May 22

Hello, everyone. Thank you for visiting. “Plan Colombia and Beyond” is no longer active, as I – the blog’s principal author – have moved to the Washington Office on Latin America, where I’m directing WOLA’s security policy program.

Now that my transition to WOLA is complete, I’ve begun blogging often at the site of the CIP-WOLA-LAWG “Just the Facts” program. Today, for instance, is the first weekly links post, which was a frequent feature on “Plan Colombia and Beyond.” That site allows you to sign up to receive blog entries (among other information) in your e-mail.

Meanwhile, WOLA is in the midst of a total website overhaul. Once that new resource is ready, I’ll launch a new blog there as well. So please keep in touch!

– Adam Isacson

Apr 20

Dear “Plan Colombia and Beyond” readers,

At the end of April, I’ll be leaving the Center for International Policy.

This decision owes to financial realities, and has nothing to do with the affection and gratitude I feel for my co-workers, management, board and supporters here at CIP, some of whom have accompanied me for all of my fourteen and a half years here. I hope to continue working with them as part of the community of organizations advocating human rights, demilitarization and social justice in U.S. foreign policy. CIP is a vital organization that deserves your support.

In early May, I’ll be joining the staff of the Washington Office on Latin America, where I’ll coordinate WOLA’s security policy program. While I’m saddened by my departure from CIP, I’m very excited by the opportunities that await me at WOLA.

My work there will be more regional than it has been here. WOLA already covers Colombia extensively, and while I hope to contribute to that, it will not be my main focus. Instead, we’ll be working on transparency and accountability in U.S. military programs, regional defense relations, civilian and military roles in U.S. aid to the region, and other issues to be developed with WOLA’s security team.

This change means that, as of May, “Plan Colombia and Beyond” will no longer be updated. The archives will remain online indefinitely, but after five and a half years and over 900 posts, this blog will be retiring.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop using the weblog format, which has greatly multiplied the reach of my work here. I’ll still be contributing constantly to the “Just the Facts” blog (, and intend to launch a new resource at WOLA. Though I don’t know yet what form it will take, I’ll let you know where to find it once it’s up and running, which shouldn’t be long.

From my new position, I’ll continue to work on the “Just the Facts” security-assistance-monitoring website and program (, which WOLA’s executive director, Joy Olson, and I started in 1997 when she was at the Latin America Working Group. That website is going to keep getting better, with even more current, primary information and new analyses.

Thank you so much for visiting and participating in “Plan Colombia and Beyond” since its launch in October 2004. Thanks for making this a successful resource that I’ve always enjoyed working on. I hope it has contributed in some small way toward improving U.S. policy toward Colombia and its neighbors.

So this isn’t goodbye — it’s just “goodbye” from this particular website. Stay tuned, and please keep in touch.

Adam Isacson

Mar 17

I’m back from Europe as of last night and will resume “real” posting tomorrow; there’s a lot to say about last weekend’s legislative elections in Colombia.

In the meantime, here in two parts is Felipe Zuleta’s recent video about the “False Positives” scandal in the poor Bogotá suburb of Soacha. CIP Intern Cristina Salas added English subtitles to the content by Zuleta, a Colombian journalist who ran unsuccessfully for a Senate seat on Sunday. Zuleta’s original unsubtitled Spanish videos are posted to YouTube here.

Part 1

Part 2

Mar 09

I’m off to France, to be a panelist at a conference on human rights in the Americas (PDF – and no, we don’t get a lot of invitations like these).

I hope to be able to post from the road, though I don’t know what my Internet access will be like. Regular posting should resume by Wednesday the 17th.

Jan 09

A long vacation with the family and a week trying to catch up on more urgent deadlines. Normal posting should resume by Monday. Sorry for the absence.

Dec 17

I had hoped to finish an entry about the 2010 foreign aid bill, which Congress passed over the weekend. But I’ve run out of time and must go to the airport in in a little while for a brief trip to Peru.

So, nothing new here. But on the website of Foreign Policy you can read a just-posted article based on our latest report on Colombia’s “Integrated Action” programs:

I hope to post from Lima if time and Internet access allow.

Nov 02
La Candelaria, Bogotá.

I’m going to Bogotá tomorrow for a series of meetings of the International Consultative Committee of Colombia’s Commission for Historical Memory. (This commission has issued two important reports in its brief existence: one on the municipality of Trujillo, Valle, and one on the 2000 El Salado massacre.) I do not return to Washington until the weekend.

