Adam Isacson

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

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WOLA Podcast

Finding a Way Out of Ecuador’s Crisis: A New Commentary and Podcast at wola.org

We just launched two resources about Ecuador that have been in the works all month: a mini-report and a podcast.

First, the report: Why Ecuador Should Not Replicate the ‘Bukele Model’.

Among several reasons:

  • Ecuador is 13 times larger than El Salvador.
  • If Ecuador were to imprison as much of its population as Bukele has, it’d be like locking up the entire city of Manta.
  • Thanks to drug prohibition and so much cocaine passing through the country, Ecuador’s criminal groups are much wealthier.

“Here are some numbers that explain why Ecuador should not replicate El Salvador’s model of mass incarceration. If Noboa were to emulate what El Salvador has done over the past two years, the human and financial costs would be enormous, and the results in terms of public safety would be middling at best.”

Read the whole thing here.


Second, the podcast: From Under the Radar to State of Exception: Getting Beyond Stopgap Solutions to Ecuador’s Violence

From WOLA’s podcast landing page:

While this isn’t the first time Ecuador’s government has declared a state of exception, the prominence of organized crime and the consequential rise in insecurity is a new reality for the country. Ecuador has seen a six-fold homicide rate increase in three years; it is now South America’s worst, and Ecuadorians are the second nationality, behind Venezuelans, fleeing through the Darién Gap.

How did this happen? How can Ecuador’s government, civil society, and the international community address it?

This episode features International Crisis Group Fellow and author of the recent report Ecuador’s Descent Into Chaos, Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche, and John Walsh, WOLA’s director for drug policy and the Andes. The discussion covers how Ecuador suddenly reached such high levels of insecurity, the implications of President Daniel Noboa’s state of emergency and “state of internal armed conflict” declarations, an evaluation of international drug markets and state responses, and a look at U.S. policy.

Gonzalez attributes the lead-up to Ecuador’s violent new reality to three factors:

  • Ecuador’s gradual transition into a position of high importance in the international drug trade.
  • The prison system crisis and the government’s incapacity to address it.
  • The fragmentation of Ecuadorian criminal groups after the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC and the decline of Los Choneros, a criminal group with former hegemonic control.

Gonzalez describes the state of emergency as “a band-aid solution to control the situation now, but not looking really to tackle these structural problems.”

Walsh describes Ecuador’s case as a “wake up call” to the consequences of the drug war prohibitionist approach: “This isn’t just a drug policy question. This is a question about democracies delivering on the basic needs of their citizens, which is security. And I think prohibition in the drug war doesn’t support security. It tends to undermine it.” John calls on the international community to recognize this as a humanitarian issue as well, indicating that “people are basically held hostage. Not in their house, but in their whole community.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: A Tumultuous Presidential Inauguration Heralds a New Chapter in Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Struggle

Here’s a podcast about Guatemala’s new president and the challenges he faces. I recorded it yesterday with Ana María and Jo-Marie from WOLA. This is a lively one, and I think I’m definitely getting better at sound editing. Here’s the text from the podcast landing page at wola.org:

After relentless attempts to block his inauguration and a nine-hour delay, Bernardo Arévalo, who ran for Guatemala’s presidency on an anti-corruption platform, was sworn into office minutes after midnight on January 14.

In this highly educational episode, WOLA Director for Central America Ana María Méndez Dardón is joined by WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt. Both were in Guatemala witnessing the high-tension event that was Arévalo’s inauguration. They cover the frustration, excitement, and symbolism that characterized the day, while also diving into a host of topics surrounding the state of Guatemala’s democracy.

They assess the main threats to Arevalo’s leadership and the goals of his party, Movimiento Semilla, particularly those related to addressing corruption and impunity. Ana Maria and Jo-Marie touch on the distinct roles of Guatemalan indigenous communities, the United States, and the private sector. They describe the hope that Arevalo represents for the Guatemalan people in terms of security, justice, and the rule of law, while identifying the harsh realities of deeply embedded corruption a recalcitrant high court and attorney general.

