I just sent off another e-mail update to those who’ve subscribed. It includes:
- Our statement on the brutal response to protests in Colombia;
- A link to last week’s podcast about U.S. policy toward Central America;
- A link to my Saturday NPR interview about the new ICE nominee and organizational culture issues at our border and immigration agencies;
- Full text of this week’s Colombia peace update;
- Full text of this week’s U.S.-Mexico border update;
- Latin America-related online events for this week;
- And a handful of funny tweets.
And here’s the introductory blurb, with a few initial thoughts about the past few days’ bad news in El Salvador and Colombia:
When I was in college in the early nineties, El Salvador was showing Latin America that a bitter civil war could end in negotiations, and that a country with a long history of dictatorship could start opening up and transitioning to democracy. Twenty-five years later, in the mid-2010s, Colombia held up hope that, once again, a negotiation between longtime combatants could usher in a new moment of hope, tranquility, political participation, and more inclusive governance.
Those hopeful moments had a lot of influence on me and my work. That has made it more painful to watch the past few days’ events in both countries.
As soon as it was seated, a legislative supermajority in El Salvador spent Saturday night firing the independent Constitutional Court and Attorney General, on behalf of authoritarian-trending President Nayib Bukele. Even Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted disapproval.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s security forces have responded in brutal and escalatory fashion to protests around the country: I can’t handle (or verify) the volume of abuse denunciations in my WhatsApp, Twitter, email, and other feeds. The death and injury is happening in several cities. This indicates to me that Colombia’s government—which the U.S. government describes as a close ally—has very likely given a green light to unaccountable state violence against those who dare to speak out against it, all in the name of fighting vandals and looters on the margins of otherwise peaceful gatherings.
It’s heartbreaking watching this sharp backward lurch. But there are a few reasons for hope. The Biden administration, for now at least, has broken with historical U.S. patterns and sent strong public rebukes of El Salvador’s putatively pro-U.S. leader. The U.S. government has been silent so far on Colombia, but the mere fact that street protests are able to persist—and forced President Iván Duque to withdraw a regressive tax reform—is encouraging. That would probably have been unthinkable before the peace accord, when protesters were easily marginalized by stigmatizing them as plainclothes guerrillas.
Still, it was an awful weekend for democracy in the Americas.
Most of what’s in this email was written before the weekend, with the exception of the below statement about Colombia that we rushed out on Sunday night. Otherwise, below you’ll find a podcast, a quick NPR interview about ICE and CBP organizational culture, weekly Colombia and border updates, links to upcoming events, and some funny tweets.