Colombia

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.

Presidencia de Colombia

“The problem with Colombia is that we’ve been fighting a war for three generations and we simply got accustomed to it. What I’m trying to tell the Colombian people is, ‘Wake up. We have to be a normal country.’”

That was the opening volley from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a wide-ranging and unusually frank interview last week in New York. But there’s one slice of our conversation you won’t hear on WLRN.

Pilar Calderon / Presidencia de Colombia

Today’s international affairs quiz: Would you rather see Venezuela denied a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council, or would you prefer to see an end to Colombia’s eternal civil war?

Pick one. Can’t have both.

That’s at least what Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told me this week during our interview in New York, where he and a host of other heads of state are gathered for the U.N. General Assembly.

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