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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Colombia’s House of Representatives held a hearing yesterday on legislation that would weaken civilian courts’ jurisdiction over human rights abuses committed by the armed forces.
Here, a mother testifies about the case of her son, who was extrajudicially executed by military personnel.
(From the Twitter feed of Colombian activist Pablo Calá.)
Confidencial runs photos of a Nicaraguan Army exhibition at which soldiers let children handle, and pretend to shoot, military weaponry like this Soviet-made SAM-7 anti-aircraft missile launcher.
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
I’m back from vacation. Look forward to posting as soon as I work through some inboxes.
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.
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.
Couldn’t sleep. So I looked up the World Bank’s estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP, the size of everything made, bought, and sold in a country in a year) for Latin America, in current 2013 dollars. Then, for each country, I found the closest U.S. state or metropolitan area GDP, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
So here’s a map showing which U.S. jurisdiction’s economy is closest in size to each Latin American country. At least, according to what I’m sure is an econometrically unsound analysis that was fun to do in the middle of the night.
Oh right, the box office data (for Belize) comes from Box Office Mojo.
Earlier this evening, at the “Senda de Vida” migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico. I’m second from right at the table, next to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts). We’re in the south Texas border zone for a quick visit.
Call Off the National Guard: Unaccompanied children are no reason to send troops to the border -
New analysis posted yesterday to wola.org.
Deploying the National Guard is expensive, disruptive to Guardsmen’s families and employers, and—especially when done in an open-ended way—damaging to U.S. civil-military relations. This is absolutely the wrong way to go.
There was a cleaning out of the military and other structures of government that never happened in … Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. — Nicaragua-based journalist Judy Butler, in an excellent piece by Jill Replogle for San Diego public television explaining why Nicaragua is not suffering from the sort of violence that is expelling thousands of children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. (Nicaragua’s homicide rate is one-eighth that of 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. — Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
The House Republicans' proposed border funding bill -
This will be debated and voted tomorrow, before Congress leaves town for a six-week recess.
What a nasty piece of legislation.
The UN Development Program takes indicators like life expectancy, education, and income and turns it into a “Human Development Index.”
In a 2011 report, UNDP assigned “violence and income concentration-adjusted” human development indices to most of Colombia’s departments (provinces - see the table on page 411 of this PDF).
Each department is labeled with the name of one of the countries whose current Human Development Index it most closely resembles.
The disparities are broad, ranging from the Czech Republic (Bogotá) to Botswana (Chocó).