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Weekly adamisacson.com - Issue #62

Weekly adamisacson.com - Issue #62
By Weekly adamisacson.com • Issue #62 • View online
There’s a lot to share this week, most of it about Colombia. Below is the English text of two pieces that got published in Colombian outlets over the weekend, which should give a thorough look at where U.S. policy toward Colombia stands as Colombia nears an entire month of political protest. Below that are weekly U.S.-Mexico border and Colombia updates, links to some online events I know of this week, and some funny tweets.

At El Espectador: “People are no longer afraid to express what they feel”
Here’s an English translation of my interview with journalist Cecilia Orozco, which ran in Sunday’s edition of Colombia’s El Espectador.
Politics 22 May 2021 – 10:00 p. m.
By: Cecilia Orozco Tascón
A conversation with Adam Isacson, director of the Defense Oversight Program at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), an influential think tank in the U.S. capital. Isacson discusses the law and order situation in Colombia, its impact on the Biden administration, the international impact of allegations of police abuse, and the possibility of “authoritarian populism” winning the 2022 elections.
You have been an analyst of the political situation in Colombia for more than 20 years from the research centers where you have worked. To what do you attribute the social explosion of April and May 2021, outside the moment created by the pandemic and by a tax reform bill that was – to say the least – inopportune?
This could be the same social explosion that began in November 2019. If the year-end holidays and then the pandemic had not interrupted it, we would probably be talking about 18 months of continuous social unrest. The economic despair did not disappear; the anger at the government’s lack of empathy did not disappear; the pain for the lack of implementation of the Peace Agreement and the massacre of social leaders in remote territories did not disappear. On the contrary, all of the above were aggravated during the pandemic.
The country has not been, like other Latin American countries, a country of massive and sustained protests for days and weeks. Nor has it usually overthrown presidents. But this time, peaceful demonstrations and violent acts after them have been going on for almost a month continuously. What changed from its past, so that people decided to go out constantly despite the risk of COVID contagion and the danger of being injured or killed in the riots?
The big change came with the 2016 Peace Accord, because it reduced people’s fear of exercising their freedom of expression. The demobilization of the FARC removed the stigma attached to public protest. Prior to 2016, Colombia had a very large, violent, nationwide guerrilla group that was perceived as an existential threat. It was easy to label anyone who went out to protest as a “guerrilla” in order to delegitimize them, and many people did not dare to demonstrate because of that association. After the accord, the stigma disappeared or is much weaker. The Duque government still tries to present some protesters as linked to the ELN or FARC dissidents. However, these are regional groups that do not represent a great danger to the cities and it is not so convincing. In short, there is more political space for people to take to the streets and they are no longer afraid to express what they feel.
So, could it be said that although citizens knew they could demand their rights, they repressed themselves?
Yes. There was fear of expressing themselves publicly because of the stigmatization of being labeled as “guerrillas” and also because of the social contempt with which the demonstrators were viewed.
People from the governing party and those in uniform maintain that there is a systematic process: first, the massive, peaceful, daytime marches. Then, the nighttime ones that turn into riots produced by individuals who destroy public and private property. Do you think there is a “terrorist” plan of forces opposed to the Duque administration?
Something similar was seen in the United States during the protests that erupted after the assassination of George Floyd. In the daytime, they were peaceful, massive, disciplined, and inspiring. At night, especially in the first two weeks, a small number of people would break windows, set fire to property and clash with the police. On some occasions, these were young people who had become politically radicalized and were filled with hatred for the police, whose aggressive response then inflamed them even further. In others, they were criminals seeking economic gain, almost always through looting. In both cases, the fringe of late-night agitators gave the Trump administration the pretext to use rhetoric delegitimizing Black Lives Matter protesters and their demands. Trump focused his attacks against the demonstrations on something called “antifa” – short for “anti-fascist” – which is more a political posture than an actual group. There has no coordination of violence in the United States. A similar position now appears in Colombia: there is very little evidence of a national movement of violence, but the government tries to blame that activity on armed groups and even international agitators.
Regarding your mention of the “antifa” (supposed leftist extremists who would go, city by city, exporting vandals and vandalism), is the Trump strategy and that of the Colombian government when it blames the “castrochavistas” for vandalism and looting, is it the same and does it intend the same effects?
The term “castrochavista” is the closest thing there is to “antifa”: it means almost the same thing and is the same pretext to justify a violent official response and to disqualify the demonstrators.
But what would the government get out of lying? In any case, gaining time while the social order deteriorates does not seem to be beneficial for the administration nor for its party in the medium or long term when it is discovered that it was only trying to hide its inability to solve a problem?
It is a distraction that serves to avoid facing conversations with protesters, for example, about inequality, just as Trump did not want to talk about racism. It’s a way to put off decisions you don’t want to make by inventing phantoms that distort reality.
The electoral period will soon begin in the country. A scenario of street vandalism, looting and public disorder would be favorable to those who have traditionally fed on voters’ fear. Would this strategy of the ruling party, successful in the past, work in today’s Colombia?
The Democratic Center will use the scenes of violent disorder in the streets to mobilize its electoral base, that is, the roughly one third of Colombians who are hardcore Uribistas. The governing party needs that third of the country to vote massively, but what about the more moderate voters, who seem to share many of the protesters’ demands? They are unhappy with the violence of the protests, but they are also shocked by videos of police brutality. As long as the non-Uribista candidates do not propose anything that scares moderates – just as the slogan “defund the police” scared some moderates in the United States – the appeal of the Democratic Center may be limited to its most rabid base.
Taking into account the situation of permanent social unrest in the country, which does not seem likely to subside immediately, and according to your office’s analysis, do you see the possibility that democracy could be interrupted in Colombia?
It seems very unlikely to me that there will be a rupture of the constitutional order in Colombia. For that to happen, it would require a broad consensus on an opposition candidate or party, or the security forces declaring their lack of confidence in the president. But the picture is different: the opposition is divided, all institutions continue to support the current democratic rules, very few people are seriously calling for Duque’s resignation and most political actors are focused on the impending election campaign.
And what would be the attitude of the United States if there were a total rupture of democracy, for example, declaring and extending the figure of internal commotion [state of siege] or suspending next year’s elections?
