Are ISIS terrorists in Mexico, preparing to attack the United States? U.S. officials say, ‘no,’ but not everyone believes that’s the case.
From Fox News Houston, which goes on to cite no evidence whatsoever.
In fact, the brutal fundamentalist group has so far showed almost no interest in attacking the United States on its soil, as the New York Times observed last week.
ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call “the near enemy” — leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria — and not “the far enemy” of the United States and Europe. … Nowhere in the hourlong [ISIS video] production — full of threats, drive-by shootings, explosions and gunfights — does an ISIS fighter mention the United States or directly mention or threaten Israel.
- “Central American migrants face grueling journey north,” by Alfredo Corchado, The Dallas Morning News.
From an excellent series in which the veteran Mexico correspondent travels the length of the train routes used by Central American migrants. Along with the Associated Press, Corchado finds that the route has become more dangerous because of Mexico’s new, U.S.-backed southern border security strategy. Animal Político reviews what is new in that strategy.
- “Media Roundup: Does Mexico Need A New Military-Style Police Force?,” by Nathaniel Parish Flannery, Forbes.
Mexico also just launched its Gendarmería, a 5,000-person mobile, sort of paramilitary police unit, a watered-down version of something that President Enrique Peña Nieto had proposed during the 2012 campaign. Flannery reviews coverage and commentary. See also Alejandro Hope wondering what the Gendarmería’s purpose is, and Fundar raising human rights and civil-military relations concerns.
- “El ventilador del ‘hacker’,” Semana (Colombia).
In a cover story that rocked Colombian politics this week, a computer hacker detained for his role in illegal communications intercepts alleges that the campaign of President Juan Manuel Santos’s right-wing opponents, along with some military officers, urged him to hack into the e-mail accounts of government peace negotiators and even the President.
- “Los agujeros negros de la mesa de La Habana,” by Tony López, Las 2 Orillas (Colombia).
The Havana peace talks between Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrillas are structured so that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” This means that although agreements exist on three agenda items, aspects of them are not fully settled. López, a Cuban analyst who clearly has some access to the private proceedings, lists 28 topics that are currently “in the freezer” to be revisited later. See also the sober but optimistic analysis of the talks—-which are actually at a high point right now—-in this El Espectador interview with Georgetown University’s Marc Chernick, who has been studying Colombia since 1980.
- “Silva Opens 10-Point Lead Over Rousseff in Brazil Election Poll,” by Anna Edgerton, Bloomberg.
No Latin American leader had a worse week than Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff. Five weeks before the presidential vote, her reelection no longer looks inevitable: she’s tied in the polls and the economy is now officially in recession.
Brazil got an unusual amount of coverage, much of it rather grim, in U.S. print media outlets today.
New York Times: “At Least 4 Inmates Are Killed During Bloody Prison Uprising in Brazil,” by Simon Romero.
Brazil’s prison population has more than quadrupled since the 1990s to about 550,000, largely as a result of an increase in narcotics incarcerations
New York Times: “An Intensifying Presidential Campaign Brings Tension to Brazil’s Markets,” also by Simon Romero.
Positive public sentiment about Ms. Rousseff among many antipoverty program recipients stands in contrast to the souring views of her government in Brazil’s executive suites and trading floors
Bloomberg: “Silva Melds Dishwasher Past With Growth Vows for Brazil Vote,” by Raymond Colitt.
Silva, 56, is statistically tied in second place with Neves with 21 percent and 20 percent support respectively while trailing Rousseff by 15 percentage points ahead of the Oct. 5 election
Reuters: “Brazil’s slump hits job market as election approaches,” by Brad Haynes and Silvio Cascione.
The economic slowdown has deepened since the World Cup soccer tournament that ended last month, threatening to undercut Rousseff’s re-election campaign
Associated Press: “Girls From Brazil’s Favelas Find Escape in Ballet,” by Adriana Gomez Licon.
The time spent focused on grace and control is far removed from the girls’ daily lives. Many are being raised by parents who are recovering from or are addicted to drugs
Tomorrow, for the first time in several years, I’m taking off for a full two weeks of vacation. I’m looking forward to a recharge and the perspective that comes with it.