Read Ana María’s January 9 commentary, Ushering in a New Period: Bernardo Arévalo’s Opportunities and Challenges to Restoring Democracy in Guatemala, for a readable, in-depth analysis of these topics.

Download the podcast episode’s .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: Understanding Regional Migration in an Election Year

Here’s a podcast about current regional migration trends that I recorded last Friday with Maureen and Stephanie from WOLA. They were brilliant. Here’s the text from the podcast landing page at wola.org:

As congressional negotiations place asylum and other legal protection pathways at risk, and as we approach a 2024 election year with migration becoming a higher priority for voters in the United States, we found it important to discuss the current moment’s complexities.

WOLA’s vice president for Programs, Maureen Meyer, former director for WOLA’s Mexico Program and co-founder of WOLA’s migration and border work, is joined by Mexico Program Director Stephanie Brewer, whose work on defense of human rights and demilitarization in Mexico has focused often on the rights of migrants, including a visit to the Arizona-Sonora border at the end of 2023.

This episode highlights some of the main migration trends and issues that we should all keep an eye on this year, including:

  • Deterrence efforts will never reduce migration as long as the reasons people are fleeing remain unaddressed (the long-standing “root causes” approach). Such policies will only force people into more danger and fuel organized crime. “The question is not, are people going to migrate? The question is, where, how, and with who?”, explains Brewer.
  • For this reason, maintaining consistent and reliable legal pathways is more important than ever, and the ongoing assaults on these pathways—including the right to seek asylum and humanitarian parole—are harmful and counterproductive.
  • There can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for the variety of populations currently in movement, and the focus should no longer be on ineffective policies of deterrence and enforcement. “It’s a long term game that certainly doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker for political campaigns,” Meyer points out.
  • Organized crime is a huge factor in regional migration—both as a driver of migration and as a facilitator. Official corruption and impunity enable these systems, a point that migration policies often fail to address. Brewer notes that during her trip to Arizona’s southern border in December 2023, the vast majority of migrants she spoke to were Mexican, and among them, the vast majority cited violence and organized crime as the driving factor. In recent months, Mexican families have been the number one nationality coming to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum.
  • It is a regional issue, not just a U.S. issue, as people are seeking asylum and integration in many different countries. Mexico, for instance, received 140,000 asylum applications in 2023. This makes integration efforts extremely important: many people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border had attempted to resettle elsewhere first. “It’s a twofold of the legal status itself, but then real integration efforts that are both economic and educational, but also addressing xenophobia and not creating resentment in local communities,” explains Meyer.

Download the podcast episode’s .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: A Review Of 2023 in the Americas with WOLA President Carolina Jiménez Sandoval

The last WOLA Podcast episode of the year is with my boss and our president, Carolina Jiménez Sandoval. We talk about what’s happened in Latin America in 2023 and what our plans are for 2024, WOLA’s 50th anniversary year, in four areas: democracy, migration, climate, and gender and racial justice.

Here’s the text of WOLA’s podcast landing page.

As WOLA approaches its 50th anniversary, four areas are orienting our work alongside partners in the Americas: democracy, migration, climate, as well as gender and racial justice. It is a challenging moment for all four. Several democracies are under assault, forced migration is at historic levels, climate impacts are a bigger part of everyday life, and progress on gender and racial equity is fragile.

In this 2023 year-end podcast episode, WOLA’s President, Carolina Jiménez Sandoval, takes stock of trends and concerns in all four of these areas. There is much to do in 2024, and Jiménez explains how, as it enters its next 50 years, WOLA is aligning its research, advocacy, communications, and relationships to fight for human rights.

Download the podcast episode’s .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyiHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Planning, Unity, and Discipline: Non-Violent Social Change in the Americas

I learned a lot recording this WOLA Podcast episode with two scholar-practitioners who work with non-violent activists around the Americas. I found the advice and insights that María Belén Garrido and Jeff Pugh offered are very relevant for a time when authoritarian populists are gaining power and controlling public conversations. Here’s the overview from WOLA’s podcast landing page.

