Adam Isacson's Latin America Blog

Aug 30

Five Links from the Past Week

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.

Aug 29

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.)

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.

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.

Aug 28

[video]

Aug 26

Brazil got an unusual amount of coverage, much of it rather grim, in U.S. print media outlets today.

Aug 25

I’m back from vacation. Look forward to posting as soon as I work through some inboxes.

I’m back from vacation. Look forward to posting as soon as I work through some inboxes.

Aug 08

Going on vacation, and thinking aloud about work

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.

Whew.

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:

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.

Aug 07

Aug 06

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.

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.

Aug 04

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.

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.

Aug 02

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.

Aug 01

“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.

Jul 30

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.

Jul 26

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).

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).