Latin America Report

Brazilian investors buy Miami real estate. Haitian earthquake survivors attend South Florida schools. It's clear what happens in Latin America and the Caribbean has a profound effect on South Florida.

WLRN’s coverage of the region is headed by Americas editor Tim Padgett, a 23-year veteran of TIME and Newsweek magazines.

He joins a team of reporters and editors at the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and NPR to cover a region whose cultural wealth, environmental complexity, vast agricultural output and massive oil reserves offer no shortage of important and fascinating stories to tell.

Tim Padgett

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

This month the big topic of discussion about Venezuela isn’t focused on its plummeting oil output or food shortages or economic collapse. It’s about invasion.

According to reports, last year President Trump told top aides he wanted to order a military invasion of Venezuela.

Those aides talked him out of it, of course. But the reports have Venezuelans like 19-year-old Camila Duarte feeling confused – and irritated.

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The last time the federal government asked about citizenship status on the U.S. census was 1950. Now federal officials plan to do it again in 2020.

Gilda Cespedes

The burn scars on Jaime Paz Zamora’s face and body are the most vivid reminders of why many consider him a hero of Latin American democracy.

In 1980, Paz was a vice presidential candidate in Bolivia, campaigning in an election meant to restore democratic rule after decades of military dictatorship.

One day, the small plane carrying Paz and his staff crashed after takeoff. Everyone on board was killed – except Paz. Authorities later called it an assassination attempt by military leaders.

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Ariana Colón’s 1-year-old son Sebastian shows off his first word – “Mamá” – as she speaks with me over the phone from the hotel room in Kissimmee, Florida, where they’ve been living this year.

Along with Sebastian’s father, they arrived there shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated their home island, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, last September.

The family has benefited from a federal program for disaster victims called Transitional Sheltering Assistance. It pays their hotel tab while they find gainful employment and permanent housing.

But meeting landlord conditions for that housing has proven as difficult for Puerto Ricans like Colón as it so often does for longtime Florida residents.

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Last month Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won another six year term in an election widely considered fraudulent. He tightened his authoritarian socialist regime's hold on Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves on the globe but is suffering the world's worst economic collapse today. As a result,  Venezuela experts say the opposition to Maduro desperately needs new leadership.

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Medellín is one of the century's most impressive comeback stories. Colombia's second largest city was once synonymous with the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and drug cartel terrorism. Today it's a modern, thriving - and mostly peaceful - metropolis.

But Medellín still can't shake its bloody reputation, as evidenced by the popularity of 'narco tours,' which show visitors key sites from the city's criminal past.

Paul Smith / UNHCR

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | La casa de Angélica Lamos es uno de los pocos lugares en Cúcuta donde se puede oir a los niños refugiados venezolanos reír en vez de llorar. De hecho, los niños chillan de placer jugando con globos en el patio de la casa mientras el ritmo alegre de una cumbia se cuela desde el café de la esquina.

No están desnutridos. No están enfermos.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | No es fácil para Jesús Mendoza hablar de todas las cosas que ha tenido que vender para comprar medicinas - medicinas que lo mantienen con vida.

Jesús recibió un transplante de riñón y tiene que tomar medicinas para no rechazar el órgano, sin importar cuánto cuestan. Y como Jesús vive en Venezuela, el precio es frecuentemente astronómico.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | Así suena la crisis de refugiados huyendo de Venezuela: los puños, nudillos y las manos abiertas de venezolanos indigentes -y sobretodo hambrientos- tocando las puertas de metal de las estaciones de ayuda humanitaria establecidas en la ciudad de Cúcuta, en el lado colombiano de la frontera.

Paul Smith / UNHCR

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | Angélica Lamos’ house is one of the few places in Cúcuta where you can hear Venezuelan refugee children laughing instead of crying. The kids are squealing, in fact, playing with balloons in the courtyard as jaunty cumbia music wafts in from a corner cafe.

They’re not malnourished. They’re not sick.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | It’s not easy for Jesús Mendoza to talk about all the things he’s had to sell to buy medicine – life-saving medicine.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

First of a three-part WLRN series, "Escape From Venezuela"

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | This is what the Venezuelan refugee crisis sounds like: the fists, knuckles and open palms of destitute – and above all hungry – Venezuelan migrants pounding on the metal gates of humanitarian relief stations here in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta.

John Power / WLRN

The rhythms of  the Spanish language have contributed a lot to the sound of South Florida, where more than two million people speak the language. Immigrants from Colombia to Cuba to Venezuela have made vale and dale part of the region’s everyday talk.

Ismael Francisco / AP via Miami Herald

On Wednesday, Cuba may have a new president, elected by the National Assembly. (The election session had been scheduled to start Thursday, but the government moved it up a day.)

“Election” is a relative term here – Cuba is a communist state – but something does set it apart.

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