In the case of a declaration of internal commotion, as it is a constitutional mechanism, perhaps the U.S. government would keep silent. But if an unconstitutional maneuver is made, such as postponing the elections or extending the current presidential term, I think the Biden administration would speak out because, at that point, the credibility of the United States would be at stake: it cannot criticize Venezuela, Nicaragua and El Salvador for what is happening in each of those countries, and remain silent if its best friend in the region does the same.
The Duque government and his party have been conducting a prolonged fear campaign against the supposed possibility of Colombia becoming “another Venezuela”. In the analysis of Washington officials, is there also this fear of the popularity and high vote of political figures who are opposed to Duque and Uribe and would oppose a leftist triumph?
My perception is that Joe Biden sees himself as one of the few “post-populist” presidents in the world, who managed to remove an authoritarian from power by winning an election. His administration has distanced itself from or opposed populists on the left (Maduro), center (Bukele), and right (Bolsonaro). It could be expected to show the same discomfort with a candidate in Colombia, right or left, Uribista or socialist, who seeks to weaken institutions or collapse democratic checks and balances. At the same time, I do not believe that the Biden administration would oppose a leftist candidate who respects institutions and works within the framework of democratic rules.
U.S. Congressional leaders have called for suspending or not renewing aid to the Colombian police force because of evidence and reports of abuses of power in riot control, and because of protesters killed and injured by ESMAD intervention. How likely is it that the Biden administration will suspend its aid?
We have confirmed that the ESMAD does not receive aid, although it buys equipment manufactured in the United States. As for the institution, unless the human rights situation continues to worsen, it is unlikely that there will be a total suspension of aid to the National Police because the relationship with the United States is very close. It extends from eradication to drug interdiction, to DEA operations, to the establishment of Carabineros units, to the training of forces from other countries. However, there may be some important changes. Since Police General ® Rosso Jose Serrano fired thousands of officers [in the 1990s], the institution was believed to be less corrupt, more respectful of human rights and more professional. Videos and accounts of abuses in the current protests and the aggressive words of the directors of the Colombian Police and Defense Ministry have alerted U.S. policymakers to the fact that the institution is now badly troubled. The United States is wrestling with its own need to implement police reform, and policy actors in Washington will be examining the situation in Colombia from that perspective.
From several think tanks there are proposals for dialogue to find a solution to the national crisis. Among these proposals, there are two directed to the United States: a. To demand an immediate reform of the Police. b. That while the ESMAD’s protocols are being reviewed, the sale to Colombia of “crowd control” material (dissuasion weapons, gases, tanks) be suspended. Could these requests be well received in Washington?
I believe that both proposals enjoy sympathy among Biden administration officials. But again, because of the long and close relationship with the Colombian police, they will prefer to speak privately. U.S. government officials should be aware that publicly expressing concern about unacceptable behavior by a partner does not mean breaking with that partner.
Does it mean that they privately scold and ask them to correct or else they will receive a financial or arms ban reprimand?
Yes. In some cases, if, for example, a military unit is prohibited from receiving aid by the Leahy Law (the U.S. will not provide foreign military assistance to human rights violators), such a prohibition will be communicated privately to the state. Where such lists [of banned units] exist, they are also kept in reserve. Uniformed personnel who have not been cleared or whose names are in the database of suspected human rights violators may not receive training in the U.S. or enter the country. [Note: “enter the country” was added by editors. Visa denial does not automatically accompany Leahy Law disapproval.]
In one of your articles, recently published by El Espectador, you state that if the Biden administration pushes the Duque administration to opt for the path of dialogue to face the current crisis, “it would be developing a framework” for all Latin America where several countries are facing “authoritarian populism”. What do you mean by this term and to which political phenomena are you referring to?
Worldwide, democracy is in retreat as leaders are being elected who ignore institutional controls, constantly lie, attack the media, call their opponents “terrorists” or worse, and seek to stay in power by any means. Venezuela and Russia were the pioneers, but it also happened in Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines, Brazil, El Salvador and many other countries. The United States just had such a president for four years, and he is leading one of our two main political parties. What is happening in Colombia today is a big test: whether democratic institutions can channel desperate social demands, stemming from generations of inequality, or not. The Peace Accord was a great vote of confidence in these institutions. Can Colombia resolve this crisis through dialogue without violence and without resorting to a populist figure? If so, Colombia would be an astonishing example for the rest of the world in this troubled beginning of the 21st century.
Or else, could “authoritarian populism” win in the 2022 election?
It is quite possible that an authoritarian populist candidate could win, yes. At both ideological extremes there may be candidates who see institutions as obstacles or who see themselves as the saviors of the country.
You are not only an expert in security matters but also in human rights. Could the Colombian state be subject to sanctions promoted by Washington, the United Nations and other organizations for the violation of the rights of demonstrators, in addition to the fact that it already has a negative record for the assassination of defenders, social leaders, and former combatants?
This really depends on the Prosecutor-General’s Office [Fiscalía] and the Colombian justice system. We know that human rights violations are occurring at an unacceptable level. Will Colombian institutions identify those responsible and hold them accountable? Will they do so in an efficient manner so that the victims don’t have to wait 10 years for a result? If so, it would be a hopeful break from a very bitter history of impunity in Colombia. If not, then, yes, there will be sanctions. U.S. law, for example, prohibits aid to units (police or military) that commit abuses with impunity. And the Inter-American System and the International Criminal Court are also there for cases in which a country’s judicial system proves unwilling or unable to bring to justice perpetrators of serious human rights violations.
It has been seen that the Duque government’s response to protests has been violent repression, even of peaceful demonstrations. While the official language is partially conciliatory, the shock troops (ESMAD and others) are authorized to attack, reduce, and capture. How can the Biden administration call out the national administration for its handling of street grievances?
Although the Biden administration values human rights much more than the Trump administration, it also thinks about stability and the geopolitical reality of the continent. It is concerned about any symptom of instability in a country considered a close ally, in a region facing challenges from Russia and China, sometimes through Venezuela. Meanwhile, the United States has a longstanding relationship with the Colombian police and doesn’t want to risk it with public criticism. That said, U.S. officials can’t possibly support the brutal tactics of units such as ESMAD, because they know that such tactics prolong and escalate protests unnecessarily. They must be aware that such practices continue to worsen the instability they are so concerned about.
