Latin America Report

Tim Padgett

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 /

On Labor Day there was a good Puerto Rican party on Hollywood Beach – classic Willie Colón salsa music playing on the boom box – hosted by a South Florida group called Boricuas Realengos.

Boricua means Puerto Rican, and so the group’s name translates to “Far-Flung Puerto Ricans.”

Haiti Again Faces 'Pure Devastation.' But Will Recovery Be Different This Time?

Oct 10, 2016
Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Some of Hurricane Matthew's most gut-wrenching stories are coming out of the coastal city of Jérémie on Haiti's southwest peninsula – the region hardest hit.

Courtsey National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians

Back in July, State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed the U.S. had “suspended its assistance toward completion of the presidential electoral process” in Haiti.

Which means: Uncle Sam is not helping to pay for the presidential election being held in Haiti this coming Sunday. Nor will it help with the likely run-off election scheduled for January.

Other international donors, like Canada, have also cut off election aid. Simply put, they’re fed up with Haiti’s political leaders.

Secretaria de Seguridad Publica de Tamaulipas

In June, Mexican freelance reporter Zamira Esther Bautista was gunned down by a group of hit men at her home in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico.

Her killing has yet to be solved; no one has been arrested.

It was the most recent murder of a journalist in Mexico – the eighth there this year. Across Latin America, 23 journalists have been murdered.

That’s a big reason media rights groups this month are urging the U.N. to create a special representative for journalists’ protection.

Tim Padgett /

Meet Jose Alvarez. Or as he’ll tell you when you’re introduced:

“My name is Jose Alvarez, D.O.P.A.”

Tom Hudson /

The Irish aren’t entirely strangers to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Saint Patrick’s Battalion fought for Mexico in the 1800s. Irish tycoon Denis O’Brien owns Digicel, one of the Caribbean’s largest cell phone companies.

But Ireland’s new government has set out a specific agenda for engaging Latin America that’s unusual for a European country outside Spain and Portugal. And Miami figures prominently in that strategy.

Shane Stephens, Ireland’s consul general for the Southeast U.S., based in Atlanta, spoke with WLRN’s Tom Hudson during a recent visit to Miami.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

There was a lot of celebration – and not a little hype – last week when JetBlue took the first U.S. commercial flight into Cuba in more than 50 years.

It was another big step in the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. But beneath all the airborne cheering is the grim reality that Cuba’s economic wings have been all but clipped. 

Tim Padgett /

Colombia’s protracted peace talks have put a serious dent in President Juan Manuel Santos’ approval rating at home – and across the Caribbean.

Santos is probably most unpopular in South Florida, home to the U.S.’s largest Colombian community, which is strongly opposed to peace with Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas, known as the FARC.

In a 2014 interview with WLRN, Santos – who has staked his presidential legacy on ending his South American nation’s 52-year-old civil war – took a dig at Colombian expats here.

Tim Padgett /

The forklift’s working overtime at Vikom Export, one of the hundreds of shipping companies nestled in the warehouse labyrinths of Doral, just west of Miami.

Almost all of Vikom’s shipments go to Venezuela – and they’ve doubled since last year.

Tim Padgett /

At a Brazilian restaurant in Doral called Brazuca’s, Danilo Leão is whipping up his most popular dish, feijoada. Pronounced fay-ZHWAH-dah, it's a heavenly stew of black beans, meats and spices created centuries ago by Brazilian slaves.

Spencer Parts /

Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has gotten deeper this summer. This month the U.S. commonwealth defaulted on $1 billion of debt – and the U.S. Congress approved a federal oversight board to rescue the island.

Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland want a say in how that happens. So they recently created a more unified front called the National Puerto Rican Agenda (NPRA). The group includes a South Florida chapter – which reflects the surprising growth of Florida’s Puerto Rican population down here, not just in Central Florida.

Felipe Marrou / WLRN TV

Billy Causey has a keen eye for recreational boaters doing dumb things around vulnerable coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

Especially on heavy boating holidays like the Fourth of July.

“Lookee there,” says Causey as his boat heads out from Big Pine Key. He points to a nearby cluster of party boats. “A lot of them are up on the sea grasses and people are walking around on top of small colonies of coral.”

Moises Castillo / AP via Miami Herald

On Sunday morning, a 984-foot-long Chinese container vessel – aptly renamed Panama – became the first ship to enter the new, wider locks of the Panama Canal. The waterway’s $5.5 billion expansion ran over budget and almost two years behind schedule. But now that it can accommodate more massive, post-Panamax ships, it should be a boon to U.S. harbors like PortMiami.

Tim Padgett / WLRN

Imagine you’re an ambitious 25-year-old business school grad in Spain. But it’s 2013 – and unemployment there is a scary 26 percent. Where do you take your entrepreneurial talents?

Communist Cuba. Seriously.

Donald Trump Faces The Mexican F-Bomb. As In, Fox.

Jun 7, 2016
Eduardo Verdugo / AP via Miami Herald

The bad blood between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Mexico continues – and lately it has involved Miami.

Last week Trump took offense when the PGA moved a major pro golf tournament from his Trump National Doral Miami resort to Mexico City.

“You vote for Donald Trump as President,” he told supporters, “this stuff is all gonna stop.”

And even before the PGA announcement, Trump made yet another disparaging remark about Mexicans – calling out the Mexican ancestry of Gonzalo Curiel, a U.S. federal judge he’s feuding with.