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. 

Ways to Connect

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP via Miami Herald

Haiti still doesn’t have a real President. One is supposed to be elected next month  –  but don't hold your breath.

WLRN spoke today with the leading candidate, Jovenel Moïse, about whether that’s actually going to happen – and the consequences if it doesn’t, as Haiti's food crisis worsens.

Haiti’s presidential runoff election has been called off twice since December amid charges of electoral fraud. When President Michel Martelly left office last month, Haiti’s Congress chose a temporary president, Jocelerme Privert.

Por las Plumas

Costa Rica isn’t widely known for its movies. But three years ago, a deadpan comedy called “Por las Plumas,” or “All About the Feathers,” got shown at prestigious film festivals like Toronto and Cannes.

And it reached those cinematic heights thanks in no small part to a longstanding but lesser known program created by the Miami International Film Festival, which opened over the weekend at Miami Dade College.

Jamaica Information Service/Prime Minister's Office

These days the Caribbean seems better known for debt ruin than for dark rum.

The region – South Florida’s next-door neighbor – is home to some of the world’s most indebted countries. Since 2010, five of them have defaulted. The government of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, may soon shut down thanks to its epic debt crisis.

But Jamaica – whose more than $16 billion debt represents 130 percent of its GDP – may be the Caribbean’s debt champ. And that’s a big reason Andrew Holness is expected to be sworn in this week as the island’s new Prime Minister.

Collin Reid / AP via Miami Herald

Jamaica will soon have a new Prime Minister. In yesterday’s parliamentary elections, Andrew Holness and the Jamaican Labor Party scored an upset victory.

Which means they will now have to deal with the Caribbean country's heavy economic crisis.

Jamaica’s debt situation is among the world’s worst. To rein in the problem, current Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has imposed strong economic austerity measures. Economists say she’s made progress. But political observers say Jamaicans are weary of the belt-tightening.

Jose Goitia / AP via Miami Herald

Ramón Castro, the lesser known older brother of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro, died Tuesday morning at age 91 in Havana.

The Cuban communist party newspaper Granma did not give a cause of death.

According to Granma, Ramón Castro was jailed by the Batista dictatorship in 1953 and helped supply the militants of the Cuban Revolution, who were led by Fidel. But after the revolution took power in 1959, Ramón largely shied away from politics and spent the rest of his life as a farmer.

Carolyn Kaster / AP via Miami Herald

Back in December, in an interview with Yahoo! News, President Obama said this about the possibility that he'd visit Cuba in 2016:

“I am very much interested in going to Cuba, but I think the conditions have to be right.”

Most people thought he meant he first wanted to see more democratic and economic change on the socialist island. Since then, Cuban President Raúl Castro hasn’t announced any sort of reforms like freer political speech, multi-party elections or full Internet access.

Dario Lopez-Mills / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

The last time I reported from Juárez, Mexico, about five years ago, it was the most murderous city in the world – a desert slaughterhouse for drug lords like Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán.

One evening a colleague and I popped into Juárez’s most famous bar, the Kentucky Club (supposedly the birthplace of the margarita). We had the place to ourselves. A homicide rate of more than 200 per 100,000 residents tends to depress nightlife.

There are bills in both the U.S. House and Senate to lift the 54-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. They haven’t gotten too far. But yesterday the co-sponsors of the House measure were in Miami after a visit to the socialist island - and they were guardedly optimistic their bill might generate enough support this year to bring a vote.

U.S. Representatives Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Kathy Castor of Tampa introduced the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 last summer. The bill would repeal the half-century-old ban on U.S. companies doing business with Cuba.

The White House

President Obama plans to make a historic, if controversial, visit to Cuba next month in an effort to accelerate normalized relations with the socialist island. He confirmed the news Thursday morning.

Sources say Obama will visit Havana the week of March 21, most likely March 21 and 22. From there, according to media reports, he will travel to either Chile or Argentina.

According to ABC News, a National Security Council official will formally announce the President’s Cuba visit tomorrow at the White House.

mountainsoftravelphotos.com

For half a century, only charter flights have been allowed to ferry people from the U.S. into Cuba.

But today, the two cold-war foes will agree to let regular U.S. commercial flights land in the communist island: 20 a day into Havana and 10 daily into nine other Cuban cities.

“This means more people-to-people contact,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Thomas Engle told reporters over the weekend. “All to the good of mutual understanding.”

Colombian Military

Colombia is close to a peace agreement to end its 50-year-long civil war  –  and this week the guerrilla army known as the FARC promised to stop recruiting children. But a Miami-based group that rescues those kids is meeting the pledge with skepticism.

"We're extremely cautious about what this means," says Philippe Houdard, who heads the Developing Minds Foundation – whose most important work may be helping child soldiers in Colombia return to normal lives.

At its facilities in Medellín, Colombia, Developing Minds has rehabilitated more than a thousand of those children.

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Thirty years ago this week, Haiti had no president.

The country’s chubby churl of a dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, had just been ousted and flown into exile with his Cruella de Vil wife. He left a power vacuum, but in those heady days hope ruled Haiti – a faith that democracy would emerge in his blood-stained wake.

But this week, Haiti has no president.

Franklin Reyes / AP via El Nuevo Herald

The U.S. and Cuba may have normalized relations, but the cold war-style defection is still common for Cuban baseball stars who want to ditch communism for the U.S. big leagues. Another one took place yesterday – and it was a double-header.

Many Major League Baseball scouts consider Yulieski Gurriel one of the best players Cuba has ever produced. Even at the age of 31, he’s a coveted power-hitting infielder. So is his 22-year-old brother Lourdes, who can play just about anywhere on the field.

Alma de Tango

It’s Valentine's Day week – and let’s face it, Latin American music helps you get your romance on.

In South Florida you’d have to be a zombie not to know that. Wait, I take that back. I’ve seen even zombie couples here dancing to bolero, bachata, bossa nova and all the other amorous Latin genres that make Miami a 24-hour telenovela soundtrack.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Today, Washington’s diplomatic gaze is on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who’s meeting President Obama at the White House.

But as Santos and Obama discuss what looks like an imminent peace accord to end Colombia’s half-century long civil war, I hope the Beltway keeps another Latin American head of state in mind: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

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