To friends and colleagues in Bogotá whom I haven’t contacted, I apologize – the committee has filled my agenda rather fully during this brief visit.

This means Internet access and writing time will be limited this week. I will try to post here, but cannot promise that I’ll have either the time or the connectivity. If not, have a good week and I look forward to posting again as soon as possible.

Sep 30

I’m leaving Washington today for a brief trip to Bogotá to speak at this event. This may make posting even more sporadic than it has been for the remainder of the week.

The rest of the program’s staff have been posting very frequently to the “Just the Facts” blog – it’s been very active – and they will continue to do so. Hasta pronto…

Aug 28

Greetings from my couch – I’ve been out sick the last two days. But this morning I took lots of ibuprofen and wrote this analysis of the Colombia base agreement dispute and the UNASUR meeting for the Huffington Post.

Also to update on the re-election referendum debate in Colombia’s Congress: the process of reviewing all 92 legislators’ recusal requests has proven to be too time-consuming, and the House adjourned Wednesday night, postponing further deliberations for as many as eight days. Some Colombian press has been speculating that the pro-reelection camp is still uncertain about whether they have the votes, and may need a few extra days to twist arms outside the spotlight.

Aug 22

Regular blogging will resume soon. I’m near the end of a week’s vacation with very little Internet access. I wrote the following bit of wisdom yesterday, very slowly, on my phone:

Right now I’m on a beach in Virginia, watching some kids kicking what’s left of a sand castle my daughter and I built about an hour ago.

That got me thinking about how building a great sand castle would require defending it, too. A really ambitious sand castle project might even call for hiring a bigger, stronger kid to guard it from other kids.

But then there’s a risk that the bigger, stronger kid might disagree with the way you’re building your own sand castle, elbow you aside and start building it himself. Or you may have a creative disagreement with a fellow castle-builder, and you may find yourself trying to bribe the bigger, stronger castle-guard into ejecting your adversary.

In either case, the castle-guard kid would need a lot of discipline to stay uninvolved and keep out of the castle-building business.

So anyway, I guess I’m on the beach thinking about civil-military relations.

I’ll be back in a few more days.

Jul 02

IMG_4392.JPGWe just arrived in Bogotá last night, and will be here until the weekend. Next week, we’ll be visiting the Montes de María region, along Colombia’s Caribbean coast southwest of Cartagena, where the U.S. government has begun to support an “integrated action” security and development program with its own “fusion center” – the same model we discussed in a series of April posts from a visit to the Vistahermosa-La Macarena region in southern Colombia.

Expect less frequent posts because of time and Internet access. But hopefully more interesting posts. I promise not to write any more long, turgid analyses of the “integrated action” model – that part of the project is finished.

Apr 23

Traveling in Colombia leaves very little time to sit at the keyboard and write. Instead, here is a quick video update that I shot today during a free moment in downtown Bogotá. Yes, a large American spent two minutes walking down a busy sidewalk talking to a little camera in his right hand. Surprisingly few people seemed to take any notice.

Note: I’ve been reminded that I make a misstatement in this video. While I believe that we’ll be producing the first full independent investigation of the “Integrated Action” model, I am not the first independent observer to visit the zone. That title goes to investigator and author Garry Leech, who filed an excellent report to his Colombia Journal website back in February. Apologies to Garry – it turns out it’s hard to ad lib when you’re walking down the peatonal by Avenida Jiménez.

Hello from Bogotá from Adam Isacson on Vimeo.

Apr 21

Apologies for the lack of updates to the blog. I’m writing from Bogotá, where I’ll be speaking later today at a conference on defense and security. It’s not my usual crowd, most of those in attendance are from Colombia’s armed forces. I’ve been having a lot of respectful but lively debates with fellow conference participants about issues like human rights and the role of the United States.

Later in the week, I plan to go to a region that has become a principal destination for U.S. assistance. More on that later after my plans solidify. I will post updates to this space whenever possible.

In the meantime, here is a picture from my seat in the conference I’m attending. In the shot I can identify the head of Colombia’s Army, Gen. Oscar González (second from left), the mayor of Bogotá, Samuel Moreno (4th from left), Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos (6th from right), French Ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud (5th from right), Armed Forces Chief Gen. Freddy Padilla (4th from right), and Police Chief Gen. Oscar Naranjo (right).

Nov 17

Posting to this blog may be infrequent this week, since we’re hosting and accompanying the visit to Washington of eight Colombian human rights defenders.

