with President of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso (RSVP required).

Tuesday, September 26

Wednesday, September 27

Thursday, September 28

Friday, September 29

  • 11:00-12:00 at the Wilson Center and online: Catastrophes, Confrontations, and Constraints (Book Launch) (RSVP required).

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, September 18

Tuesday, September 19

  • 9:00-10:30 at Digital Report Launch: Tracking Transatlantic Drug Flows through the Caribbean to Europe (RSVP required).
  • 10:00-11:30 at Open Society Foundations and on BlueJeans: Militarización del Control Migratorio en México (RSVP required).
  • 12:00-1:30 at Guatemala’s 2023 Elections (RSVP required).

Wednesday, September 20

Thursday, September 21

  • 6:30-8:00 at IPS and online: Climate Justice: A Report from the Global South (RSVP required).

Friday, September 22

  • 3:00-5:00 at the MLK Memorial Library: Public Art, Activism, and Historic Memory (RSVP required).

Saturday, September 23

UNODC: 230,000 hectares of coca in Colombia last year

According to the Colombian daily El Espectador, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime detected 230,000 hectares of coca in Colombia in 2022. That amount—which extends the dark blue line in the chart below to 2022—would be the most coca that the UN agency has detected in any year since it began issuing estimates in 1999.

Chart: Coca Cultivation in Colombia

Hectares	US Estimate	UN Estimate
1994	44.7	
1995	50.9	
1996	67.2	
1997	79.5	
1998	101.8	
1999	122.5	160.1
2000	136.2	163.3
2001	169.8	144.8
2002	144.4	102
2003	113.9	86
2004	114.1	80
2005	144	86
2006	157	78
2007	167	99
2008	119	81
2009	116	73
2010	100	62
2011	83	64
2012	78	48
2013	81	48
2014	112	69
2015	159	96
2016	188	146
2017	209	171
2018	208	169
2019	212	154
2020	245	143
2021	234	204
2022		230

Colombia was governed for just over the first seven months of 2022 by Iván Duque, and for the remaining less than five months by Gustavo Petro.

Petro was still putting together his government by the time 2022 ended. His drug policy team only published their counter-drug strategy this past weekend. While that is a notably slow pace, it was not the cause for 2022’s result.

Petro has sought to de-emphasize forced eradication of small-scale coca farmers’ crops, which places the government in an adversarial relationship with poor people in historically abandoned territories. Through July, forced eradication is down 79 percent over the same period in 2022. Instead, the new strategy document promotes interdiction, targeting cocaine production and related finances, and other strategies.

Still, critics of the Petro government’s choices will use the 230,000 figure to oppose them. It’s possible, though, that the 2023 coca acreage figure could be reduced, because a historic drop in prices may be making the crop less attractive to many growers.

Latin America-Related Events Online and in Washington This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

  • 10:00-11:00 at the Wilson Center and online: Untapped Economic Potential: What Can Latin America and the Caribbean Offer the World? (RSVP required).
  • 3:00-5:00 at American University: (Co)Building a Strategic Agenda for the Americas (RSVP required).
  • 3:30-4:30 at IPS: Prospects for Normalization of US-Cuba Relations: A Talk with Cuban Deputy Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío (RSVP required).

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023

  • 10:15 (possibly 2:15) at the Atlantic Council and online: A Conversation with H.E. Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana (RSVP required).
  • 4:00 at WOLA and WOLA Zoom: Post-election Optics in Guatemala: Judicial Cooptation and Gender Violence (RSVP required).

Latin America-Related Events Online and in Washington This Week

(All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Tuesday, September 5

  • 11:00-12:15 at Canning House Zoom: Elections in Guatemala (RSVP required).

Wednesday, September 6

Thursday, September 7

  • 9:00 at Where have the banks gone? Curbing financial de-risking in the Caribbean (RSVP required).
  • 9:30-11:00 at the Wilson Center and online: Journalism in the Age of Spyware: Defending Freedom of the Press and Countering Threats Posed by Surveillance Technologies in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 10:30 in Room 419, Dirksen Senate Office Building: Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues on Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Priorities for the Western Hemisphere.
  • 1:00-3:00 at LAF Berlin online: El regreso de los militares ¿Un peligro para las democracias o más bien un debate fantasma? (RSVP required).
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