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

Podcast: Latin America and the Crisis of Globalization and Multilateralism

Here’s a tri-continental podcast that I recorded yesterday and posted today. It was fun to do, especially since the tech mostly held up. A paper published in March by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Latin America Regional Security Program takes stock of the complicated geopolitical, institutional, economic, and social moment that Latin America and the Caribbean today. It […]

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Lars Schoultz: “I Wrote This Book for People Like You”: Lars Schoultz takes on U.S. “uplifters” of Latin America

I’ve been reading Lars Schoultz’s scholarship on U.S.-Latin America relations since I was in college, and I was delighted that he would record a podcast. The longtime professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published an award-winning book in 2018, In Their Own Best Interest. In it, he takes to task U.S. policymakers […]

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WOLA Podcast: Soldiers and Civilians in Latin America Today

Here’s a conversation we recorded late Friday over a beer. After nearly 30 years of movement away from military rule and toward civilian democracy, Latin America’s armed forces are again playing larger, more political roles. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the trend, with the danger that having soldiers on the streets may again become “normalized” […]

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WOLA Podcast: “Beyond the ‘Narco-State’ Narrative”

I’ll be going back to an interview format for tomorrow’s podcast (if all goes according to plan). Today’s episode, though, is the audio track of a March 20, 2020 WOLA webinar about criminality and corruption in Venezuela, and the viability of a political exit to the crisis. This event is based on a March 11 report by WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey and David […]

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“Right now, that’s what it’s all about”

Walter Benjamin wrote that happiness consists in living without fear. These days, with the state of alarm recently declared, in Spain you cannot live without fear (or at least, without fear for the lives of many people). Nor should it be so: courage does not consist in not being afraid —that is recklessness—but in mastering […]

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Podcast: Peru’s Anti-Corruption Reform Drive

Four podcasts in four days. I don’t know if I’ll keep up the pace, but I’ll stay close. Hopefully these are making life a bit more tolerable for some people out there. In today’s conversation, Cynthia McClintock of George Washington University gives an overview of the current political moment in Peru, where an ongoing anti-corruption […]

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Colombia podcast with Toby Muse

Here’s today’s WOLA Podcast. We should have some going up tomorrow and Friday as well. Toby Muse spent almost two decades as a foreign correspondent in Colombia, where he traveled to dozens of places affected by the war on drugs and recorded innumerable conversations with people—participants in the drug trade, officials, reformers, and victims caught […]

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Notes on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Annual Report

(Cross-posted at colombiapeace.org) On February 25 the Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its annual report on the human rights situation in Colombia. It is a very useful document, full of hard-to-obtain statistics. It also makes some reasoned, high-credibility judgments about controversial topics like implementation of the peace accord […]

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WOLA Podcast: How Corruption Continues to Erode Citizen Security in Central America

Here’s a podcast recorded last Friday with Adriana Beltran and Austin Robles from WOLA’s Central America / Citizen Security program. We talk mostly about setbacks to the anti-corruption fight in Guatemala and Honduras. Good thing we didn’t talk about El Salvador too much, because two days after this conversation, President Nayib Bukele set everything on […]

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Politics and the English language and migration

I pointed this out on Twitter last week, but repeat it here. “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” George Orwell wrote in 1946. “Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” In that amazing essay, “Politics and the English Language” (stop […]

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At the Forum on the Arms Trade’s 2020 Annual Conference

A great conference today hosted by the Forum on the Arms Trade at the Stimson Center, “Beyond the Headlines: Redefining Responsibility in the Arms Trade.” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) gave great opening remarks, and then the panels were really timely and action-oriented. I gave the overview of Latin America. I come on at around the […]

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WOLA Podcast on Venezuela: New Year, New Political Tumult

For Venezuela, 2020 began with new political turmoil, as the Maduro government maneuvered to take over the presidency of the opposition-majority National Assembly. Will this backfire for Maduro? Can the opposition maintain unity? Are negotiations toward new elections feasible? Is the U.S. government sending a coherent message? What about other international actors, like the EU […]

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WOLA Podcast: Protest and Politics in Post-Conflict Colombia

In this podcast, recorded this afternoon, I talk about Colombia with my longtime WOLA colleague Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli. She explains Colombia’s four-week-old wave of social protests, and we talk about the continuing challenge of peace accord implementation, and efforts to protect social leaders. She also covers what we saw and heard during October field research in […]

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