Colombia

Like the offspring of other crime godfathers, the son of the late Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was expected to follow his father into the family business. Instead, he has come clean.

The son, the former Juan Pablo Escobar, has changed his name to Sebastián Marroquín. In response to the many homes and offices his father destroyed with car bombs, he studied architecture so he could put up buildings. And he spends much of his time barnstorming across Latin America as a motivational speaker, denouncing the illegal drug trade and his father's ultra-violent ways.

Fernando Llano AP

  This week, three batches of mosquitoes found in traps in Miami Beach tested positive for Zika. In another important development, the Florida Department of Health admitted  it may take longer for pregnant women to get their Zika test results back. WLRN’s health reporter Sammy Mack fills us in on the latest on the Zika epidemic in South Florida. 

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

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.

AP

The Colombian government and Marxist guerrillas known as the FARC have been at war for 52 years. But tonight both sides confirmed from their negotiating table in Havana, Cuba, that a peace agreement has finally been forged.

"[We] have reached a final, full and definite accord," they said in a joint statement.

Colombia’s civil war is Latin America’s last guerrilla conflict. It has left more than 200,000 people dead and millions more displaced. Peace talks began three years ago, and this summer the two sides announced a mutual cease-fire.

Fernando Llano / AP via Miami Herald

For the past year, the border between Venezuela and Colombia has effectively been closed. That’s only worsened the suffering of Venezuelans who can’t find enough food and medicine inside their collapsing economy. But relief may be coming tomorrow.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shut down his country’s western border last year for what he called “security reasons.” Critics said he was just trying to deflect attention from his catastrophic mismanagement of Venezuela’s economy – which has led to severe shortages of basic goods.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

In Latin America, scientists have become more convinced of the link between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the birth defect known as microcephaly. Colombia is the one country that hasn’t fit the pattern. But that may now be changing.

Microcephaly causes unusually small heads and brains in newborn infants. Many Latin American countries – especially Brazil – have reported cases believed to be related to Zika infection in pregnant women. 

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The past year’s been a good one for Miami’s gay community – including gay Latinos. In January they held their first LGBT pride event, the GayOcho! Festival, held on one of the city’s most famous streets, Calle Ocho.

It was a big moment for gay Latinos, who hail from a socially conservative culture that can be tough on homosexuality. And it was especially meaningful for the hundreds if not thousands of gay men and lesbians who’ve come here to escape often violent harassment in Latin America.

Colombian Military

Colombia is close to a peace agreement to end its 50-year-long civil war  –  and this week the guerrilla army known as the FARC promised to stop recruiting children. But a Miami-based group that rescues those kids is meeting the pledge with skepticism.

"We're extremely cautious about what this means," says Philippe Houdard, who heads the Developing Minds Foundation – whose most important work may be helping child soldiers in Colombia return to normal lives.

At its facilities in Medellín, Colombia, Developing Minds has rehabilitated more than a thousand of those children.

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

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.

After Miss Colombia's Paulina Vega won the Miss Universe pageant on Sunday, she was greeted with a scepter, tiara and a kiss from the first runner-up, Miss U.S.A. But even as Vega took her first steps as Miss Universe, something that was happening elsewhere on stage caught a lot of attention.

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.

Presidencia de Colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently told WLRN that his government’s peace talks with Marxist guerrillas were “at their most difficult moment.” After a kidnapping last weekend, we now know what Santos was talking about.

They call themselves "the Butterflies."

And that's not just wishful thinking.

When Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina sweep into NPR's bureau in central London, they are indeed as beautiful as butterflies: bright clothing, big beaming smiles. They look around in wonder at the newsroom spread out before them, laughing and joking as I make them a cup of tea.

Yet these are women who've led tough lives — born into Colombian society, where violence and abuse are commonplace.

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