Maria Belén Garrido of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and FLACSO Ecuador, and Jeffrey Pugh, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and director of the Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC), lead the Regional Institute for the Study and Practice of Strategic Nonviolent Action in the Americas.

The Institute provides training, capacity building, and networking opportunities for nonviolent social change activists in Latin America. It teaches that the success of non-violent strategies depends on the crucial “trinity” of planning, unity, and discipline.

Garrido and Pugh provide numerous examples of nonviolent movements in Latin America at the local and national levels, from communities declaring themselves “peace zones” in Colombia to worker “slowdown” strikes in Chile under Pinochet. They emphasize being creative with tactics like strikes, boycotts, protests, using art and music, and leveraging media and communication.

An ongoing challenge is confronting the rise of authoritarian populism and leaders who try to control narratives and media. Maintaining nonviolent discipline is crucial to avoid playing into the hands of repressive regimes. Building diverse coalitions and identifying strategic pressure points instead of relying solely on mass messaging may be especially important today.

“When a great amount of people, especially a diversity of people, in ages and ethnicities, go to the streets, then probably the social distance from the members of the forces that will repress them is lower and narrower,” Garrido observes here. “And this will reduce the amount of repression.”

Resources from the Institute can be found at accionnoviolenta.org: the “Relatos de la Resistencia Noviolenta” podcast, blog posts by regional activists, and an online course, one edition of which just got underway in early October 2023.

Download the podcast episode’s .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Promo Video for Today’s WOLA Mexico Podcast

As I noted earlier today, I recorded a great podcast yesterday with the director of WOLA’s Mexico program, Stephanie Brewer. It’s about a report they published last week about the growing power of Mexico’s armed forces, and how hard it is to hold them accountable for human rights abuse even as they confront, and arrest, thousands of people per year while carrying out policing missions.

Here’s WOLA’s podcast landing page. And here’s the podcast, embedded:

WOLA Podcast on Mexico: “Demilitarization is not going to happen from one day to the next. But there needs to be that commitment”

I recorded a great podcast yesterday with the director of WOLA’s Mexico program, Stephanie Brewer. It’s about a report they published last week about the growing power of Mexico’s armed forces, and how hard it is to hold them accountable for human rights abuse even as they confront, and arrest, thousands of people per year while carrying out policing missions.

Here’s the language from WOLA’s podcast landing page.

A new report from WOLA dives deeply into the growing power and roles of Mexico’s military, and what that means for human rights, democracy, and U.S.-Mexico relations.

WOLA’s Mexico Program published Militarized Transformation: Human Rights and Democratic Controls in a Context of Increasing Militarization in Mexico on September 6. The report voices alarm about the Mexican armed forces’ growing list of civilian tasks, and civilians’ diminishing ability to hold military personnel accountable for human rights abuse and other illegal behavior.

In some new findings, Militarized Transformation reveals official data showing that the military isn’t even reporting its arrests of civilians to civilian security authorities and oversight bodies. The report updates and group together various indicators regarding the justice system and respect for fundamental rights by the security forces, with a focus on the armed forces and the National Guard, as well as the differentiated impacts and situations faced by women. And it makes a series of short-term and long-term recommendations for needed reforms.

This podcast episode features the report’s principal author, Stephanie Brewer, WOLA’s director for Mexico. Brewer discusses the report’s main findings, conclusions, and recommendations, along with a general view of Mexico’s democracy, civil-military relations, and U.S. policy.

“We recognize militarization is is the reality we’re currently working in,” Brewer concludes. “But while that’s going on, what possible reason could there be for the country to want the armed forces not to be operating under effective civilian control or not to be transparent about things like their use of force? Or not to be fully giving information to Congress? That would have to be something that that is in everybody’s interest in the short term.”

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Militarized Transformation is the latest of several WOLA reports examining the military’s growing power in Mexico and its human rights and democracy implications. Among them:

WOLA Podcast: Venezuela: “The Way out of This Situation Has to be Through a Democratic and Peaceful Solution”

I learned a lot about the current moment in Venezuela during this podcast conversation with one of my newest colleagues, Laura Dib, the recently arrived director of WOLA’s Venezuela Program. Here’s the overview text from WOLA’s podcast landing page.