There’s a lot to reflect on; it’s been a remarkable year so far, and I’ve been posting a lot about it here and elsewhere.
- In December, I visited Cuba for the first time in 13 years.
- In January, we put together a 150-participant conference on Colombia’s peace process.
- In February, I spent 12 days at the Mexico-Guatemala border.
- In March, I spent 10 days in Chocó and Bogotá, Colombia.
- In April, I published a big report on peace in Colombia.
- In May, I did border security research in San Diego and spoke at the Latin American Studies Association congress in Chicago.
- In June, we published a big report on Mexico’s southern border region.
- In July, I went to Bogotá to research Colombia’s post-conflict challenges.
- And I’m just back from a quick trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with a member of Congress.
This fall we’ve got a big report on Chocó, Colombia coming out. We’ll re-visit the Texas-Mexico border and report on that. And we’re putting on a closed-door conference in Europe to discuss donor priorities for a possible post-conflict Colombia.
This is a good year, and there’ll be a lot to reflect on while walking in the woods of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks with my family over the next two weeks.
One important reflection, though, is how much improvement I still need to make, in my own work. Constantly. Simply, to be better at it than I am now.
As I write out my e-mail autoreply and clean my office, these are the things I think I need to ask:
How doggedly am I investigating, trying to dig up and put new information into the public domain? Analysis and recommendations based on information that’s already out there are useful, especially if they makes connections that nobody else is making. But they’re easy compared to shedding light on things that the public should know, but doesn’t. This means finding documents from governments. It means omnivorously reading trusted journalistic and NGO reports from all over Latin America, especially those that don’t make it into English. It means meeting with government and legislative officials to hear what they’re excited or concerned about. And it means going into the field and seeing things firsthand. I do a lot of this, but there’s always another level to dig to, and huge unexplored areas. (Defense Department assistance, drone proliferation in the Americas, and the impact of current U.S. military/police aid to Central America spring immediately to mind.) Investigation is the very core of this kind of work, and it deserves more time than I’ve been giving it.
On the other end is communications, which are a perennial challenge. This blog, which I use to work out a lot of ideas, is a good example. It’s uneven. One day there’ll be three posts, and then as much as three weeks of nothing. Fixing this means going back to the original purpose of a weblog: to journal what I’ve been doing, to place markers of things I’ve found interesting and want to come back to, to respond rapidly to what’s happening in the region and in my field, and to put in words the first drafts of complicated ideas. Not a day should go by without me posting something that makes this blog a worthwhile place to come back to—or at least posting a reflection on why that wasn’t possible that day.
Those posts should include regular features, like a weekly links post. I enjoy doing those, and they force me to read and digest even during the most intense weeks.
So does the WOLA Podcast, which has been the very definition of “uneven” (if not “moribund”) this year. I think my other work suffers when I don’t go through the weekly exercise of recording these. It’s such a plainly great idea to record conversations with people who have new things to say, and to zoom in for a close look at a topic. It’s the best way to understand them, and learn to talk about them. And the audio of a conversation takes less time to produce and distribute than a memo of half as many words. The “Week Ahead” updates I was doing last year, though, were too scripted: it took at least five hours to put together a 20-minute show. Most weeks, I don’t have five hours to spare. I still haven’t figured out how to make this format work, but it’s one of the main things I’ll be thinking about how to do over the next two weeks, in order to reboot the WOLA Podcast this fall.
So that’s what I’ve come up with. Dig harder in my investigative work, and be more regular in my short-form and audio communications. (Notice I’m not saying “more meetings and events” or “more emails to answer.” But those are subjects for another post.)
Now, I’ve got 2 weeks of tranquility in the wilderness to think about what all that might look like. I look forward to making it happen when I get back.
Have a great two weeks.
There was a cleaning out of the military and other structures of government that never happened in … Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Every official U.S. government document on national security strategy. I realized a couple of years ago that these documents are for chumps. Dirty little Pentagon secret: No one who runs the country reads them. Mid-level bureaucrats write these for each other to cite.