Americas

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

When Donald Trump becomes President on Friday, what we’ll be asking in South Florida is: Will he cancel normalized relations with Cuba? And will he still let Americans travel there?

But here's another question: If Trump does allow Americans to visit Cuba, will they reconsider how they visit the island? Will they think about something Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco told me a couple years ago:

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy is over. For more than 20 years, Cubans migrating to the U.S. enjoyed that special privilege, which meant if they made it to dry land here they could stay. President Barack Obama ended it on Thursday– and even most Cubans here agree with him.

President Bill Clinton created the wet foot-dry foot policy in 1995 as a way to appease both the Cuban government and Cuban exile leaders. But since then it’s become a controversial rule that many Cuban-Americans say is antiquated now that the U.S. and Cuba have normalized relations.

Courtesy Christina Frohock

Among its demands for normalized relations, Cuba wants the U.S. to leave its naval station at Guantánamo Bay on the island’s southeastern tip. But the lease Cuba signed more than a century ago lets the U.S. stay there forever if it wants to.

EFE via Miami Herald

Venezuela’s socialist government is known for its revolving door of ministers. So it wasn’t unusual Wednesday night when President Nicolás Maduro changed his vice president. But this shift is cause for concern – especially in South Florida.

Brittany Peterson / McClatchy via Miami Herald

Only 5 percent of Cuba’s population has home Internet access. It’s one of the world’s lowest connectivity rates – but the island’s communist government may finally be moving this week to rectify that.

AP

Cuba’s communist leadership remains reluctant to open the island to more free market reforms and foreign investment. But Cuba’s latest economic data for 2016 might make those hardliners reconsider.

Just a few months ago, Cuba’s economy was forecast to grow 1 percent this year. It wasn’t much; but at least it was growth. This week, President Raúl Castro has admitted even that was an illusion: Cuba’s GDP, he said, will actually shrink 1 percent in 2016 - the first economic contraction in more than 20 years.

Desmond Boylan (left), Charles Tasnadi (right) / AP via Miami Herald

2016 was a year of historic highs and lows for Latin America and the Caribbean. A U.S. president visited Cuba – for the first time in 78 years. A Brazilian president was impeached. A Colombian president won the Nobel Peace Prize. And Haiti finally elected a president.

WLRN’s Tim Padgett sat down with Miami Herald deputy editorial page editor and veteran Latin America correspondent Juan Vasquez – who is retiring this week after an outstanding career of more than 50 years – to look back on the region’s top stories.

Fernando Llano / AP via Miami Herald

It’s official: Venezuela has entered hyperinflation. It is only the seventh country in the history of Latin America to have that dubious distinction. And no one’s seeing any light at the end of this tunnel.

Technically, hyperinflation occurs when month-on-month inflation tops 50 percent for 30 days straight. Oil-rich Venezuela got to that point earlier this month. But it’s already had the world’s highest inflation rate for years. Its 2016 annual inflation may rise above 500 percent.

YouTube/Empty Head Games

HAVANA – At a relative’s house in Miami's Coconut Grove, Cuban artist Josuhe Pagliery is showing me something on his laptop that looks what he calls "super cool." (That's the English translation. I can't print the Spanish expression.)

Alan Diaz / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

In June I moderated a Miami panel on renewed U.S.-Cuba relations. The panelists, all  Cuban-Americans, represented the pro- and anti-normalization sides. But the normalization team had the momentum.

Washington-Havana détente “is the new normal,” one pro-engagement panelist assured the audience. “There’s no going back,” he insisted.

Except there is.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

HAVANA – In a eulogy last week in Havana for his brother Fidel Castro, Cuban President Raúl Castro often saluted los jóvenes – young people. But it couldn’t hide the fact that communist Cuba is still run by much older people. Like Raúl, who’s 85.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

HAVANA - Hundreds of thousands of Cubans filled Havana’s Revolution Square Tuesday night to bid farewell to Fidel Castro, who died Friday. We can’t know how many of them will actually miss the communist leader. But some of the mourners are not who you’d expect.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

HAVANA - When the first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than half a century touched down in Santa Clara in August, the JetBlue plane from Fort Lauderdale was met with cheers and water-cannon salutes.

When the first commercial flight between Miami and Havana in more than half a century landed at José Martí International Airport Monday morning, the American Airlines 737 taxied quietly to the terminal and unloaded 125 passengers wearing complimentary straw fedoras.

No confetti. No music. And it felt remarkably fitting.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

HAVANA - While Miami mostly celebrated Fidel Castro’s death, in Havana the mood is much more somber – nine days of duelo, or mourning. 

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

News of Fidel Castro’s death sent Cuban exiles old and young into the streets of Little Havana early this morning. Both generations recall Castro with a sense of betrayal - and his demise with a sense of hope.

80-year-old Ana Celia watched fellow Cuban exiles dance a conga line in front of the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana - some of them holding signs that read, "Go to Hell Fidel."

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