In this podcast, Laura Cristina Dib, WOLA’s director for Venezuela, discusses the daunting political situation in Venezuela with WOLA’s Adam Isacson.

Venezuela is to hold presidential elections at some point in 2024. Whether they will be at least somewhat free and fair is unlikely but far from impossible. It is a goal that must guide the international community and Venezuelan civil society.

The episode covers the recent naming of a new National Electoral Council, a seemingly technical step with wide-ranging consequences; the need for a clear and transparent electoral timetable; and the importance of updating voter rolls and other crucial steps for the elections’ credibility.

Laura Dib notes a recent increase in repression, threats, and disqualification of candidates as the Maduro regime appears to grow uneasy. That makes the international role increasingly important—as it has been in Guatemala’s elections—starting with a stronger commitment to a humanitarian agreement, which resulted from the 2022 negotiations and has yet to be implemented. “International” includes Venezuela’s neighbors, like Brazil and Colombia.

“There’s always hope, I don’t think that everything is lost,” Dib concludes. “I think that there’s always opportunity, and I continue to work very closely with a civil society that is more knowledgeable than ever on how to advocate for their rights beyond their borders.”

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: “Fentanyl: ‘What sounds tough isn’t necessarily a serious policy'”

One of the benefits of hosting WOLA’s podcast is learning something new from the people I interview. I learned a lot in this one about the seemingly intractable problem of fentanyl trafficking. I spoke here with my colleagues John Walsh, who runs WOLA’s Drug Policy Program, and Stephanie Brewer, who runs our Mexico Program. Both were clear, informed, and on their game. Highly recommended.

Here’s the language from WOLA’s podcast landing page:

Record overdose deaths in the United States have fixed attention on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, synthesized mainly in Mexico, that is highly addictive and very small in volume. WOLA’s director for drug policy, John Walsh, and director for Mexico, Stephanie Brewer, argue that the challenge fentanyl poses demands a fundamental rethinking of the U.S. approach to illicit drugs.

Today, however, the sense of crisis has escalated so much that, even with an administration that is open to “harm-reduction” approaches to drug policy, policymakers and lawmakers are turning to the get tough recipes of the drug war’s past 50 years.

A push to use military force and demand crackdowns is harming relations with Mexico, where top leadership inaccurately denies that fentanyl is produced. A push to increase incarceration at home threatens to repeat some of the tragic mistakes of the recent past, in which strong-sounding policies did great damage to both Latin America (measured by crime and instability) and the United States (measured by overdose deaths and other harms).

All pure fentanyl consumed in the United States in an entire year can fit inside the beds of two pickup trucks. The drug is “un-interdictable.” Walsh and Brewer argue here that fentanyl’s rise makes evident the need for a harm reduction approach that saves lives and helps people recover from addiction, while working with Mexico to address the conditions that allow organized crime to thrive.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: “’We can’t deter our way out of this’: a view from the Honduras-Nicaragua border”

From here in Honduras, we recorded a new episode of WOLA’s podcast: “‘We can’t deter our way out of this‘: a view from the Honduras-Nicaragua border,” where more than 1,000 migrants per day are arriving from the south.

This is a quick reaction—and discussion of solutions—with my colleagues Maureen Meyer, Joy Olson, and Ana Lucía Verduzco, who were with me over the past few days to witness a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Here’s the text from the podcast landing page at wola.org.

This podcast was recorded in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where WOLA staff are on a field visit to research migration. Four current and former WOLA staff members—Adam Isacson, Maureen Meyer, Ana Lucia Verduzco, and Joy Olson—visited the Honduras-Nicaragua border region over the April 29-30 weekend.