At Razón Pública: How is the National Strike seen from Washington?
Here is an English translation of a piece that ran in Colombia’s Razón Pública on Monday.
Written by Adam Isacson May 24, 2021
Although many U.S. congressmen have rejected police violence in Colombia, the Biden administration continues to remain silent. Why?
Biden’s silence
Four weeks of the national strike have passed and the administration of Joe Biden has not said much about the current situation in Colombia.
The silence is partly explained by the fact that the U.S. government has other priorities and that politicians and diplomats do not like to speak publicly about the behavior of their allies when they disagree with them. The unfortunate consequence is that silence is misinterpreted as indifference or as an act of support for the security forces in Colombia.
But what is happening in Colombia has not gone unnoticed in Washington. A large number of progressive members of Congress, moved by videos of police brutality, has expressed outrage at the human rights violations, mostly committed by government forces. A small number of conservative voices have repeated some of the Duque government’s arguments: that the protests are the work of organized agitators.
More moderate legislators have either said nothing or taken a Solomonic position: “both sides are to blame.” For now, it appears that the Biden administration’s response follows the line of the moderates, who remain silent.
The progressives
Some of the U.S. voices calling on the Duque administration to curb police violence are already well known in Colombia.
Massachusetts Democratic Representative Jim McGovern was the first to speak out on the issue. McGovern has visited Colombia repeatedly over the past twenty years and now heads the powerful House Rules Committee.
On May 3, he tweeted, “I am deeply disturbed by the brutal Colombian National Police (PNC) response to peaceful protests over the weekend. U.S. aid to the PNC needs strong human rights protections and conditions. We should apply Leahy Law. No U.S. aid to Colombian ESMAD riot units that engage in gross human rights violations.”
The “Leahy Law” prohibits military assistance (though not the sale of military equipment) to foreign security forces with a pattern of serious human rights violations, without effective state action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Although ESMAD does not receive U.S. assistance, the tear gas they use is made in the United States. But the Colombian state buys these and other equipment with its own funds.
On May 11, Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who gives the law its name, tweeted, “It is shocking to see the violent police response by the Colombian govt of overwhelmingly peaceful protesters. Legitimate grievances, while no excuse for violence or vandalism, should be a cause for dialogue, not excessive force. If the Colombian govt has solid evidence that protests are being orchestrated by terrorists, as alleged, produce the evidence and arrest the perpetrators. If not then law abiding Colombians will understandably lose patience with their leaders.” Senator Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is one of the most powerful members of the chamber, and a veteran Colombia watcher.
Another high-level Democrat who strongly criticized the Colombian government was New York Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks, who has championed the rights of Colombian Afro-descendants and now chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On May 4, Meeks tweeted, “I’m extremely concerned by the brutal PNC and ESMAD response to protests in Colombia. I’m particularly alarmed by developments in Cali and call on President Ivan Duque to deescalate the violence and make clear that excessive use of force is inexcusable.”
Other progressives, including Senator Edward J. Markey, Texas Democratic Representative Joaquín Castro and New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also expressed their concern on social media and in press releases.
On May 14, 55 Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where they asked the State Department to:
  • more forcefully denounce police brutality;
  • suspend all aid to the Colombian police;
  • stop the sale of riot control equipment;
  • publicly reject statements by Colombian officials linking protesters to terrorist groups; and
  • urge and even facilitate dialogue.
The conservatives
While progressives have been notably active, U.S. right-wing figures have been rather quiet.
On May 6, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Behind much of the violence occurring in Colombia this week is an orchestrated effort to destabilize a democratically elected government by left wing narco guerrilla movements & their international marxist allies.”
If this sounds vaguely like the rhetoric of “molecular revolution dissipated” it is because many of Senator Rubio’s Colombian constituents are aligned with Uribismo. In South Florida, the Colombian protests are a frequent topic of conversation on Spanish-language radio, where commentators view the demonstrations as the result of a “hybrid warfare” strategy by the left.
Rubio’s tweet is the only statement on the strike that I have seen from a Republican member of the U.S. Congress. But that doesn’t mean the right is staying silent: a conservative Washington think tank called the Center for a Secure Free Society released a report on May 17 entitled “Asymmetric Assault on Colombia,” in which it argued that “the Colombian people, especially the peaceful protestors, are not the culprits in the crisis—they are the victims.”
They claim that the protesters, who lack agency, have been misled by international agitators. The report continues: “As some of the most vulnerable in society, the poor and middle class in Colombia are targeted as tools of asymmetric warfare by foreign and domestic adversaries to the Colombian state”.
The moderates and the Biden administration
As vocal as progressives are, and will continue to be, they alone will not get the Biden administration to act decisively against police violence in Colombia.
Much depends on what moderates in the Democratic Party, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., or Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, do or say. Both have so far remained silent.
These and other lawmakers, who are heard by Biden, do not dismiss the progressives’ arguments, although they may not share some recommendations, such as freezing police aid. And they are more likely to be in touch with the Colombian embassy and business community.
For its part, the Biden administration has expressed only mild concern. On May 4, Juan Gonzalez, White House National Security Council Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted, “The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental freedom. Needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. And proper observance of use of force standards is NOT negotiable.” Two days later Gonzalez told The Hill: “Police, whether in the United States or Colombia, need to engage by certain rules and respect fundamental freedoms, and that’s not a critique.”
The State Department issued a statement on May 4 with a message to both sides: “All over the world, citizens in democratic countries have the unquestionable right to protest peacefully. Violence and vandalism is an abuse of that right. At the same time, we urge the utmost restraint by public forces to prevent additional loss of life. We recognize the Government of Colombia’s commitment to investigate reports of police excesses and address any violations of human rights.”
A long-standing relationship
The Biden administration wants to be cautious for a primarily geopolitical reason: it does not want to clash with one of its few strong allies in the region, one that shares borders with Venezuela, while Chinese and Russian influence appears to be growing. At the same time, the Biden administration doesn’t ignore the long and deep relationship the United States has maintained with the Colombian police, forged since before the fight against the Medellin and Cali cartels.
