Americas

Gabriel García Márquez
12:59 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Gabo And Gringos: Did Magical Realism Bridge Or Divide The Americas?

Gabriel García Marquez, 1927-2014
Credit Ricardo Timão / Flickr

Gabriel García Márquez, who died Thursday at age 87, provided one of the eerier moments of my journalism career.

In 1996, a colleague and I had been conducting a series of interviews with the Colombian Nobel laureate about his newest book, called “News of a Kidnapping.” It was a nonfiction work on his country’s violent drug-crime culture. Shortly after García Márquez sent the final proofs to his publisher, I called him at his Mexico City home and he sounded shaken.

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Latin America Report
10:56 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Was "Cuban Twitter" Dumb Or Defensible? Or Both?

A Cuban state television camera at the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana.
Credit cubadebate

Confession: When I criticized ZunZuneo as the story emerged earlier this month, I left something important unsaid.

I support its basic intent. That is, the effort to help Cubans or anyone else access news, information and opinions that authoritarian governments around the world try to block.

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Latin America Report
6:40 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Miami Shedding Its Tabloid Image, Gaining Int'l Respect – At Least In The Legal World

Miami hosted the prestigious International Council for Commercial Arbitration congress this week.
Credit ICCA

There’s never a shortage of unusual legal proceedings in Miami. It’s just that very few of them ever enhance the city’s image, as last month’s court hearings on Justin Bieber’s genitalia so charmingly reminded us.

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Opinion
11:50 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Cuba Clueless: Covert Twitter Scheme Tweets U.S. Policy Failure

Cuban woman walk by wall graffiti in Havana.
Credit Flickr

If you needed any reminding of how archaic and clueless U.S. policy on Cuba can be – and the extent to which it so often actually aids an oppressive communist dictatorship – look no further than Thursday’s excellent Associated Press article about the “Cuban Twitter” fiasco.

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Latin America Report
10:37 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Costa Rica Set To Elect A Professor To Recoup Country's Fading Luster

Luis Guillermo Solis campaigning for Sunday's presidential runoff election in Costa Rica.
Credit Flickr

It’s hard to look at Costa Rica these days and not feel an urge to paraphrase Shakespeare:

Et tu Ticos?

Ticos, as Costa Ricans are affectionately known, used to sit on a hemispheric pedestal. Their country was the prosperous, democratic Boy Scout of Central America if not all of Latin America – an oasis of good government and social equality in a region notorious for dictators and dysfunction.

It was the green nation that dumped its army so it could spend more on schools.

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Commentary
10:54 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Castro Opens Cuba's Capitalist Door Another Notch – Should Washington Walk Through?

Cuban leader Raul Castro with leaders of the ruling communist party.
Credit Flickr

It may or not be a coincidence that Cuban leader Raúl Castro disclosed his new foreign investment law this week just as Venezuela was getting another big thumbs-down from the financial world.

Cuba’s threadbare communist economy depends on kindred benefactors like socialist Venezuela. But as that oil-rich country’s own economy continues to implode – the Fitch Ratings company downgraded Venezuelan credit to “Outlook Negative” on Tuesday – Castro has no choice but to open his island’s rusted doors more broadly to capital, capitalism and capitalists.

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Latin America Report
5:53 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Venezuela: Maduro's Offensive Puts Human Rights On The Defensive

Expelled National Assembly member Maria Corina Machado addressing an opposition rally in Caracas last month.
Credit Flickr

Caracas suffered another big power outage on Tuesday. The blackout shut down a hospital and a metro line and left large swaths of the Venezuelan capital without juice for much of the day.

One official response could be an upgrade of oil-rich Venezuela’s antiquated power grid. Another might be more spurious arrests of opposition politicians.

I’m betting on the latter.

That’s because the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro seems much more skilled at finding scapegoats than at fixing problems.

