Adam Isacson

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


Week Ahead

The week ahead

I’m in Washington all week, and have a lighter meeting schedule. That’s good because I’m headed back to San Diego and Tijuana the week of February 11th, and would like to do a lot of writing, research, and congressional visits before then.

The week ahead

I’m flying to San Diego tomorrow afternoon. I plan to spend a few days there and in Tijuana learning about the current state of the Central American migrant crisis. I’d wanted to go in December, when the city was struggling to accommodate the caravan, but I had two already-planned visits to Colombia and one to Cuba. My posting to this site will be sporadic this week, but I look forward to writing updates when time allows, and when I return over the weekend.

The week ahead

I’m back in Washington after three weeks of travels, and need to hit the ground running. The week before Christmas tends to be slower at work, but this time it also happens to be the last week of the 115th Congress. Unless Congress and the White House make another deal to postpone things, much of the U.S. government could shut down Friday over Trump’s demand for $5 billion in border-wall money, which we vehemently oppose.

So I expect to be working on that, doing some writing about Colombia, giving a talk at the Inter-American Defense College, and meeting with legislative-branch staff. All while wrapping presents and putting up decorations.

The day/week ahead: December 10, 2018

I’m in Washington, but in meetings all day. Then, I’m traveling the rest of the week. (How to contact me)

I’ve got a weekly staff meeting, a strategy session of defense and arms-control groups much of the afternoon, and a conversation with visiting members of the Colombian Senate’s peace committee. After 9:30 or so, I won’t be at a keyboard and will have difficulty answering my phone.

Tomorrow, I go to Cuba for the first time in five years, for a series of conversations between U.S. and Cuban scholars. I’ll be there the rest of the week. If telecoms have improved since the last time I visited Cuba, I may be reachable. If they haven’t, I may as well be spending the week in the Himalayas.

The day/week ahead: December 4, 2018

I’ll be in Colombia and hard to reach for the rest of the week. (How to contact me)

Greetings from Dulles Airport. I’m headed back to Bogotá for the second time in two weeks. This time I’m on a panel at the Universidad del Rosario, who is bringing together a terrific group of security experts from around the region. There’ll be some side-meetings and private events too. I return to Washington Friday afternoon.

The week ahead: In Bogotá, briefly

I flew down to Bogotá yesterday, arriving quite late last night. I’m here for a closed-door conference on post-conflict “stabilization” hosted by the UN Resident Coordinator’s office. I’m flying back overnight Tuesday, after some meetings with government officials.

Of course, I haven’t finished preparing my presentation yet—but I’ve got most of today free, so that shouldn’t be a problem. With sufficient time, I’d like to post a few things here too, and simply catch up on what’s happening in the region: I sort of lost the thread over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ll be back in Washington Wednesday afternoon. Then, the following Tuesday, I’ll be flying back to Bogotá for another conference, at the Universidad del Rosario, about Colombia’s security sector. It’s sort of like commuting.

The week ahead

Okay. No visitors in town this week, it’s time to get some stuff done. The plan is to finish full first or final drafts of three different long-form articles about Colombia that I’ve been working on. A report based on our early September field research, a chapter for a colleague’s edited volume (which is very late), and the paper I gave at the Latin American Studies Association conference in May (just needs footnotes and a final edit). All are very far along.

In addition, I’m guest-teaching a class at the Foreign Service Institute Tuesday, speaking on a panel at George Mason University Wednesday, and have a sprinkling of other meetings. I also plan to post video of last week’s conference. And then there’s the small matter of the “migrant caravan,” which I’m also covering. So I’m buckled in and ready to go.

The week ahead

Eight guests from Colombia are arriving in Washington today. We’re putting on a big conference with them tomorrow, and have some side meetings around town on Wednesday and Thursday.

That makes for a full schedule. This site will go semi-dormant this week, because I won’t be sitting at a computer keyboard very often.

The week ahead

It’s October. It’s remarkable how quickly this year has gone by—but every time I read a newspaper, I wish it would pass even faster.

This week should be quieter than last. I’ve got a bunch of meetings on my calendar, but no big events. I plan to spend it preparing our big October 16 Colombia conference, and finishing a solid draft of a Colombia report, based on the fieldwork we did at the beginning of September. I’d also like to get our U.S. security assistance research back on track; I feel like our efforts to obtain information from the government, then thoroughly read through and catalogue what we get, are lagging behind.

The Week Ahead

This is going to be one of the busier weeks of the year. I’m speaking on two panels, Monday and Tuesday, about U.S. policy toward Mexico/border and about the origins of Central America’s violence. There’s a Colombia report to finish (or at least nearly finish), based on our field research earlier in the month. There’s a Southcom confirmation hearing on Tuesday. There may be a battle to cover over the border wall and budgets as the U.S. government’s fiscal year ends Sunday, with a potential shutdown (though I doubt it). And we need to move forward preparations for a big Colombia conference we’re holding October 16. (Happily, nearly all panelists we invited from Colombia are able to come.)

