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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Politics and Security

Lights are going out around the region

What a horrible three days for press freedom in the Americas. On Friday, Nicaraguan police raided, and trashed, the offices of the investigative web publication Confidencial, which has been an indispensable and very credible source of coverage of the country’s slide into democracy. Confidencial has been around since 1996. Over the weekend El Nacional, which […]

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“Concrete actions”

Nicaraguan journalist Dánae Vílchez in the Washington Post on Friday: The United States has taken some important steps, including the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act that was approved this week by Congress, a bill that would place conditions on the “approval of loans to the Ortega regime by international financial institutions,” and expand the Magnistky sanctions on people […]

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Trust in security institutions across Latin America

All credit here goes to the Chile-based Latinobarómetro polling organization, which carries out an annual public-opinion survey in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. The 2018 poll (PDF) is a fascinating read. For an upcoming presentation, I wanted to know what the poll said about how Latin Americans are viewing the three government institutions […]

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Writing from a long Miami airport layover

I’m back from Havana. This is the second time I’ve participated in an annual “series of conversations” between U.S. and Cuban scholars and diplomats—the last time was 2013. It was an honor to be on the list of invited Americans, most of whom—unlike me—are Cuba specialists. It was a lot of panels, and I learned […]

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The End of One-Party Rule is the End of Trump’s Border Wall

Even before the Democratic Party won majority control of the House of Representatives, it wasn’t clear how Donald Trump was going to be able to get his border wall through Congress, which must approve the funding for it. Senate rules make it possible to block big budget outlays—like $25 billion for a wall—if 60 senators […]

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My pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) House spreadsheet

I hesitate to share this because it reveals how unhinged the midterm elections have made me. But here’s a spreadsheet of 70 House districts that could conceivably go either way in tomorrow’s vote. To win a majority of the House of Representatives, Democrats will have to carry 33 of these 70. Nearly half. That is, […]

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The new Brazil

From Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept: Last week, one candidate from Bolsonaro’s party, Rodrigo Amorim, shocked and disgusted even some far-right supporters. Wearing a t-shirt with a pistol pointed forward, he took, destroyed, and then on social media proudly displayed an unofficial street sign made to commemorate the life of Marielle Franco, the black, LGBT human […]

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A huge setback for civil-military relations in Guatemala

I was disappointed to see Guatemala’s military—which had briefly taken a reformist direction—aggressively, enthusiastically supporting President Jimmy Morales’s crackdown on the CICIG anti-corruption body. WOLA has just posted a piece I wrote about that. What’s happened with Guatemala’s army since August 31 obliterates a few halting steps that it had taken toward being a credible, accountable […]

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Un-Uribe-like

One of the central questions in Colombian politics this year: how independent is the new president, Iván Duque—a 42-year-old technocrat with a light political resume—from his political party’s 500-watt boss, the incendiary far-right former president Álvaro Uribe? The word “puppet” gets tossed around a lot. But Duque is in fact showing some genuine flashes of […]

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I keep rereading this paragraph

“For many Argentines, then, the military represented not a subjugation to arbitrary rule, but a release from the frustrations, complexity, and compromises of representative government. A large part of society clasped with joy the extended hand of totalitarian certainty. Life was suddenly simplified by conformity to a single, uncontested power. For those who cherish democracy, […]

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The past week in Colombia’s peace process

(Week of August 12-18) Constitutional Court Upholds, Modifies Law Governing Transitional Justice System Colombia’s maximum judicial review body, the Constitutional Court, completed an 8½-month review of the law governing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which is the body that the peace accords set up to put on trial, and punish, those who committed war […]

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Nicaragua and Latin America’s “rancid” left

Some unnamed Nicaraguan student protest leaders, interviewed by Plaza Pública while on a visit to Guatemala, have run out of patience with the moldy 20th-century Latin American leftists who—out of misplaced “solidarity”—won’t speak out against Daniel Ortega’s abuses. Plaza Pública: You define yourselves as leftists, but the Ortega government holds up the flag of the […]

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Two speeches show the bipolar nature of Colombia’s new ruling party

Inauguration day in Colombia, August 7, will be remembered for two speeches that left observers scratching their heads about what direction the new government of President Iván Duque will take the country. Duque gave an hourlong speech listing dozens of policy priorities. There were so many, it was hard to pick out those he viewed […]

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An early incident casts doubt on the incoming Colombian president’s independence—and the peace accord’s future

An incident late last week in Bogotá, getting reported as hearsay in Colombia’s media, raises serious concerns about the independence of President-Elect Iván Duque from his patron, the hardline former president and current Senator Álvaro Uribe. It also raises concerns that the peace accord with the FARC, which Duque and Uribe both criticize but Duque […]

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