I estimate that U.S. cooperation with the Colombian Police will amount to about $150 to $160 million in 2021 (out of a total police and military aid package of about $250 million, which in turn is part of a $520 million aid package). The purposes of this cooperation include:
  • coca eradication;
  • cocaine interdiction;
  • cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in operations against drug traffickers;
  • intelligence sharing with police Special Investigation Units (SIU);
  • assistance in increasing the presence of rural police (Carabineros) and police posts in conflictive territories;
  • cooperation on extraditions and Interpol cases; and
  • cooperation on training other countries’ forces.
The relationship between the U.S. government and the Colombian police runs deep: you can see it in the large number of olive green uniforms circulating in the corridors and on the sidewalks if you visit the U.S. embassy in Bogota.
So it is not hard to understand why Biden administration officials are reluctant to talk about freezing aid or sales to the police, and why their public statements have been far softer than those of the UN, the European Union and the OAS mission.
Colombia peace update: May 22, 2021
During at least the first half of 2021, we’re producing weekly updates in English about peace accord implementation and related topics.
Nationwide protest updates
As of May 20, the database of protest-related deaths maintained by the NGOs Temblores and Indepaz totaled 51 victims of fatalities: 50 civilians and one police agent. In 35 cases for which the groups could name an alleged perpetrator, 29 were police, of whom 18 were likely members of the National Police’s Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD). Six likely perpetrators were civilians. Of the 51 killings, 38 took place in Cali or its environs. Eight people died between May 17 and 20, all in the Cali metropolitan area.
José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, tweeted that his organization has received credible information about 58 deaths in the context of the protests, of which it has been able to confirm 19.
Major events
  • “Negotiations,” a mechanism more formal than “dialogues,” began on May 16 between the government and the Strike Committee, the group of mostly union leaders that convened the ongoing National Strike on April 28. The Committee’s most immediate of 19 demands is that the government withdraw the Army and the ESMAD riot police, cease excessive use of force, and allow the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission to carry out a field visit.
  • On May 16 President Iván Duque ordered a “maximum operational capacity” deployment of soldiers and police to clear road blockades set up around the country. By the end of the week, dozens of blockades remained.
  • In an effort to get businesses to hire young people, Duque also said the government would subsidize 25 percent of the minimum wage of all workers between 18 and 28 years old.
  • Protests grew violent the evening of May 16 and on May 17 in Yumbo, near Cali. A harsh response to protests by the ESMAD riot police may have prolonged the chaos.
  • In a May 17 statement, the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC), which represents numerous Indigenous communities in southwestern Colombia, said it was not participating in ongoing negotiations between the government and the Strike Committee.
  • President Duque confirmed on May 18 that Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez will also serve as foreign minister, replacing the departed Claudia Blum. As Colombian law requires presidential candidates to have held no other government office during the year prior to elections, this means Ramírez will not be a presidential candidate in May 2022. La Silla Vacía contends that a key reason for Blum’s departure from the foreign ministry was that she was being undercut by Vice-Minister Adriana Mejía, who sent a very strongly worded letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights without Blum’s approval.
  • Cali’s police chief, Gen. Juan Carlos Rodríguez, resigned on May 18 after four and a half months on the job.
  • Colombia’s Senate and House of Representatives voted on May 19 to oppose a healthcare system reform bill that the National Strike protesters had opposed.
  • A court in Ibagué, Tolima agreed on May 19 with the civilian Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía), which argued that the police killing of protester Santiago Murillo should not go to the military justice system. Murillo was killed on May 1 in Ibagué; the Constitutional Court now must decide which justice system will try his killers.
  • The military justice system “has historically been criticized for its slowness in cases, for allegations of impunity in many others, or because many find it difficult to believe that justice can be served when those investigating are colleagues, friends or subordinates,” El Espectador pointed out to that system’s director, Fabio Espitia. He responded, “If any decision is issued affecting a member of the security forces, ideologues will use that decision to delegitimize the security forces.”
  • South America’s soccer federation CONMEBOL decided on May 20 that conditions in Colombia would not allow the country to host any games of the June 13-July 10 Copa América tournament.
  • On May 20 the Standard and Poor’s credit-rating agency downgraded Colombia’s foreign currency debt. This, the Economist notes, ends “a decade in which it had enjoyed investment-grade status.”
  • Defense Minister Diego Molano said on May 20 that forces in Cali had captured 25 people who “by way of outsourcing, supplied firearms and explosive devices to the protagonists of the latest riots.” Among those captured was an individual whom Molano alleged was involved in “politico-organizational activity of the masses” on behalf of the ELN’s urban units.
  • Indigenous protesters blocking the Pan-American Highway in Cauca allowed a three-day “humanitarian corridor” to allow vehicles transporting essential times to pass through from May 20 to 23. On May 20, masked individuals seeking to re-block the highway confronted Indigenous Guards in Caldono, Cauca.
  • On May 21 representatives of the government and the Strike Committee held a third meeting in the framework of ongoing negotiations. “Today we’re focused on pragmatic issues, and that is that 17 million people are suffering from hunger, 21 million are living in poverty,” said Strike Committee member Francisco Maltés of the CUT labor federation.
  • After nearly three days in Medellín, a minga (coming together) of Antioquia indigenous groups departed on May 21 after reaching agreements with the governor’s office about investments in health, education, housing, and other demands. The negotiation process seemed to go smoothly and respectfully.
Abuse allegations
  • As of May 19, 134 people were still “urgently” missing in the context of protests, according to official data citedby Verdad Abierta. The Fiscalía and the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoríareported locating 261 missing people, mostly in police custody.
  • At Vice, Joshua Collins tells the story of a 17-year-old protester who apparently took her own life in Popayán on May 14, two days after she said she was sexually abused by police. The police denied her story until a human rights lawyer released video of her arrest. El Espectador interviewed the victim’s mother.
  • A May 17 El Espectador feature profiles 14 young protesters who suffered severe eye damage from “non-lethal” police riot control weapons, particularly 12-gauge shotguns firing rubber projectiles.