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Commentary
6:11 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Memo To Doralzuelans: Barrio Visits Are More Effective Than Witch Hunts

A hillside slum in Caracas, Venezuela.
Credit Franklin Reyes / Flickr

Of all the on-scene reporting from the deadly anti-government protests in Venezuela, Frank Bajak of the Associated Press may have written one of the most important pieces this week – and it didn’t involve tear gas or street barricades.

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Latin America Report
6:42 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

First Civil, Now Gang Wars. Who Would Want To Be President of El Salvador?

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Salvadorans are poised to pass Cubans as the third-largest Latino group in the United States, behind Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

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Latin America Report
9:29 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

How A Doral Woman Became A Victim Of Anti-Chavista Witch Hunts

Pietra Diwan in front of her Brazilian sweets business in Miami
Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN

Pietra Diwan takes pride in the master’s degree she earned in history back in her native Brazil. But a passion for historical accuracy may cost her the business she built here in South Florida.

As a historian, Diwan pays attention to document details. That’s why she raised flags last month when Venezuelan friends here started posting Facebook photos of the ongoing anti-government protests in Venezuela.

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Commentary
6:51 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Venezuela: Can Anyone Mediate This Mess?

It’s a shame that Venezuela just severed diplomatic and economic ties with Panama, because their respective presidents – Nicolás Maduro and Ricardo Martinelli – have a lot in common.

Yes, I know that Maduro is a radical socialist and former bus driver. And that Martinelli is a right-wing supermarket tycoon.

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Latin America Report
4:16 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

What My Talks With Hugo Taught Me About Chavismo In Venezuela

Hugo Chavez (left) talking to Tim Padgett in 2006
Credit Steve Pyke

Back in 1998, just before he was first elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez described his socialist revolution to me:

“Our revolution is like a river and the rain,” he said with typical bravado. “It’s a natural force.”

These days, it’s looking more like a spent force.

Today, March 5, marks the first anniversary of Chávez’s death from cancer. He was still in power when he died, and his revolution still rules Venezuela.

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Venezuela Unrest
7:56 am
Fri February 28, 2014

For Venezuelan Protesters, A Time To Ask: What's The Endgame?

Protesters wave an "SOS" Venezuelan flag during a diaspora rally in Doral last weekend.
Credit Miranda Nathanson / Miami Herald

There comes a moment in every political upheaval when the sound and fury of protests have to hook up with the clarity and practicality of platforms.

For anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela, that moment's arrived.

Since Feb. 12, the oil-rich but deeply divided country has been rocked by student-led unrest. Protesters are lashing out at President Nicolás Maduro’s heavy-handed socialist government and its inability to solve a raft of economic and social crises, including South America’s worst inflation and murder rates.

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Latin America Report
4:53 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

From Scorched Earth To Palm Beach: The Maya Are Coming To Florida

An outreach worker in indigenous Guatemalan garb aids a Maya family in Palm Beach County.
Credit The Guatemalan-Maya Center, Lake Worth

The Maya have many cool nicknames. The Greeks of the New World. Men of Maize. But you can add a more unfortunate moniker – the Children of Scorched Earth – to explain why they’re suddenly one of Florida’s fastest-growing immigrant communities.

The Maya are the largest indigenous group in the Americas, descendants of the glorious pre-Columbian civilization that occupied southern Mexico and northern Central America. Most live in Guatemala – where in recent decades they’ve faced one violent plague after another.

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Commentary
4:59 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Venezuela's West Side Story: Why Street Protests Aren't Likely To Topple The Regime

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald editorial board last year.
Credit C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

Leopoldo López is a rock star among Venezuelans in South Florida. But in west Caracas he's the rich guy. And those contrasting images could affect the outcome of street protests playing out in Venezuela right now.

But first the obvious: This week’s arbitrary arrest of López, a top Venezuela opposition leader, is a reminder that President Nicolás Maduro’s already scant credibility is evaporating during the anti-government demonstrations that have swept his country since Feb. 12.

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