The week ahead

I’m in town all five days, but it’s a bit of a scattered week. Several meetings on the calendar, WOLA’s annual human rights awards on Thursday night, some writing to move forward, and organizing an all-day Colombia conference that we’re planning for October 16th. The writing will mostly be drafting a big report based on our fieldwork in Colombia two weeks ago.

The week ahead

As of Saturday evening, I’m back after nine days of travel to Colombia. On the plane, I managed to finish organizing all my notes from our field research into a 57-page matrix. If all goes well, I’ll spend the next several days turning that into a draft report on post-peace-accord security, organized crime trends, protection of social leaders, and human rights.

But the schedule could shift. I’m coming back to September in Washington, and unforeseen work may await regarding the U.S.-Mexico border (will Trump’s border wall cause a government shutdown by September 30?), Guatemala’s CICIG (why were U.S.-donated military vehicles involved in the government effort to shut it down?) or something else.

I’ll actually have a better idea what “the week ahead” is going to look like when I show up at the office in a few hours and talk to everybody about what’s been happening while I was away.

Meanwhile, I’ve had only one day off (yesterday) since August 26, I’m tired and barely unpacked. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my birthday, and I’m determined to take the day off, if only to get a bit organized.

The week ahead

The week before Labor Day is usually a slow one in Washington, but not for me. On Friday I’ll be flying to Colombia, joining two colleagues on a nine-day trip to do some field research (and write a report) and to have a series of meetings in Bogotá.

This week will be spent preparing for that, launching a third and final report based on our June visit to the U.S.-Mexico border (here’s part one and part two), and finishing an article about U.S. policy toward Colombia’s peace process during the Trump administration. Luckily, there aren’t too many commitments on my calendar today through Thursday.

The week ahead

It’s late August. Much of Washington is on vacation (not the Senate, but they’re not working on anything relevant to Latin America this week). There are no public events on my calendar, and just a handful of meetings.

This will be my last week with a relatively quiet schedule. Three of us are headed to Colombia at the end of next week for a research trip. In addition to setting that up, during this week I hope to make lots of progress on—and in some cases finish—a report on the border, a book chapter on crime and corruption in Colombia, and an article about U.S. policy for a Colombian publication.

The week ahead: August 13, 2018

With Congress (mostly) gone, universities out, and a fraction of people on vacation, August is one of the slowest times of the year in Washington, rivaled only by late December. It’s way easier to get a parking space, or a table in a restaurant, than it normally is.

At work, it’s a good time to catch up with people who are in town, to make plans and clear out inboxes, to do writing, coding, or other projects that require uninterrupted blocks of time, and to read books and reports that have been sitting in nearby piles for too long. I hope to do a bit of all of that this week, as long as no emergencies arise.

The week ahead

The usual work will be bookended this week by three events:

  • The launch of a report on the border, part one of a three-parter. Should be posted today.
  • An event with colleagues who just published a book about coca in the Andes, for which I wrote the epilogue.
  • Testifying in a hearing about Colombia Thursday in the House of Representatives’ Lantos Human Rights Commission.

The week ahead

Three of us from WOLA are headed to Arizona tomorrow, where we’ll spend the rest of the week in Yuma, Nogales, Tucson, and across the border in Mexico. We’ll be interviewing pretty much everyone who’ll talk to us about “zero tolerance,” family separation, what is happening at ports of entry, the National Guard deployments, changes to asylum policy, and claims of gang activity.

I plan to post a lot from the road, and crank out a report as quickly as possible upon our return.

One reason I’ve been posting less frequently to this site has been the average 3-4 hours per day I’ve been spending preparing for this trip. Helping set up interviews and putting together what is now a 50-page research matrix has left a lot less time for other tasks, other than covering Colombia’s elections. The plan this week is to keep muddling through.

The Week Ahead

This is the first time in months that I have a few days without travel and not up against a hard deadline. While there are many events to attend this week, I hope to use the time well, doing a lot of writing about Colombia and especially about what’s happening at the border—including planning some possible travel there later this month.

The week ahead

I’m here in Washington all week. Next week I’ll be going to Barcelona for the annual Latin American Studies Association Conference. There, I’ll be presenting a paper about U.S. policy toward Colombia that is far from being finished. Later, we’ll turn that paper into a WOLA publication.

This is shaping up to be a week of intense writing, between 1,000-2,000 words a day plus research. In addition to the LASA paper, I have two memos to finish and a presentation for a class on human rights Friday at the National Defense University’s Perry Center. Plus a “last week in Colombia’s peace process” update. So, lots of coffee this week.

I’ll have to keep my meeting and phone schedule light, so I may be hard to contact all week.