  • Dairo Hidalgo, a respected artist and youth leader in Medellín’s poor Comuna 13 neighborhood, inexplicably appeared on a police “most wanted” poster featuring protesters accused of committing acts of violence and vandalism.
  • shootout broke out the night of May 19 in Cali’s Calipso neighborhood between police and armed individuals near a supermarket. A young woman was killed in the crossfire.
  • Washington Post multimedia team analyzed videos of police abuse and found that they show “how Colombian police appear to have crossed a lethal line.”
  • Protesters denounced on May 20 that police in civilian clothing fired on them in Cali. This is one of several denunciations of armed plainclothes people, at times alleged to be linked to security forces, firing on protesters in Cali.
  • By May 21, Defensoría had counted 23 cases of sexual violence, “within a universe of 106 reports of gender-based violence against women and persons with diverse sexual orientation.” As of that date, Temblores had counted 21 cases of sexual violence.
  • Attorney Víctor Mosquera said on May 21 that he is appealing to the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission on behalf of a female police agent who suffered torture and sexual violence at the hands of a mob during protests in Cali on April 29.
  • “Yes, the National Police will reform,” the force’s commander, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, told El Tiempo in an article that ran on May 21. As of May 17, 122 disciplinary investigations had been opened regarding allegations of protest-related abuse. Gen. Vargas said that human rights training and certification would be a priority, along with “adjustments” to the ESMAD riot police. “We are the first to reject illegal behavior by an officer and we will ask for forgiveness when there’s a judicial decision,” Vargas told Reuters on May 17.
The U.S. angle
  • Marta Lucía Ramírez, now filling double duty as vice president and foreign minister, began a multi-day trip to the United States on May 21.
  • On May 19, the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee met to consider the Biden administration’s nomination of career diplomat Brian Nichols to be the next assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. In nearly two hours of questioning of Nichols and a second nominee, there was only one mention of Colombia, an exchange between Nichols and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) that took a minute and five seconds. Markey asked “what steps should the U.S. government be taking to decrease violence and suppression of ordinary citizens” in Colombia. Noting that “the situation in Colombia is complicated,” Nichols called for engaging the Duque government on “de-escalating challenges,” supporting economic recovery, and prioritizing “getting back on track to implementation of the peace agreement.”
  • In south Florida, where a recent poll found Latinos agreeing “that keeping socialism out of Florida is a bigger issue than jobs,” conservative leaders are “on the airwaves and social media telling Latinos not only that Marxist forces started the protests—but that President Biden and the Democrats are allied with those forces,” local journalist Tim Padgett told WRLN.
  • At Foreign Policy, Genevieve Glatsky looks into the Leahy Law or other human rights measures that might interrupt the flow of U.S. assistance to Colombia’s police.
Analyses
  • At the New York Times, Amanda Taub discusses how, in Colombia and elsewhere, police violence backfires by escalating, prolonging, and encouraging more people to participate in protest movements.
  • At Spain’s El País, Sally Palomino points out how the response to protests, especially in Cali, has highlighted longstanding racism and classism.
  • “Despite decent growth since the early 2000s, inequality remains high,” recalls a report in the Economist. “At the current rate of improvement, it would take 11 generations for descendants of a poor Colombian to attain the average income, estimates the OECD.”
  • At the Washington Post, Erika Moreno of Creighton University finds serious fault with the Defensoría, which lacks effective independence from the executive. “[T]he agency will probably follow what it has done in the past and give a mild response to accusations against members of the military and security apparatus.”
  • At La Silla Vacía, director Juanita León reflects on how the dividing lines around Colombia’s 2016 peace accord—the “yes” and “no” sides of the October plebiscite—are similarly drawn around the National Strike. “While the Uribistas consider that the way out is more authority and a strong hand, the Yes supporters believe that what is needed is to deepen social reforms and deliberation.”
  • Also at La Silla, negotiation expert Julián Arévalo discusses some of the “best practices” for successful dialogues that President Duque and his government are ignoring right now.
Jesus Santrich is killed in Venezuela
One of the best-known former FARC leaders was killed, probably in Venezuela’s state of Zulia, probably during the beginning of the week. Seuxis Hernandez alias Jesús Santrich, a 53-year-old, nearly blind guerrilla ideologue who returned to arms in 2019, was killed under circumstances that remain unclear.
Jesús Santrich was very close to Iván Márquez, the top leader who led the FARC’s negotiating team in Havana between 2012 and 2016. At the negotiations, Santrich was noted for his hardline views and occasional inflammatory statements.
In April 2018, police arrested Santrich on charges of conspiring to send cocaine to the United States during the post-peace accord period. Video appeared to show Santrich, who was brought into a meeting with DEA informants by Iván Márquez’s nephew, assenting to a drug deal. A year later, Santrich was released from prison when the transitional justice tribunal (JEP) decided there was insufficient evidence to prove that Santrich had committed a crime. Upon his May 2019 release, Santrich was sworn into Colombia’s House of Representatives—then disappeared several days later. He resurfaced in August in a video alongside Iván Márquez and other former guerrilla leaders, carrying a weapon as Márquez announced their rearmament as a dissident group called the “Segunda Marquetalia.” (Marquetalia was the site of the 1964 Army attack that gave rise to the FARC.)
A May 18 statement from the Segunda Marquetalia alleged that Colombian Army commandos entered Venezuelan territory and intercepted a vehicle in which Santrich was traveling, just over the border from Colombia in the northern Serranía de Perijá region. The statement said the troops killed Santrich, cut off his pinky finger, and flew back into Colombia in a yellow helicopter.
Defense Minister Diego Molano confirmed that the government had heard word of Santrich’s death. The Venezuelan government has said nothing. No image of a body has emerged.
Colombian media published other rumors, among them that Santrich was killed by mercenaries seeking reward money, or that the killing was the work of a rival, larger FARC dissident band, the “First Front” structure headed by alias “Gentil Duarte,” who had rejected the 2016 peace accord and never demobilized.
