Weekly adamisacson.com - Issue #34

There were a lot of meetings, talks, and events last week, all of them on my computer screen, leaving me bleary-eyed by Friday. At least when you're writing onscreen, you can look away every few moments. Zoom takes a toll. That's not news to anybody, but once you head north of 25 hours per week, as I did the last 2 weeks, it's rough on the retinas.

It's also got me behind on the writing projects that I'd discussed in last week's email: an overview of Latin American militaries' roles in the COVID-19 crisis, and a deep dive on conditions in the department of Putumayo, Colombia. Both are still pending, along with a shorter update about the aftermath of Colombia's military spying scandal, and many smaller updates to our Colombia Peace website.

My calendar is clearer this week, and the holiday weekend helped. So I'll have more to share soon. In the meantime, here are some highlights from last week's work.

Podcast on Colombia with Rep. Jim McGovern

It’s not every day you get to record a podcast with a member of Congress. I enjoyed sitting down virtually last Wednesday morning with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the House Rules Committee, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and a longtime advocate of human rights in Colombia.

He was fired up about the outrageous recent scandal involving U.S.-aided army intelligence units spying on Colombian reporters, human rights defenders, politicians, and others.

He calls here for a suspension of U.S. military aid and a much clearer U.S. commitment to implementing Colombia’s 2016 peace accords and protecting its threatened social leaders. Give it a listen.

Listen at WOLA's website, or download the .mp3 file.

(I recorded two other podcasts last week, but I'll publish them to coincide with the releases of the interviewees' upcoming book, in one case, and film, in the other.)

Video of WOLA’s May 19 event: Colombian Military Espionage—An Attack on Post-Conflict Reformers and the Free Press

On May 19 WOLA hosted a 2-hour discussion of new revelations that Colombian Army intelligence had been spying on journalists, judges, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, and other military officers. The nine speakers included several victims of the spying and some U.S.-based analysts.

The discussion’s video feed is below. The first is presented in the languages the speakers used, and the second is dubbed with a full English translation. I'm the seventh of nine speakers.

In English and Spanish:

Webinar - Colombian Military Espionage: An Attack on Post-Conflict Reformers and the Free Press

Full English interpretation:

Colombian Military Espionage: Full English Interpretation

COVID-19 in ICE Detention Centers

It was another bad week in ICE's network of mostly for-profit detention centers, where the hardline immigration agency continues to refuse to exercise its discretionary power to release people. Including the majority of detainees who are migrants with no serious criminal record, and who have sponsors with whom they could socially distance.

The agency blew through 1,000 infected detainees last weekend. It continues to have about 27,000 people in custody.

  • A team of reporters at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project looks at the state of the global cocaine trade during the coronavirus lockdown. They find an uneven picture: some big disruptions, but “a frenetic pace” of trafficking in many places.
  • At InsightCrime, Héctor Silva Ávalos, Ángela Olaya, and Seth Robbins document the sloppy official cover-up of the murder of Sherill Hernández, the head of a police anti-corruption unit. It “fits into a pattern in Honduras in which high-profile death inquiries are slow-walked, riddled with errors and then dismissed without much explanation.” The article points to serious trouble within the Technical Criminal Investigation Agency (ATIC), a unit that has received a lot of U.S. aid.
  • The New York Times digs into some of the data and finds that police in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil—never models for proper use of force—are committing an orgy of violence against civilians right now in those cities’ favelas, with a green light from authorities. Amazing photos from Dado Galdieri.
  • My WOLA colleagues David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey have immersed themselves in the literature on negotiation, and apply it to Venezuela in a piece for the European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. “Negotiations between the United States, Russia, China, and Cuba are probably the only way to make progress in Venezuela,” they conclude, but with the Trump administration in power, “it is difficult to imagine this happening in the near future.”
  • Rachel Schmidtke and Yael Schacher of Refugees International, and Ariana Sawyer of Human Rights Watch, have done a lot of fieldwork in Guatemala documenting implementation of a so-called “safe third country” or “asylum cooperation” agreement. Between November and March, U.S. authorities shipped to Guatemala 939 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers who had been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, instructing them to go ask for asylum in Guatemala’s system. This report offers a very grim look at what happened to them afterward.

More than 140 Latin America RSS feeds

While procrastinating on Friday afternoon, I gave a badly needed overhaul to the RSS feeds I use to find most of my Latin America news. Here’s my most up-to-date OPML file of RSS feeds from Latin American online news outlets, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations.

If that sentence made sense to you, import that file into your RSS reader, and you’ll have the feeds from the 140-plus outlets from around Latin America listed below.

If that sentence didn’t make sense to you: OK, this is cool. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” and it’s a big help if your work involves research or large information flows.

I’d say about 75-80 percent of news websites have a “feed” of their content: a list of articles, basically, in a special format. Add these feeds to an app or website called an RSS reader, and all articles from every newspaper or organization you subscribe to appear, all mixed together, in reverse chronological order, just like your email inbox. (I use FeedWrangler as my RSS reader; other good ones are NewsBlur, Feed.ly, and mobile apps like Unread, which I use on my iPad, or NetNewsWire.)

