Americas

Franklin Reyes / AP via El Nuevo Herald

The U.S. and Cuba may have normalized relations, but the cold war-style defection is still common for Cuban baseball stars who want to ditch communism for the U.S. big leagues. Another one took place yesterday – and it was a double-header.

Many Major League Baseball scouts consider Yulieski Gurriel one of the best players Cuba has ever produced. Even at the age of 31, he’s a coveted power-hitting infielder. So is his 22-year-old brother Lourdes, who can play just about anywhere on the field.

Alma de Tango

It’s Valentine's Day week – and let’s face it, Latin American music helps you get your romance on.

In South Florida you’d have to be a zombie not to know that. Wait, I take that back. I’ve seen even zombie couples here dancing to bolero, bachata, bossa nova and all the other amorous Latin genres that make Miami a 24-hour telenovela soundtrack.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Today, Washington’s diplomatic gaze is on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who’s meeting President Obama at the White House.

But as Santos and Obama discuss what looks like an imminent peace accord to end Colombia’s half-century long civil war, I hope the Beltway keeps another Latin American head of state in mind: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Mario Stevenson is a respected virus expert. He heads the infectious diseases division at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He’s done pioneering research on HIV.

But until last year he’d barely registered Zika.

“Four months ago,” Stevenson told me, “I thought Zika was an Italian football player.”

He’s since learned Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – one that’s marauding so badly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that the World Health Organization this week declared it a global health emergency.

AP via Miami Herald

Has President Obama’s policy of engaging Cuba succeeded or failed? It’s probably much too early to say – but the fundraising efforts of groups on both sides of the issue indicate something important is working.

The New Cuba PAC (political action committee) was launched last spring in Miami and is based in Washington D.C. It supports President Obama’s year-old project to normalize relations with Cuba – including efforts to repeal the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

On Thursday New Cuba announced it had raised an impressive $350,000 in its first six months.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

In response to Latin America’s sudden outbreak of Zika – the insect-borne virus tied to a serious fetal brain defect – some of the region’s countries are telling women to shun pregnancy for months if not years.

We can debate whether that strategy is appropriate. Rights groups, for example, have a point when they say it puts an unfair if not unrealistic onus on women when the focus should be eradicating mosquitoes.

Fernando Llano / AP via Miami Herald

A year ago this week, I wrote an op-ed on this page that said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was committing economic suicide by clinging to delusional statist policies. At the time, I worried I might be exaggerating.

I don’t anymore.

Dieu Naleio Chery / AP via Miami Herald

This afternoon Haiti once again postponed its presidential runoff election.

The vote – originally slated for last month – was going to be held on Sunday. But Haitian election officials said they canceled it because it was too hazardous. Street protests have gotten violent in recent days, with demonstrators condemning what they call a fraudulent and incompetent electoral process.

Courtesy Rolling Stone via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

I’d like to take acclaimed film actor and ridiculed crime writer Sean Penn to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which until recently suffered the highest homicide rate of any city on the planet.

I’d like him to meet the families of the thousands of victims murdered by the maras, or narco-mafias, that are tied to Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

Courtesy Homewood Suites

These days, if you’re a South Florida business executive like Liane Ventura, chances are you log more business travel time in Latin America and the Caribbean than you do in the United States.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Colombians are the largest non-Cuban Latino group in South Florida. And what do they miss most about home? It might not be their world-famous coffee. In fact, their love for soccer is making history this week in Miami.

When you're talking about Colombian soccer, you're really talking about Cali and Medellín. The cross-town rivalries between the professional teams in each of those cities – Deportivo vs. América in Cali and Independiente vs. Nacional in Medellín – are some of the most celebrated in South America.

Marco Ugarte / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

It’s not easy to watch Rolling Stone magazine’s newly released video of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán answering questions sent to him by actor Sean Penn.

By that I mean it’s hard to watch without falling asleep.

The video offers no confessions of the ghastly narco-bloodshed Guzmán has to answer for. It’s just a ghastly bore.

You didn’t miss Haiti’s presidential runoff election on Dec. 27. It was postponed amid accusations that the first round of voting in October was marred by voter fraud and bungling by poll workers.

In other words, just another Haitian election.

Now the runoff will be held Jan. 24 – only two weeks before Haiti’s constitution says a new president must be sworn in on Feb. 7. But given the political swamp Haiti is mired in these days, the odds of an inauguration happening by that date look 50-50 at best.

Bahare Khodabande

The Notre Dame de Lourdes School, on the edge of the Haitian border town of Anse-a-Pitres, is a study in contrasts. In the classrooms on one side of the courtyard, children sit in tidy yellow uniforms, in rows, facing their instructors.

On the other side, kids in an assortment of donated clothes push their way in and out of three crowded rooms. One teacher hustles back and forth, trying to maintain some semblance of order.

Esteban Felix / AP via Miami Herald

OPINION

El Salvador is once again the deadliest place in the world.

Data released this week show the small but gang-plagued Central American nation logged an astonishing 104 murders per 100,000 people last year – more than 20 times the U.S. homicide rate.

So if you’re a Salvadoran, what could possibly add insult to that chronic injury?

How about watching as thousands of Cuban migrants get airlifted into your country en route to a nice big welcome in the U.S.?

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