Because Santrich was more of an ideologist than a military strategist or financial coordinator, and probably commanded few if any fighters, his death may have little impact on the balance of power between the Colombian armed groups that operate with much freedom inside Venezuela. These include the Segunda Marquetalia, the First Front, the ELN, and smaller paramilitary-descended or narcotrafficking groups. For the Segunda Marquetalia, the loss of Santrich is probably more of a symbolic than a strategic blow.
His killing draws attention to Zulia, another part of the chaotic Colombia-Venezuela border, after more than two months of fighting further south and east in Venezuela’s Apure state, across from Colombia’s Arauca department. There, the 10th Front, apparently part of the Gentil Duarte organization, has faced the Venezuelan military’s largest offensive in many years. The 10th Front has perhaps 300 fighters, a Colombian Army source tells La Silla Vacía, of which about 60 are in Colombia.
That offensive may have hit the population of Apure’s borderlands harder than it has hit the 10th Front. More than 6,000 Venezuelan citizens have fled to Colombia, denouncing brutal abuse at the hands of the Venezuelan military and other security forces. The 10th Front, however, has hit the Venezuelan military quite hard, killing at least 16 soldiers. It continues to hold eight soldiers captive, and is reportedly in talks with at least a faction of the Venezuelan Army.
Venezuelan military analyst Jackeline Benarroche told Tal Cual that the Venezuelan military’s performance in Apure leaves big questions about its combat capacity, its professionalism, and the obsolescence of some of its equipment. “They sent many troops to try to control, but they did not evaluate well the nature of the people they were going to confront, nor the scope of the situation and the migration to Colombia.” At Efecto Cocuyo, analyst Javier Mayorca seesthe border tensions worsening further: “It is not going to end in the immediate future, it can be prolonged and extended in geographical terms. If one connects the dots, one begins to see an increasingly extensive border area where there are various interests in dispute.”
High court rescues special congressional seats for victims
By a 5-3 vote on May 21, Colombia’s Constitutional Court upheld—rescued from oblivion, really—a key commitment of the peace accord’s second chapter. For the next two congressional terms (2022-2030), Colombia’s 172-seat House of Representatives will have 16 more seats. Each will be held by an elected representative of conflict victims, from one of the zones hit hardest by the conflict with the FARC. These representatives may not be from established political parties, including the party formed by the former FARC: they should come from victims’ organizations.
This commitment of section 2.3.6 of the peace accord had appeared= dead. In 2017, a bill to create the special congressional districts for victims passed Colombia’s House of Representatives, and passed the Senate by a vote of 50 to 7 at the end of November. That, apparently, wasn’t enough. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the measure had failed, arguing that it needed 52 votes to pass, as there are 102 senators. In fact, there were 98 senators at the time, because four senators had lost their seats due to legal problems like corruption.
Legal challenges to revive the “special peace districts” foundered in lower courts, and this promise of the accord appeared nearly dead. In December 2019, though, Colombia’s Constitutional Court agreed to consider the case and review the 2017 Senate vote.
The Court has not issued details of its decision yet, so timetables are not clear. But it appears certain that most of Colombia’s 9 million victims will soon have a louder voice in the legislature.
Links
  • Somos Defensores published its annual report covering attacks on human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia in 2020. The group counted 199 murders of social leaders, a 60 percent increase over 2019. The report profiles the 95 people the group verified as murdered during the second half of the year.
  • video of members of the “Gulf Clan” neo-paramilitary group threatening a community just 15 minutes’ drive from Montería, the capital of Córdoba department, shows the continued power of paramilitarism in this region of northwestern Colombia, La Silla Vacía explains. At the same site, Reynell Badillo Sarmiento and Luis Fernando Trejos contend that more than “paramilitarism,” what plagues Córdoba is “criminal governance,” noting that “it is difficult to argue that the AGC [Gulf Clan] is a paramilitary group.”
  • With U.S. backing, a team of Colombian police came up with a list of recommendations for Haiti, which is suffering a rash of kidnappings, Reuters reports.
  • After revelations that it has sustained contacts via intermediaries with the ELN, the Duque government namedTulio Gilberto Astudillo Victoria alias Juan Carlos Cuéllar, a captured member of the group, to serve as a “gestor de paz” (official peace intermediary). Cuéllar has played this role before. This new status will allow Cuéllar to be freed from prison.
  • Security forces in Santander captured alias “Matamba,” a narcotrafficker who leads an armed group called La Cordillera Sur, active in northern Nariño department. The Fiscalía believes him to be aligned with the Gulf Clan, though the police say he had forged a pact with the Nueva Marquetalia FARC dissident group, El Espectadorreports.
  • The Fiscalía ordered house arrest for Cristian Saavedra Arias, the soldier who shot and killed Juliana Giraldo, a trans woman, at a checkpoint in Miranda, Cauca in September 2020.
  • While the AP noted that leading 2018 leftist candidate Gustavo Petro has maintained a surprisingly low profile during the protests, government-aligned Semana magazine put a chaotic image of Petro on its cover with the headline “Petro, enough is enough!”
  • “The fact that, despite all the evidence against it, the Colombian state continues to try to reinstate glyphosate spraying [to eradicate coca, with U.S. backing] only demonstrates this administration’s disinterest towards its most vulnerable citizens,” writes Olga Behar in an excellent overview essay in Spanish at the Washington Post.
Weekly Border Update: May 21, 2021
With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.
Title 42’s gradual loosening continues
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, issued an unusually direct statement on May 20 voicing alarm about a major state’s treatment of protection-seeking migrants. Grandi called on the U.S. government “to swiftly lift” the pandemic measure known as “Title 42,” for the part of the U.S. Code that allows border closures during quarantines. Since March 2020, Title 42 has swiftly expelled more than 750,000 undocumented migrants apprehended at the border back to Mexico or their countries of origin—including nearly all migrants who would seek asylum or other protection.
The Trump administration justified the mass expulsions in the name of public health, though later reporting revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not view it as necessary to expel asylum seekers. Still, the Biden administration has maintained the expulsions order, with no timetable for lifting it.
“The use of Title 42 is not a source of pleasure, but rather frankly, a source of pain,” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on April 30, adding “the timeline is as quickly as possible.” Todd Miller, the official performing the duties of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner, told the House Appropriations Committee on May 19 that his agency is “preparing for the eventuality of Title 42 to be lifted.”
