Weekly adamisacson.com - Issue #32

I hope you're well. For me, Tuesday May 12 will be the two-month anniversary of my last day working outside my house. Probably similar for you, depending on what you do for a living.

Like you, I'd thought that by two months in, the worst would be over: testing would be widely available, businesses would be reopening with new protocols, schools would be going back into session for the rest of the year.

That's true, if you live in Germany or South Korea. But not here. Here? Well, here are 4 charts that you've probably seen, but I keep finding myself staring at.

From worldometers.info. At least it shows some encouraging flattening. But the same page shows Texas, which is determined to re-open, now in fifth place in new cases per day:

From covidtracking.com. Doubling testing in a month is nice, but we needed more than that, didn't we. There's 330 million people in the United States:

Despite this, the S&P 500 has climbed all the way back to where it was in September:

From fivethirtyeight.com. 43 percent! Still. Forty. Three. Percent:

A New Scandal Underscores Colombia’s Stubborn Inability to Reform Military Intelligence

I mentioned in last week's email that the Colombian newsmagazine Semana had just published still more shocking revelations about the country’s army intelligence units spying on law-abiding people. I knew I had to write something explaining all of this to an English-language audience.

For a year now, there has been a steady drumbeat of revelations of malfeasance in Colombia’s U.S.-aided military—an institution of which U.S. diplomats and military officers speak with reverential tones. Because each bit of bad news keeps getting layered on top of the last, I saw a need for a single resource to walk the reader through the whole narrative. I pulled everything I had from my database , and sat down to write in every spare moment during the first few days of last week.

Here’s what I came up with. The whole 4,000-word (but not boring!) commentary is at WOLA’s website.

2 podcasts last week: Colombia and the border

April data about the border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released data on migrant apprehensions and drug seizures during April, the first month during which the U.S.-Mexico border spent entirely under near-closure quarantine.

As expected, the number of undocumented migrants apprehended at the border declined, as did seizures of nearly all drugs. However, April was not the month of least migration in recent memory, as I’d expected. Despite a lockdown of the border and immediate, legally dubious “expulsions” of most border-crossers, the 15,862 people apprehended by Border Patrol last month was still a higher monthly total than February through April of 2017, when migration plummeted following Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Here’s what monthly drug seizures at the border look like. Though they are down, you don’t see a sharp break in March and April. It may be that traffickers are still trying to cross with the same amount of product as always, despite the stricter border measures. Or it may be that CBP, with a lot less traffic to inspect, is seizing a larger percentage of a smaller overall quantity of smuggled drugs. No idea.

Updated sections of the colombiapeace.org website

I've posted substantial recent updates to our Colombia website's:

  • Timeline (through March; April is on its way)
  • Important Numbers (if you like quantitative information)
  • Links to official, NGO, media, and WOLA reports (91 reports in the archive for 2020)
  • Embedded videos (this is a place where you could lose a whole day at this point)
  • Public-domain photos (heavy on military images, but they post the most public-domain photos to their many Twitter accounts)

Meanwhile, in ICE's for-profit detention centers:

A nightmare scenario is unfolding. The first acknowledged death was reported last week.

  • In Colombia, the newsmagazine Semana has had a series of scoops about illegal activity in the powerful Army’s intelligence apparatus. The latest reveals bits of 130 files that Army spies have been keeping on people who pose no threat at all to Colombia: reporters (including U.S. reporters), politicians, human rights defenders, and even other members of the military and government.
  • AP’s Josh Goodman first reported on a group of mercenaries’ clumsy, underfunded, improvised plan to infiltrate Venezuela and capture Nicolás Maduro. Days later at The Washington Post, Anthony Faiola, Karen DeYoung, and Ana Vanessa Herrero dig into the story leading up to the failure, with lots of atmospherics and more information about main characters like Special Forces vet Jordan Goudreau and J.J. Rendón, an ethically challenged strategist who electoral campaigns around the region have hired for years.
  • Struggling towns like Natchez, Mississippi and Lumpkin, Georgia have come to depend economically on ICE detention centers run by for-profit corporations. Politico visits these towns and raises concerns about what could happen if (when) coronavirus cases multiply inside the facilities.
  • In Guerrero—long one of Mexico’s poorest and most violent states—criminal groups are fragmenting, “self-defense” groups are confederating, and “the line separating state and armed groups is thin to non-existent,” explains a report by the International Crisis Group.
  • Colombia’s El Espectador published a special report on the embattled region of Catatumbo, in the northeast near the Venezuelan border. While it focuses on the struggle of the region’s social leaders, the report also includes some remarkably detailed maps of armed actors, coca, fuel theft, threats and attacks, and “tensions with the security forces” in 10 of the region’s municipalities.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

  • 2:00 at atlanticcouncil.org: China-Brazil relations under COVID–19 (RSVP required).

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

  • 11:00–12:00 at wilsoncenter.org: The COVID–19 Response in El Salvador and Nicaragua: Two Sides of the Same Authoritarian Coin? (RSVP required).
  • 11:00–12:00 at thedialogue.org: Innovation and Technology in Latin America’s Post-Pandemic Recovery (RSVP required).

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020

  • 1:00–2:00 at fordham.zoom.us: The Fight to Defend the Health and Safety of Ice Detainees: Litigation, Organizing, and Advocacy (RSVP required).

Just a few tweets that made me laugh last week

I spent way less time on social media last week. And I can't recommend it enough.

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Jamie Larson