While there, we saw—and spoke with—migrants who had just entered the country from the south, after a harrowing journey through Panama’s Darién Gap and a hostile reception in Nicaragua. We found:

  • Hundreds of people, from numerous countries, out in sweltering heat. Many were traveling as families, often with small children.
  • People waiting to obtain documents that would allow them to take an expensive day-long bus ride onward to Guatemala.
  • Aid workers—from the Honduran government, humanitarian organizations, and local civil society—doing their best to manage the situation and minimize harm. But struggling to do so with very limited resources.
  • A Honduran policy that refuses to detain or deport migrants in nearly all cases: a recognition of reality that has reduced the reach of organized crime.
  • Migrants regarding Honduras as one of the less arduous stretches of the U.S.-bound migrant route. Honduras is in a “sandwich” between harsher policies in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
  • A wide variety in migrants’ knowledge of what lies ahead, from the dangers of the journey, to the requirements for asylum, to the U.S. government’s confusing and ever-changing policies, pathways, and obstacles, like the “Title 42” expulsion policy that is expected to end on May 11, 2023.

Overall, we can’t help but conclude:

  • Nobody should have to go through this. What we saw is as severe as one would expect to see from people fleeing an armed conflict. People aren’t fleeing what would be defined as a “conflict”—they are fleeing a 21st century phenomenon of their countries becoming unlivable for a combination of reasons. What we witnessed is the result of governance failures in the region, antiquated migration policies in the United States, and a failure to cooperate and communicate all along the migration route.
  • Because of this, we’re not going to be able to deter our way out of this. Threatening ever harsher obstacles has failed in the past, it will fail now, and it will carry a terrible human toll.
  • But until we see fundamental change to U.S. migration policy, and to the conditions forcing people to leave, our communities and the migrants alike will be stuck with a patchwork of partial pathways to legal migration: from asylum to humanitarian parole to partial, inconsistent temporary worker and refugee programs.

Considering the magnitude of the crisis we witnessed at the Honduras-Nicaragua border, today’s measures are all woefully partial, and no substitute for real reform.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: “The days of hoping for a magical solution are long gone”: Geoff Ramsey on Venezuela

Pleased to share a new WOLA Podcast episode with Geoff Ramsey, who until very recently—before making a move to the Atlantic Council—was WOLA’s director for Venezuela. I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the ongoing political negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition, and this was an eye-opening overview.

Here’s the blurb from WOLA’s podcast landing page:

About a quarter of Venezuela’s population has fled the country after years of economic crisis, corruption, and authoritarianism. Efforts to bring a return to accountable, democratic rule continue, most notably through a negotiated process facilitated by Norway.

There is little reason to expect a short-term outcome, says Geoff Ramsey, who until recently directed WOLA’s Venezuela Program. Ramsey is now a senior fellow for Venezuela and Colombia at the Atlantic Council.

In this episode of WOLA’s Podcast, Ramsey calls for patient support for the ongoing negotiations, implementation of a 2022 humanitarian agreement, a more strategically unified opposition, more engaged neighbors, and a clearer U.S. policy at a time when Venezuela is getting “less bandwidth” in Washington.

Above all, Geoff Ramsey cautions against expecting dramatic change anytime soon, as many did during the Trump administration. Bringing Venezuela back to rights-respecting democracy is a “long game,” with 2024 elections just one milestone along the way.

Follow Geoff Ramsey on Twitter at @GRamsey_LatAm.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: Guatemala: An Eroding Democracy Approaches New Elections

Guatemala’s presidential vote happens June 25. But candidates are being excluded, and anti-corruption leaders are being jailed and exiled. As gains made since a 1985 democratic transition face threats, I discuss ways forward with with Ana María Méndez Dardón, WOLA’s Director for Central America, and with Will Freeman, Fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Here’s the text from WOLA’s page for this episode.

As in much of Central America, Guatemala’s democracy has deteriorated recently. Progress on human rights and accountability, made since a 1985 transition to democracy and a 1996 peace accord, is either threatened or reversed. The judicial system has been turned against people who had fought during the 2010s to hold corrupt individuals accountable.

Elections are drawing near, with the first round scheduled for June 25. Candidates are being disqualified, while judicial workers and journalists continue to be imprisoned or exiled. U.S. policy upholds reformers at times, but is inconsistent and hard to pin down.