The UNHCR statement calls on the United States “to restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations.” Grandi acknowledges that in its first four months, the Biden administration has been building capacity—CBP’s Miller mentioned five “soft-sided,” or tent-based, processing facilities coming online near ports of entry—and is now allowing a few vulnerable asylum-seekers to present in the United States. “A system which allows a small number of asylum seekers to be admitted daily, however, carries with it a number of risks, and is not an adequate response.”
As noted in last week’s update, DHS has stopped a program of daily flights that were transporting asylum-seeking Central American families from parts of the border where Mexico was not allowing expulsions with young children, to other parts of the border where Mexico does allow such expulsions. That update also noted an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been in negotiations with the Biden administration over a lawsuit challenging Title 42 expulsions of families, to allow 35 of the most vulnerable expelled family members to re-enter the United States to pursue their protection claims on U.S. soil.
That number expanded this week. The ACLU told CBS News on May 18 that DHS has agreed to allow up to 250 of the most vulnerable asylum seekers to present inside the United States each day. “So far, 2,000 asylum-seekers have been admitted into the U.S. through the ACLU’s negotiations with the Biden administration,” the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt told CBS.
The modest increase in access to asylum is a stopgap measure. The 250 would be identified by advocacy groups. This “puts the burden of deciding who gets access on NGOs, which is really not our role,” Tracey Horan of the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Arizona told Public Radio International (PRI). The loosening of Title 42 is no substitute for the ACLU lawsuit, Gelernt told PRI. “We are troubled, to say the least, that the Biden administration has chosen to keep a Trump administration policy that was always a sham, was never justified by public health.”
Meanwhile, about 700 expelled asylum seekers remain stranded in the dangerous border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. A tent encampment in the Plaza de la República near the port of entry is to be moved about a mile west to a space next to Reynosa’s church-run Senda de Vida shelter.
Remain in Mexico continues to unwind
The Biden administration meanwhile continues a slow but steady unwinding of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico,” policy, which in 2019 and 2020 sent more than 71,000 asylum-seeking migrants from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries back across the border into Mexico to await their U.S. hearings. After canceling Remain in Mexico on January 20, the administration has been working with UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to bring asylum seekers into the United States to pursue their claims.
As of the end of April, Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration data project reports, 8,387 asylum seekers had been brought into the United States under the Remain in Mexico unwinding. Another 18,087 people with open cases remained in Mexico. By May 14, the number permitted to enter the United States had risen to 10,707, a UN official toldBorder Report. “They’re extremely happy to be back. The program is unwinding extremely well. It was well thought out, well planned,” added Ruben Garcia of El Paso’s Annunciation House shelter.
Beyond the approximately 26,500 who still had open cases when the Biden administration took over, many migrants subject to “Remain in Mexico” had missed their court dates in the United States due to security reasons or other obstacles to showing up at a Mexican border city’s port of entry at the appointed time. Some were even being held by kidnappers when they were supposed to appear in court. As a result, U.S. immigration courts threw out their asylum claims because they were no-shows. BuzzFeed reported this week that DHS officials “have agreed that those ordered deported in absentia should have their cases reopened.”
One migrant subject to “Remain in Mexico” who will never get the chance to pursue his asylum case in the United States is Cristian San Martín Estrada, a citizen of Cuba. Estrada had been waiting in Mexico since 2019, when he was returned as an 18-year-old asylum seeker. He was scheduled to re-enter the United States “in the coming days,” according to a tweet from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Cristian San Martín Estrada was shot to death in Ciudad Juárez on the evening of May 17.
Documents reveal a CBP counter-terror unit’s focus on asylum lawyers
The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a public interest law firm, shared with ProPublica’s Dara Lind some documents obtained from CBP through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. They reveal that U.S. asylum lawyers were flagged and interrogated by a secretive CBP unit, its “Tactical Terrorism Response Team,” apparently based on questionable and politicized intelligence.
El Paso-based asylum lawyer Taylor Levy (interviewed about her work in a May 2020 WOLA podcast) tells ProPublica that CBP held her for hours at the port of entry in January 2019, when she returned from dinner with friends in Ciudad Juárez. ProPublica reports, “She didn’t know why she was being questioned by an agent who’d introduced himself as a counterterrorism specialist,” along with attorney Héctor Ruiz.
The documents revealed that the Tactical Terrorism Response Team was acting on incorrect intelligence alleging that Levy had met with members of a October 2018 migrant “caravan.”
These “caravans”—migrants who, seeking to avoid having to pay a smuggler, attempted to cross Mexico in large groups for safety in numbers—never added up to more than a single-digit percentage of migration from Central America to the United States. Today, Mexican or Guatemalan forces tend to disperse caravans long before they get anywhere near the U.S. border.
Nonetheless, the caravan phenomenon had alarmed the Trump administration and conservative media outlets, leading the president to send active-duty troops to the border, where some remain today. Now we know that the Trump administration also devoted CBP’s counter-terrorism resources to caravan-related missions, and that it cast its net so widely as to include asylum lawyers.
Among the documents newly released to the Santa Fe Dreamers Project is a remarkable mid-2019 Border Patrol intelligence report from El Paso, which reads more like a Breitbart editorial than the work of intelligence professionals:
Mass migration from South America into the United States is said to be coordinated at some level by non profit organizations who wish to line their pockets with proceeds deriving from migrants transportation fees up to the U.S Mexico border, and ultimately proceeds deriving from the migrants paying for their asylum case lawyers once they have arrived to the United States.
The report, ProPublica states, “goes on to associate this effort with ‘other groups such as Antifa,’” which is not in fact a “group.”
Taylor Levy’s colleagues recall that she was critical of the migrant caravan tactic, and had not met with its members, nearly all of whom went to Tijuana, not Ciudad Juárez. Ruiz, the other lawyer, had spoken to an assembly of caravan participants when they passed through Mexico City, advising them about the stringency of U.S. asylum law and the low probability that those with unclear claims would be allowed to stay.