In addition to the five leaders from Putumayo profiled in the event announcement below – if you’re in Washington Thursday, please do join us in the Rayburn House Office Building – we are joined by Iván Cepeda of the National Movement of Victims, and Gloria Flórez and Nancy Sánchez from MINGA.

The group arrived over the weekend. Yesterday we took a tour of Washington’s monuments and memorials. After 3 hours of stops commemorating the Civil War, World War II, Iwo Jima, Korea and Vietnam, the general conclusion was that the United States sure has been in a lot of wars.

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC)

(formerly the Congressional Human Rights Caucus)



Thursday, November 20, 2008

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

2255 Rayburn HOB

Dear Colleague,

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for an extraordinary hearing on the continuing human rights crisis in Putumayo, Colombia. Nearly a year in preparation, this hearing brings to Washington, DC a stellar delegation of human rights defenders from the Department of Putumayo, Colombia. Professional simultaneous translation will be provided. Participants will include:

  • Ms. Blanca Nieves Galarraga Meneses: A spokeswoman on behalf of the “disappeared” and the internally displaced, four of her children have “disappeared” and she has suffered displacement with her six grandchildren and two stepchildren. The story of her appeals to legal and security authorities in Putumayo and Nariño provide a roadmap to the difficulties facing families who are displaced and whose loved ones have “disappeared.” For the past six years, she has cared for 8 children, whose current ages range from 8 to 16 years.
  • Ms. Ana Tulia Burbano Acosta: For the past decade, Burbano Acosta has been the director of the Educational Institution of the San Carlos Rural School, in the rural municipality of La Dorada. Subject to FARC and paramilitary threats and violence, the school provides education, shelter, food and refuge to more than 230 students in one of the areas of heightened conflict.
  • Ms. Emilse Bernal Bastidas: President of the Campesino Association of Southwest Putumayo (ACSOMAYO), which includes 73 local advisory committees (Juntas de Acción Comunal), 5 indigenous cabildos, and 2 reservations of the Nasa, Embera, Inga and Awá indigenous peoples. Its members include over 13,000 campesinos and 2,300 indigenous people. Ms. Bernal assumed leadership after the murder of former president, Luis Melo, by paramilitaries in Puerto Asís. ACSOMAYO represents people in the region with the greatest number of violations by the Colombian military, especially in cases of extrajudicial killings.
  • Mr. Cesar Willington Chapal Quenama: Coordinator of the Permanent Forum of the Cofán Nation and the Indigenous Communities of Valle del Guamuez. The Cofán Forum includes the Kitchua, Nasa, Embera, Awá and Siona nations (the Cofán and the Siona are communities considered by the United Nations to be in danger of extinction). These indigenous communities and peoples are threatened by violence by all armed actors, displaced from ancestral lands, and subject to colonization by non-indigenous and Colombian armed forces, as well as by the exploration and exploitation of petroleum.
  • Ms. Fabiola Erazo Garcia: Leader of Ruta Pacífica de Mujeres (Women’s Peaceful Route) and the Alianza de Mujeres del Putumayo (Alliance of Putumayan Women), Erazo Garcia has been on the front lines of the struggle for truth and justice in one of the most violent regions of Putumayo in the municipality of Villagarzón.
  • Ms. Nancy Sánchez Mendez, Associación Minga. Minga is a Colombian NGO in defense of human rights, with representatives throughout Colombia.

Putumayo, in southern Colombia, has received large concentrations of U.S. military, counterdrug, and economic funding, as a focus of counterinsurgency, counternarcotics and armed conflict for the past decade. These human rights defenders will describe what has occurred in Putumayo during the 2000s and the current human rights situation. Their personal stories and descriptions of the human rights situation on the ground in Colombia will serve as a window into the reality of rural life in Colombia.

The hearing will be co-chaired by Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman Raúl Grijalva. Other Members are invited to attend, speak and ask questions of the panelists.

For further information, please contact Hans Hogrefe at 5-5021or Cindy Buhl at 5-6101.


James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chair, TLHRC

Frank R. Wolf, M.C.
Co-Chair, TLHRC

Nov 08

I’m headed to the airport in a few hours, accompanying a congressional delegation to Ecuador. I’ll try to post pictures and give updates from there, but it’s not clear how much downtime-with-Internet-access I’ll have to do that. I’ll be back in Washington on Friday.

In the meantime, here is a link to my co-worker Abigail Poe’s post on the “Just the Facts” blog: a fascinating rundown of what Latin America’s governments and editorial boards said this week about Barack Obama’s election victory.

I look forward to posting again very soon.