The “OPML” file here includes about 140 Latin America-related news feeds. I share it to save you time hunting all of these down yourself: just import it into your RSS reader and go.

140-plus feeds in your RSS reader means a daunting amount of information—thousands of articles per day. So you'll need your RSS reader to be one that can search for articles that match a keyword or phrase (like “armed forces” or “Remain in Mexico” or “ELN” or “coca”). Ideally, it should make that a "saved search" that you can refer back to with a click—FeedWrangler does that well. Then you’ve got an amazing automated briefing about that topic.

Included in this OPML file: “colombia” – Google News, Defense.gov Explore Feed, Agencia Ocote, Americas, Americas Quarterly, Animal Político, article – Mother Jones, BBC News – US & Canada, BBC News – World, Bloggings by boz, Borderland Beat, Brasil Wire, Caretas, CERAC – Centro de Recursos para el Análisis de Conflictos, Chiapasparalelo, Clarin.com – Política, Confidencial, CONNECTAS, Contra Corriente, Control Ciudadano, Corporación Nuevo Arcoiris, Cosecha Roja, Cristosal, Criterio.hn, Crímenes sin Castigo, Defendamos La Paz Colombia, Defensa.com, Dejusticia, Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor – United States Department of State, Diario Co Latino, Distintas Latitudes, Diálogo Americas, Efecto Cocuyo, El Chigüire Bipolar, El Cohete a la Luna, El Colombiano | noticias de Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia y el mundo., El Comercio, El MostradorEl Mostrador, EL TIEMPO.COM – Política, EL TIEMPO.COM – Proceso de Paz, elcolombiano.com – , ElHeraldo RSS Feeds – INICIO, ElHeraldo RSS Feeds – Opinion, ELIMPARCIAL.COM | Noticias de Tijuana, México, elPeriodico de Guatemala, ELUNIVERSO.COM – Noticias, ELUNIVERSO.COM – Opinión, Everything, Expediente Público, Folha de S.Paulo – Em cima da hora – Principal, Foreign Policy, Fundación Paz y Reconciliación, Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, GatoEncerrado, Global | The Atlantic, GovDelivery – Frontline – The Multimedia Magazine of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, GovDelivery – Media Releases, IDL | Instituto de defensa Legal, In These Times, INESC, Inicio – Consejo de Redacción, Instituto Igarapé, INSYDE, Joy Olson’s blog, Just Security, Kaja Negra, L.A. Times – World News, La Jornada: Política, La Jornada: Sociedad y Justicia, La Nación, La Opinión, La Tercera, Latin America Working Group, Latin America – Global Voices, Law Enforcement, Narcotics, Anti-corruption – United States Department of State, Lo último, MercoPress, Mexico Institute, Mientras Tanto en México, Milenio: Últimas Noticias de México – Actualidad global – Grupo Milenio, Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano, News, Politics, Opinion, Commentary, and Analysis, Nicaragua Investiga, Noticias de Colombia | El Colombiano, NYT > Opinion, NYT > Opinion > Sunday Review, NYT > The New York Times Magazine, NYT > Top Stories, NYT > Top Stories, NYT > U.S. > Politics, NYT > World > Americas, Nómada, Guatemala., OGlobo, Onda Local – noticias, pais, Plaza Pública RSS Feed, Portada de Página12, Prensa Libre, Proceso Portal de Noticias, Prodavinci, PROVEA, Proyecto Puente, Radio Progreso, Razón Pública, Reforma, Reforma, Remezcla, Revista Factum, RioOnWatch, Ríodoce, SinEmbargo MX, TalCual, The American Interest, The Atlantic, The Baffler, The Christian Science Monitor | World, The Economist: International, The Economist: Special report, The Economist: The Americas, The Guardian, The Intercept, The New York Review of Books, Two Weeks Notice: A Latin American Politics Blog, USATODAY – World Top Stories, VEJA.com: Revista VEJA, acervo digital, notícias, blogs, colunistas, vídeos, Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, Western Hemisphere – United States Department of State, WOLA, World, Útero.Pe

Tuesday, May 26

  • 9:00 at ilacnet.org: A Window of Opportunity: Support to the Rule of Law in Guatemala (RSVP required).
  • 11:00-1:00 at wilsoncenter.org: Violent Non-State Actors and COVID-19: Challenge or Opportunity? (RSVP required).

Wednesday, May 27

Thursday, May 28

  • 11:00-12:00 at heritage.org: Addressing the China Challenge in Latin America(RSVP required).
  • 2:00-3:00 at refugeesinternational.org: Voices from the Border: Voices from the Guatemala ACA (RSVP required).
  • 2:00-3:00 at wilsoncenter.org: A Pandemic of Violence: A Global Discussion of COVID-19 and Gender-Based Violence (RSVP required).

And a few funny tweets

I didn't hang out on Twitter much last week, but here's what I saw.

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Jamie Larson