Americas

Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Monsignor Augustin Almy was in Haiti five years ago when the earthquake hit. When the country’s Catholic Church fell apart along with most of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

Almy, a priest at St. James Catholic Church in North Miami, was visiting Haiti for his mother’s 100th birthday.

He was in his room at the Port-au-Prince seminary where he worked for years before moving to South Florida.

“I see the house shaking,” he said.

It was 4:53 pm.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the year’s most important Latin American stories happened this week in China.

Yep, communist China. On Monday the government’s Internet watchdragon, known as the Great Firewall, pulled the plug on Gmail because it's a subversive instrument of free speech and dissent.

In the process, Beijing affirmed President Obama’s historic decision this month to pursue a policy of engagement with communist Cuba.

Jorge Mejia Peralta / Flickr

  The Panama Canal marked its centennial this year. But another place engineers have always wanted to build a waterway across Central America is Nicaragua. Construction on a Nicaragua canal started last week – and so did protests, there and here.

The Nicaragua Grand Canal, as it’s called, will cost an estimated $50 billion. And at 173 miles it will be more than five times longer than the Panama Canal.

Edward Garza / Mexican-American Council

South Florida’s best known Christmas traditions involve food. La caja china. Hallacas. But one of the richest customs involves street theater – plus a really cool donkey named Paco – and it reflects the increasingly important role Mexicans play in this region today.

Tim Padgett / WLRN

Now that President Obama wants to normalize U.S. relations with communist Cuba, the big question is: Can the U.S. trade embargo last much longer? WLRN Americas editor Tim Padgett spoke to a Cuban émigré here in South Florida who doesn’t think so – and who’s helping U.S. companies prepare for an embargo-less future:

“It’s like a storm now. A storm. I finished work last night at one o’clock in the morning.”

Flickr

In the wake of the historic Cuba policy changes President Obama ordered yesterday, Congress will now debate whether to scuttle the failed, 52-year-old trade embargo against the communist island.

Capitol Hill should indeed ditch it – and if it’s looking for reasons, it should consider some of the repulsive folks Washington has had to engage this year.

Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

When I met Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim six years ago, he was the world’s richest man.

Slim, however, wasn’t the world’s most generous giver. He was called the Latin American Scrooge because he’d steered such a relatively small share of his then $65 billion fortune to philanthropic causes. In our interview at his Mexico City office, he said he was correcting that – and he read a passage from “The Prophet” by the Christian philosopher Kahlil Gibran:

“Give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.”

Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Yesterday’s resignation of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was supposed to help end Haiti’s long and sometimes violent political crisis. Don’t get your hopes up.

Most Haitians weren’t even awake when Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s taped resignation speech was televised at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. The government blamed technical difficulties for the delay.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Cocking her head with an impish grin, 6-year-old Francisca Ajtum gives her holiday voice a spin at home in Florida City.

“I want to wish you a Merry Christmas!” she sings, belting out José Feliciano’s bilingual classic “Felíz Navidad” in equally proficient English and Spanish. Her showmanship elicits giggles and shrieks from her three siblings: Her 8-year-old sister Margarita, brother Leonardo, 7, and her kinetic little sister, Bani Luz, 4.

chavezcandanga / Flickr

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government indicted opposition leader María Corina Machado this week for allegedly plotting to assassinate him.

But the thing to remember about Machado is that she isn't exactly the most competent anti-government operative.

She’s best known for blunders like leading the 2005 opposition boycott of parliamentary elections. That essentially gifted the National Assembly to Venezuela’s ruling and radical socialist revolution, turning it into a rubber stamp for then-President Hugo Chávez.

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