Levy and Ruiz “also recall being asked about their beliefs,” ProPublica continues. “Levy remembers an agent asking her why she worked for a Catholic aid organization if she didn’t believe in God, while Ruiz told ProPublica they were asked about their opinions of the Trump administration and the economy.”
A modest increase in unaccompanied children, amid concerns about emergency shelters
After weeks of steady decline, including a sharp drop during May 9-13, Border Patrol encountered a larger number of non-Mexican unaccompanied migrant children during May 16-19. The agency averaged 393 encounters with unaccompanied kids so far this week, similar to the 387 daily encounters two weeks ago but up sharply from last week’s 268.
This may just be a normal fluctuation, while arrivals of unaccompanied kids remain over 100 per day fewer than they were in late March and early April. Other possible explanations could be seasonal variation, as May is often the heaviest month of the year for migration; smugglers adjusting to Mexico’s increased migrant interdiction efforts; more parents expelled under Title 42 making the gut-wrenching decision to separate and send their children across the border alone; or an increase in children from one or two particular countries.
The number of “encountered” children in Border Patrol’s holding facilities remains a tiny fraction of what it was, an average of 736 per day this week, compared to more than 5,000 at the end of March. This means that the agency remains able to hand unaccompanied kids over quickly to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A 2008 law requires that ORR shelter non-Mexican children while seeking to place them with relatives or other sponsors in the United States, with whom they stay while the immigration court system considers their asylum or protection needs. (Most Mexican children are quickly deported, as the law allows, regardless of their protection needs.)
As of May 19, ORR had 19,344 unaccompanied migrant children in its shelter system. The agency expanded its capacity by hastily opening up 13 emergency facilities around the country, at sites like convention centers, tent camps, and a U.S. Army base, Fort Bliss, in El Paso.
Unlike ORR’s normal shelters, these emergency facilities are not licensed childcare facilities: instead, they more closely resemble shelters for hurricane evacuees, with rows of cots in giant rooms and few activities to pass the time. On May 14 HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra visited one such site, at the Long Beach, California convention center. He acknowledged that conditions at the various emergency facilities vary “site by site.”
Child welfare advocates have voiced alarm. Lawyers permitted to visit facilities under the 1997 Flores settlement agreement described to CBS News “limited access to showers, soiled clothes and undercooked food” and children feeling “sad and desperate,” even suicidal.
“As of late April,” CBS notes, “more than 300 migrant boys had spent over 50 days at a Dallas convention center” with no ability to go outside. At Fort Bliss, “multiple white tents…each house about 900 children, who sleep on bunk cots.” About 4,400 children are currently at the army base, and the number could grow to 10,000 as the pandemic’s ebbing causes other facilities, like convention centers, to revert to their original purposes.
“I know the administration wants to take a victory lap for moving children out of Border Patrol stations—and they deserve credit for doing that,” Leecia Welch of the National Center for Youth Law, one of the lawyers permitted to tour some facilities, told the New York Times. “But the truth is, thousands of traumatized children are still lingering in massive detention sites on military bases or convention centers, and many have been relegated to unsafe and unsanitary conditions.”
Under great pressure to do so, ORR has been working to speed its discharges of children from shelters to families and sponsors. The agency has discharged an average of 481 children per day this week, down slightly from over 500 during the previous two weeks. An HHS official told CBS News that children are spending an average of 29 days in its shelters, down from 42 days in late January. Obstacles to faster discharges include a shortage of case officers and the time-consuming nature of vetting relatives and sponsors, including background checks, to ensure that children will be safe with them.
Links
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is closing two ICE detention centers where alleged abuses of inmates had been widespread. The Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia gained notoriety last September when women detained there said they had been subject to non-consensual hysterectomies and other surgeries. Also closing is the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
  • On May 12, DHS requested that the Defense Department extend the Trump administration’s National Guard deployment at the border beyond September 30, when fiscal year 2021 ends. “The Department is currently considering that request,” Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said on May 18. Defense Department press secretary John Kirby would not confirm whether a post-September border presence would include active duty troops in addition to National Guardsmen, an unusual deployment that Trump launched in 2018. About 4,000 guardsmen remain at the border.
  • The number of internal affairs officers at CBP—professionals who investigate claims of corruption, human rights abuse, or other malfeasance—increased from 174 in 2015 to 252 in 2019. The agency would need about 750, the Cato Institute reports, to have a ratio of agents to internal affairs officers comparable to that of the New York Police Department.
  • Lawyers working with the Biden administration have located 54 more parents whom the Trump administration separated from their children in 2017 and 2018. “Now the parents of 391 children have yet to be reached, down from 445 in April,” NBC reported. Roughly 1,000 families remain separated overall. Meanwhile, as BuzzFeed reminds, it is still CBP policy to separate asylum-seeking children traveling with non-immediate relatives, like aunts or uncles.
  • The latest Metering Update from the University of Texas Strauss Center finds 18,700 names of asylum seekers waiting their turn to approach still-closed ports of entry in eight Mexican border cities—a 15 percent increase from February. The authors warn that border cities’ waitlists have become an inexact indicator of trends: many on the lists have since sought to cross between ports of entry, returned or been deported to their countries of origin, or moved elsewhere in Mexico, while new asylum seekers continue to arrive and don’t always sign on.
  • “Rather than attempting to drive down migration through more-stringent enforcement, Biden officials in recent weeks have been seeking to change the perception that high border numbers equate with a crisis, a failure, or even something manifestly negative,” reports Nick Miroff at the Washington Post.
  • January 23 was the date that Tamaulipas, Mexico stopped taking back expelled non-Mexican families with children under age 7, according to House Appropriations testimony from Todd Miller of CBP. After Mexico and Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries, Miller revealed, the next six countries whose citizens Border Patrol is currently apprehending at the border are Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Haiti, and Nicaragua. More Brazilians are arriving “on the western flank” of the border.
  • On May 27 at 11am ET WOLA is hosting with a webinar with the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center, La 72 Migrant Shelter, and the Jesuit Migration Network-Guatemala about the impact of migration enforcement policies in Mexico and Guatemala. You can register for the event here.
Latin America-related online events this week
Tuesday, May 25
Wednesday, May 26
Thursday, May 27
Friday, May 28
Some tweets that made me laugh last week
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