This episode discusses Guatemala’s current challenges with Ana María Méndez Dardón, WOLA’s Director for Central America, and with Will Freeman, Fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

See also:

WOLA Podcast: Peru’s Turmoil and “the Danger of a Much Deeper Crisis”

Perhaps you’ve been focused on the crisis at the border, the gang crackdown in El Salvador, Brazil’s presidential transition, human rights violations in Venezuela and Nicaragua, Colombia’s peace talks, or something else. But Peru is having a moment that, if unaddressed, could quickly devolve into something much worse.

I spoke to Jo-Marie Burt, a senior fellow at WOLA who closely follows Peru, to talk about what’s been happening. It’s very much worth a listen. Here’s the content of WOLA’s podcast landing page.

A deeply divided country with the world’s highest COVID death rate, Peru has suffered a series of political crises. After the latest, it is now governed by its seventh president in less than seven years.

December 2022 has seen a president’s failed attempt to dissolve Congress and subsequent jailing, and now large-scale protests met with a military crackdown. Divisions between the capital, Lima, and the rural, largely indigenous interior have been heightened by President Pedro Castillo’s exit. The military is playing a more active, openly political, role.

WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt explains how Peru got here, the political divisions, the role of the international community, and the dangerous—but avoidable—possible outcomes of the present crisis.

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: Unprotected at the U.S.-Mexico Border

For the latest episode of WOLA’s far-too-infrequent podcast, three colleagues and I talked for nearly an hour about what we saw and heard during a week along the U.S.-Mexico border in mid-November. We’re definitely still processing it.

Here’s the text from WOLA’s website:

During a week in mid-November, WOLA staff visited both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, west through Tucson and Nogales, and on to Yuma and San Luis Río Colorado. We spoke to shelter personnel, advocates, experts, service providers, and many migrants.

The migrants we met were stranded in Mexican border cities, fleeing violence and state failure but unable to ask for protection in the United States, a right normally enshrined in U.S. law, due to ongoing Trump and Biden administration policies.

Many were from Venezuela, whose citizens the United States began expelling into Mexico, under the 33-month-old Title 42 pandemic authority, in mid-October. Many were from Central America and Mexico. Some were living in overwhelmed shelters, many others were living in a tent encampment where nighttime temperatures dropped to freezing.

In this episode, WOLA staff talk about what we saw and heard on this trip at a time when the largest obstacle to seeking asylum in the United States may be about to fall. A federal judge struck down Title 42 on November 15, while we were traveling. It could finally be lifted, and the right to seek asylum at least somewhat restored, by December 21. We discuss what may come next, and what new maneuvers the Biden administration is contemplating to deter migrants from seeking asylum after Title 42 ends.

Four WOLA staff members who visited the border in November participate in this episode:

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

WOLA Podcast: “What happens with the Petro government could become a model for engaging with the region”

My WOLA colleague Gimena Sánchez was in Colombia for the June 19 election that brought a left candidate to power there for the first time in nearly anyone’s lifetime. We recorded a podcast about it on Friday, and here it is. Here’s the blurb from WOLA’s podcast site.

Colombia’s June 19 presidential election had a historic result: the first left-of-center government in the country’s modern history. Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla who demobilized over 30 years ago, will be sworn in to the presidency on August 7. His running mate, Afro-Colombian social movement leader and environmental defender Francia Márquez, will be Colombia’s next vice president.

WOLA’s director for the Andes, Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, was in Colombia on election day, and has a lot to share about what she saw and heard. She and host Adam Isacson talk about what made Petro’s victory possible—including high levels of popular discontent. They discuss the political transition so far, the immediate challenges of governability and tax revenue, implications for implementing Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, and hope for greater participation of women, Afro-descendant, Indigenous, and LGBTI Colombians.

The discussion covers areas of potential disagreement with a U.S. government that has long made Colombia its largest aid recipient, including drug policy, trade, and Venezuela policy. Sánchez and Isacson also discuss new areas of potential U.S.-Colombian cooperation, including judicial strengthening and implementation of peace accord commitments that could stabilize long-ungoverned territories.

Links to recent WOLA analysis of Colombia’s elections:

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

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