Tim Padgett

Americas editor

Tim Padgett is WLRN-Miami Herald News' Americas correspondent covering Latin America and the Caribbean from Miami. He has covered Latin America for almost 25 years, for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief, first in Mexico from 1996 to 1999 and then in Miami, where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast, from 1999 to 2013.

Padgett has interviewed more than 20 heads of state, including former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and he was one of the few U.S. correspondents to sit down with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during his 14-year rule. He has reported on, and written cover articles about, every major Latin American and Caribbean story from NAFTA, the Cuban economic collapse and Colombian civil war of the 1990s to the Brazilian boom, Venezuelan revolution and Mexican drug-war carnage of the 2000s. In 2005, Padgett received Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the oldest international award in journalism, for his body of work from the region. His 1993 Newsweek cover, “Cocaine Comes Home,” won the Inter-American Press Association’s drug-war coverage award.

A U.S. native from Indiana, Padgett received his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Wabash College as an English major. He was an intern reporter at Newsday in 1982 and 1983. In 1985 Padgett received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School before studying in Caracas, Venezuela, at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He started his professional journalism career in 1985 at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he led the newspaper’s coverage of the 1986 immigration reform. In 1988 he joined Newsweek in its Chicago bureau. Padgett has also written for publications such as The New Republic and America, and he has been a frequent analyst on CNN, Fox and NPR, as well as Spanish-language networks such as Univision.

Padgett has been an adult literacy volunteer since 1989. He currently lives in Miami with his wife and two children. 

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A major poll released Monday confirms most Americans, and especially Floridians, feel it’s time to normalize relations with communist Cuba after more than a half century of Cold-War rupture.

Sophia Padgett Perez

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. Big deal. This is Valentine’s week, when cocoa matters more than crude – and what’s important is that Venezuela produces the world’s best chocolate.

Problem is, will politics soon drag down Venezuela’s cacao (cocoa) industry the way it’s reduced the country’s oil output? On Feb. 14, at least, that’s a worrisome question, especially inside gourmet chocolate shops like Romanicos.

El Nuevo Herald

This week’s Colombian voter poll had to feel like a back-handed compliment for President Juan Manuel Santos.

The new survey by the Bogotá research firm Ipsos-Napoleón Franco shows Santos with a 17-point lead over his closest competitor in his bid to win re-election in May. But Santos garners just 25 percent of the vote. Half of those polled said they were undecided or intend to cast a blank protest ballot. That’s hardly cause for cumbia dancing at the Casa de Nariño presidential palace.

I bought Francisco Lima his first taste of freedom in decades.

A cheeseburger.

It was 2004, and Brazil was starting to confront one of its most distressing problems: slavery. I was in northern Pará state, in the Amazon, observing a special police unit that raided slaveholding farms and firms and liberated workers like the 74-year-old Lima.

Chernush / Free the Slaves

I bought Francisco Lima his first taste of freedom in decades.

A cheeseburger.

It was 2004, and Brazil was starting to confront one of its most distressing problems: slavery. I was in northern Pará state, in the Amazon, observing a special police unit that raided slave-holding farms and firms and liberated workers like the 74-year-old Lima.

Gross family

Can the Vatican free Alan Gross in Cuba? It helps first to consider how the Roman Catholic Church freed itself in Cuba.

Cuba has seen surprising turns in recent years. Fidel Castro handing the communist dictatorship to his younger brother Raúl. Raúl decreeing capitalist reforms to save the communist dictatorship.

haitilibre.com

Pope Francis didn’t have to say it. He let the timing say it for him.

The pope this week named Haitian Bishop Chibly Langlois as one of 19 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. In the process, he all but declared a shift in clerical power on the large Caribbean island of Hispaniola. And he may also have delivered a rebuke to the Dominican Republic, the country that shares that isle with Haiti, and to the D.R.’s controversial cardinal, Nicolás López.

haiti.usembassy.gov

Right after Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, I rode in a U.S. Army helicopter ferrying food and medical supplies into demolished Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.

As we descended near the suburb of Pétionville, and as corpses became visible amid the ruins and campfire smoke billowed up in our faces, the pilot said he couldn’t put us down. Too many people were running to the landing spot, and they risked being killed by the chopper rotors.

Thomas Henry Berry / Facebook

Latin American leaders don’t know how to stop their violent-crime epidemic, but they sure know how to spin it.

Former Miss Venezuela and telenovela star Mónica Spear and her ex-husband were murdered Monday night during a botched highway robbery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Their 5-year-old daughter was shot, too, but survived. As the shocking news spread throughout Venezuela and then Miami, where Spear often lived and worked, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro hit a spin cycle I’ve seen countless other presidentes employ after high-profile homicides.

secretariat.thecommonwealth.org

Christmas 2013 was the best and worst of times for Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Dec. 19. For Gonsalves, an outspoken populist who was about to take over as chairman of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, it was a moment of valuable political cachet: Francis has proven a champion of poor global underdogs like the small republics of the Caribbean.

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

As a boy, I always envied Hispanics at Christmas. That’s because they got a bonus Santa Claus.

Three, actually: Los Reyes Magos, a.k.a. the Three Kings, the Wise Men, the Magi – the fellows who each Jan. 6 lavished an extra round of toys on every kid I knew who had a Spanish surname.

As an adult, I’m still a big fan of los Reyes. And I think Jan. 6 – Epiphany, the day that Christians, especially in Spain and Latin America, celebrate the Magis’ visit to the newborn Jesus – offers another potential bonus:

Nibiru-PlanetX.com

On Christmas Eve, the islands of the eastern Caribbean were hammered by 15 inches of torrential rain. The flooding and landslides killed at least 13 people. South Florida’s Caribbean diaspora is gathering relief supplies - and officials are sounding the climate change alarm.

Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, calls last week’s downpour “a disaster of a proportion…we have not seen in living memory.” Gonsalves himself lost a cousin killed in a landslide.

L'Osservatore Romano

They say Americans will do anything for Latin America except read about it. But even gringos couldn’t ignore the noise next door in 2013.

Seemingly overnight, Brazil experienced violent anti-government unrest – then just as quickly it became the spokesnation for a world outraged by the U.S. surveillance overreach exposed by Edward Snowden.

rapadoo.com

Christmas Day turned tragic when a boat carrying Haitian migrants capsized off the Turks and Caicos Islands. Seventeen of the more than 50 passengers were killed, while some fled and are still being sought.

This is just the latest in a growing spate of Haitian disasters on the Caribbean. Last month 30 Haitians drowned in a similar incident off the Bahamas.

madrid.olx.es

Gringos like me don’t forget their first hallaca.

Mine was lying on a simple white plate, in the coastal town of Lecherías, Venezuela, on the patio of my future in-laws’ home. It was a soft Caribbean Christmas Eve in 1985.

The tawny tamal was swaddled in smoked banana leaves that reminded me of the lush, exotic foliage of an Henri Rousseau painting. I unwrapped it, cut into it, took a bite – and rediscovered Christmas.

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