A lot of my work centers on Colombia, security, human rights, and borders. So for me, the past two weeks have just been a nonstop storm of new knowledge, a driving downpour of amazing things to read. Important new work and must-read documents have been coming nearly every day.
(This in addition to a wealth of live events and volumes of coverage of Colombia’s remarkable election outcome.)
Here are some links. Don’t even ask me to summarize these yet. I’m reading as fast as I can.
The final report of Colombia’s Truth Commission, published June 28. (1,770 pages and counting)
Hoy, Chichi (170 000 habitantes) es una de las ciudades menos homicidas en la región más homicida del mundo –el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica–, con una tasa de asesinatos inferior a la de Chile, Bélgica o Canadá. ¿Quiere saber por qué?
(I leave for Colombia in the morning, so I’m churning out a bunch of end-of-month posts tonight. It’s more fun than packing.)
Todd Wiseman photo at The Texas Tribune. Caption: “A raft loaded with undocumented immigrants navigates the Mexican side of the Rio Grande across from Ruperto Escobar’s ranch in April 2016. The ranch sits along the Rio Grande, the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico, in Starr County in South Texas. For generations smugglers have used the ranch to move people and product across the border, and Escobar doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.”
The conclusions listed in the report point to serious challenges in building some, if not all, of the prototypes as they were erected in San Diego, because of structural issues in their design or with construction
Crossing the Rio Grande has had certain procedural advantages. Immigrants who enter the country illegally are generally eligible to be released on bond, while those who present themselves at the bridges stay in detention
El discurso del nuevo presidente terminó con una invitación a todos los colombianos a hacer un Pacto por el futuro de Colombia. Y la pregunta del millón, es cómo se hará ese pacto y con quiénes y si eso incluye a Macías y a los que piensan como él
The circle is nearly closed. Jimmy Morales, who won power precisely because of his predecessor’s corruption, is now facing down accusations that he committed some of the same transgressions. It was a biblical lesson he apparently missed
The bungling of the investigation in Haiti didn’t even come to light until two veteran DEA agents filed whistleblower complaints that have triggered a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the effectiveness of the DEA’s drug-fighting efforts
Cuatro estudiantes nicaragüenses que la semana pasada estuvieron en Guatemala participando de una actividad académica, explican desde sus posiciones en resistencia, los orígenes de la crisis política que vive Nicaragua desde abril pasado
La reciente muerte de un suboficial de la FAP en el Vraem revela la intensa disputa territorial entre las Fuerzas Armadas y Sendero Luminoso. Cabecilla terrorista ‘Antonio’ busca posicionarse en zonas de producción de droga
Corruption scandals, organized crime, democratic weakening, and an unhelpful new administration in Washington made this a tough year for Latin America. Through it all, journalists and non-governmental organizations were on top of their game.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, and there’s a bias towards coverage of things I didn’t know before. But here are just 17 articles and reports that really stuck with me this year.
Ginger Thompson at ProPublica and National Geographic: “How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico,” June 12, 2017. A Mexican police unit working closely with the DEA leaked sensitive information to the Zetas in 2011. The Zetas used it to massacre dozens, possibly hundreds, in a town near the U.S. border. The DEA did nothing. With photos and recordings from many witnesses—including ex-Zetas and U.S. officials—Thompson reconstructs the horror and what U.S. drug warriors must learn from it. And today, she just published another account of a DEA-linked Zetas massacre, in Monterrey in 2010.
Bryan Avelar and Juan Martínez d’Aubuisson at Revista Factum: “En la Intimidad del Escuadrón de la Muerte de la Policía,” August 22, 2017. Given a presidential green light to use all means to combat gangs, some of El Salvador’s police have been acting like death squads, carrying out extrajudicial executions of people they believe are gang members. The investigation reveals pages of WhatsApp conversations between cops celebrating their killings.
Sarah Chayes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “When Corruption Is the Operating System: The Case of Honduras,” May 30, 2017. Chayes puts Honduras’s kleptocratic networks under a microscope, showing how they penetrate all corners of political and economic power. Reading this makes the feeble U.S. response to its “ally” all the more maddening.
Maye Primera at El Faro and Univisión: “El Salvador, a country sown with death,” October 29, 2017. Fourth in a remarkable four-part series about the migrant trail from Central America’s Northern Triangle to Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica. Should dispel any doubt that a large portion of Central American migrants arriving in the United States right now are fleeing for their lives.
Kimberly Heinle, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk at Justice in Mexico, University of San Diego: “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2016,” March 2017. The geography, the principal actors, and chronological trends in Mexico’s organized-crime violence. A detailed, graphical overview from people who’ve been following this for years.
Juan José Martínez D’Aubuisson and Steven Dudley at InsightCrime: “Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima,” January 26, 2017. A compelling story and an inside look at the late Guatemalan Army Captain, the corrupt, murderous military faction he represented, and how he used his ties to state power and the criminal underworld to thrive while serving a prison term for helping to murder a bishop.
Meridith Kohut and Isayen Herrera at The New York Times: “As Venezuela Collapses, Children Are Dying of Hunger,” December 17, 2017. A difficult read—and even harder photos to view—illustrating the savage result of the Venezuelan government’s ineptitude, dictatorial misrule, and epic corruption.
Michael Smith, Sabrina Valle, and Blake Schmidt at Bloomberg Businessweek: “No One Has Ever Made a Corruption Machine Like This One,” June 8, 2017. “Follow the money” stories are often hard to read because they’re so complicated. Shell companies, offshore banking, and similar mechanisms are hard to understand. This one isn’t hard to read: it’s a well-told walkthrough of Brazil’s massive Odebrecht scandal.
Héctor Silva Ávalos at InsightCrime: “Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade,” June 7, 2017. The coca and cocaine heartland of Colombia’s Pacific coast in the aftermath of the FARC peace accord, as seen through the sharp eyes of a highly regarded Salvadoran journalist .
Alexis Okeowo at The New Yorker: “A Mexican Town Wages Its Own War on Drugs,” November 27, 2017. The story of Nestora Santiago, who organized a civilian “self-defense” force in a small town in the opium-poppy heartland of Guerrero, Mexico. Some residents defend her for making the town safer when corrupt police couldn’t. Others denounce her very real abuses of power, and of human rights.
Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges of a post-conflict Colombia more evident, and perhaps no other part of the world is more indicative of how an economy can be fueled by the production and trafficking of cocaine
El fenómeno SÍ es sistemático. Apabullantemente sistemático. Mirando desde tres perspectivas –semántica, jurídica y estadística– llegamos a la conclusión de que simplemente no es verosímil escamotearle su sistematicidad
A partir de ese día, las zonas se convertirán en Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación, donde los desde ahora exguerrilleros harán todas las actividades necesarias para reincorporase a la vida legal
The DEA took a gamble. It shared the intelligence with a Mexican federal police unit that has long had problems with leaks — even though its members had been trained and vetted by the DEA. Almost immediately, the Treviños learned they’d been betrayed
The software has been used against some of the government’s most outspoken critics and their families, in what many view as an unprecedented effort to thwart the fight against the corruption infecting every limb of Mexican society
De un lado se está convirtiendo en uno de los polos de desarrollo mercantiles, financieros e inmobiliarios más importante del país; y de otro, el crimen organizado se consolida y le muestra sus colmillos a la institucionalidad
Tensions between the two countries could undermine the close law enforcement and security cooperation achieved under the administrations of presidents George W. Bush (2000-2008) and Barack Obama (2008-2016)
Unlike many parts of Arizona, New Mexico and California, where the border is an unseen straight line on the desert floor, the natural barrier of the Rio Grande made wall-building a frustrating experience