The Week Ahead

I’m in Washington all five days this week, with a lot of commitments on Tuesday and the rest of the week dedicated to writing and research.

I’m talking about Colombia to two State Department audiences Tuesday, and need to finish preparing for that. During the remainder of the week, I’ll be finishing a paper for the annual Latin American Studies Association conference, which takes place at the end of the month. I’ll then expand that into a graphical WOLA report. This week we’ll also start planning a July conference on Colombia.

The week ahead

I’m in Washington all five days this week, with a pretty heavy schedule of meetings and events on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. On one of the other days (probably Thursday) I hope to go off the grid and do a large amount of writing.

On Friday I’m a panelist at a closed-door State Department discussion of Colombia; I’m almost done with my presentation for that. This should be a good week to finish, or nearly finish, the paper on Colombia that I’ll be presenting on a panel at the Latin American Studies Association conference at the end of May.

The Week Ahead

Again, I’m in Washington all week, this time with a lighter meeting schedule. Which means it’s time to catch up for real on writing. First order of business is backlogged Colombia peace process updates for the month of April. Second is to pay more attention to this site.

I also expect to prepare a Colombia talk that I’ll be giving before a State Department audience late next week, and to start writing a paper about Colombia’s peace process that I’ll present at the Latin American Studies Association’s annual meeting at the end of May.

Later in the week we’ll be helping USIP host a group of victims’ advocates from the Medellín city government, who are brought here by George Mason University.

The week ahead

I’m in Washington all five days this week, for a change. (Last week I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando, at a very good workshop on military assistance hosted by the University of Central Florida. Then I spent the entire weekend in New York visiting family.)

As of now, I’ve got about 16 hours of meetings and calls on the calendar, which leaves at least some time for research, writing, and communicating.

Most of that will be about Colombia this week. I’ll have a short piece coming out about the current state of the peace process. And more updates posted here. And later in the week—hopefully, unless I run out of time—an update on the state of border-security spending and construction.

Over the weekend I’ll be completing final responses to comments on the USAID project evaluation for which I spent February in Colombia.

The week ahead

On Wednesday and Thursday, I have several meetings with State and USAID officials to discuss the evaluation that had me in Colombia for all of February. That work is now all but done.

Otherwise, I’ll be spending this relatively quiet week (Congress is out of session) in several other meetings around Washington, cranking out some short writing about the border, and making progress on a longer report about Colombia.

The Week Ahead

This will be the first time in seven weeks that I’ll be in Washington all 5 days. Looking forward to getting a lot of research and writing done, plus some work with Capitol Hill: March 23 is the latest 2018 budget deadline, and we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Trump’s initial border wall request.

The USAID evaluation that sent me to Colombia for all of February is now largely behind me. We’ve got a big draft done, and hopefully there will be just small additions and changes to do from now on. One of the main lessons I’ll take from that experience is how to do fieldwork in a way that lets you turn around a big trip report within two weeks. (It routinely takes us four months or more.)

The day/week ahead, February 25, 2018

I’ll be very hard to reach all week. (How to contact me)

This is the last of four weeks in Colombia working on an evaluation team for a USAID project. I spent last week in Norte de Santander department, both the area near the Venezuela border and the Catatumbo region in the north.

Now I’m somewhere else in Colombia, where the internet access is pretty spotty. It took me a long time to upload this panoramic view of the city of Ocaña from last Thursday morning.

(Click to expand—but be warned it’s a 10MB image. You can see the old colonial core in the foreground, and in the background the hillside neighborhoods built by 21st century arrivals, many of them displaced by violence in the nearby Catatumbo region.)

I return to the United States next weekend. Though I’ll be giving a talk at a college in New York state on Monday March 5, I’ll be settling back into the work routine shortly afterward.

The day/week ahead: February 19, 2018

I’ll be hard to reach today and all week. (How to contact me)

I’ve left Bogotá and am now in another part of Colombia, where I’ll be until Friday night. With a full schedule of meetings and some time in remote areas, I’ll be hard to reach all week.

The week ahead

I’m in Bogotá all week—just arrived Sunday afternoon. It’s the first of four weeks in Colombia. 23 or 24 interviews and meetings on the calendar right now, nearly all of them related to the project that has me here.

They put me in a nice hotel with fast (if insecure) internet access. So I look forward to updating this site a bit in the mornings and evenings.

The Week Ahead

There is almost no time during the next four days when I won’t be in a meeting.

WOLA’s annual planning process is in full swing. At the same time, I’m in a series of initial meetings for a project that will have me in Colombia for the entire month of February: I’m on a team evaluating a big USAID post-conflict assistance program. It’s going to be a fascinating experience that will have me in several remote areas of the country. I’ll explain more about that later in a separate post, probably next week.

All of this activity will limit what I can post to this site this week. But I’ll do my best.

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