Weekly adamisacson.com - Issue #21

I was on the job for only two days last week. We visited some of my in-laws in Florida, which extended our President's Day holiday through Wednesday.

Some ibises by the Gulf of Mexico last Tuesday. Feels like a long time ago already.

Bringing our "colombiapeace.org" site into the 2020s

When I came back to Washington, I threw myself into a project that I'd been looking forward to working on: a thorough overhaul of a website about Colombia's peace, security, and human rights challenges. colombiapeace.org is a resource we created in 2013, but have been underutilizing for a while now.

During the government-FARC peace negotiations (2012-16), WOLA used colombiapeace.org heavily to explain what was happening to a predominantly English-speaking audience. During the past few years, though, we’ve mainly used that space to share occasional blog posts.

We’re changing that. The site is undergoing a thorough overhaul, as you can see if you pay a visit and click around in the menu at the top of the page.

The following resources, together with the years-old blog, are in place already:

✔️ A timeline, in reverse chronological order, of events relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia, with many graphics and links to sources. Entries to this timeline are tagged: clicking on a topic will give you a smaller “sub-timeline,” just for that topic. (We don’t intend for make this a source for today’s news: we will update it about once per month, adding all of the previous month’s timeline entries at once by the middle of each month.)

✔️ Links to reports about peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. That includes WOLA’s reports, reports from governments and international organizations, reports from non-governmental organizations, and in-depth journalism. These listings are also tagged: clicking on a topic will reveal only reports for that topic.

✔️ Public-domain photos relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. Again, tagged by topic.

✔️ Embeddable videos, minimum three minutes in length, relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia, tagged by topic.

✔️ In the sidebar on the main page, links to current news relevant to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia. (I just copy-and-paste those over from my database.)

I put nearly all of that together in Florida and over the past few days. (The WordPress blogging platform is really easy to work with.) Now, I'm about to start building the following resources, which I'll roll out bit by bit in March:

🔲 A constantly updated page of frequently sought numbers, with links to sources. In one place, sort of "Harper's Index"-style, visitors will find numerical data like approximate memberships of armed groups, peace implementation expenditures, hectares of coca, amounts of U.S. assistance, and much more.

🔲 A constantly updated collection of about a dozen brief “explainer” documents about important issues and entities. There will be 1,000-2,000-word pages about coca cultivation, dissident groups, transitional justice, U.S. policy, PDETs, and more—and their content will change when we obtain new information.

🔲 Overall, the site still requires a lot of styling to improve readability, navigability, and aesthetics. I'm especially tired of the banner image at the top.

The site's new resources will go back only to January 2020, and we'll build from there. We look forward to spending the rest of the decade making colombiapeace.org a central resource about Colombia’s uneven, often frustrating, but indispensable—and even sometimes courageous—effort to put its long conflict behind it.

  • The National Security Archive reveals documents showing that the CIA was the true co-owner of a supposedly Swiss cryptography company, whose equipment encrypted the communications of Latin American military regimes participating in “Operation Condor” in the 1970s. This means that the U.S. intelligence community had knowledge about the human rights abuses these regimes were committing—including a notorious 1976 car bombing in Washington—but did and said nearly nothing.
  • Colombia’s Semana magazine produced a detailed, richly photographed and videoed report about the humanitarian situation in Chocó. This predominantly Afro-Colombian and indigenous department in the country’s far northwest is convulsed by fighting between the ELN and the Gulf Clan paramilitary groups, with thousands of vulnerable community members caught in the middle and the armed forces largely at the margins. I was in Chocó in October and this report aligns with what I saw and heard.
  • The International Crisis Group produced a good report about the proliferation of armed groups throughout Venezuela. Outside of Caracas, the dominion of irregular groups now rivals that of rural Colombia. Except unlike Colombia, nearly all of these groups have tacit or explicit state support.
  • Also in Venezuela, Sarah Kinosian and Angus Berwick at Reuters zoom in on an extrajudicial execution in Miranda and find that the Maduro government’s most feared enforcer, the FAES police unit, has taken ex-convicts into its ranks to carry out brutal acts with impunity.
  • The Washington Post offers an on-the-ground update about what the Trump administration’s denial of the right to asylum at the border looks like right now. Arelis R. Hernández and Kevin Sieff find that the cruel “Remain in Mexico” program is being eclipsed by cruel flights to Guatemala and fast-track, zero due-process immigration hearings. The account of the Honduran man who felt compelled to send his 3-year-old son across the border bridge alone is heartbreaking.

There's a group of Colombian human rights leaders in town, and Homeland Security personnel will be testifying before congressional appropriators, mostly about the U.S.-Mexico border, three times this week. Here's a list of six upcoming events that I know about.

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Jamie Larson