Latin America

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.

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.

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.?

Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald Staff

It’s a Saturday night at the Amor Viviente evangelical church in North Lauderdale. And it’s rocking.

A church band has the flock on its feet, clapping and belting out pop Christian hymns. Most are Honduran migrants. And most are young — many were part of the wave of 60,000 unaccompanied Central American minors who showed up on the U.S. border in 2014.

Among them is a 15-year-old Honduran boy named Daniel, one of the thousands who came to South Florida. (He asked that his last name not be used because his immigration case is pending.)

Millions of Venezuelans voiced their displeasure with President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party by giving opposition parties an overwhelming victory in congressional elections Sunday. But over the past few years, a flood of disgruntled Venezuelans have been voting with their feet, and college professors are among them.

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald

The vast Caracas slum known as Catia was a cradle of the late Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution. Now it looks more like his regime’s coffin.

Few barrios have been hit as hard by Venezuela’s economic and social collapse after 17 years of left-wing rule. By the world’s highest inflation rate. By South America’s worst murder rate. By an orgy of government corruption. And by the long and beleaguering lines people endure every day for scarce food and medicine – a perverted postcard from the Western Hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation.

Dealing a big blow to President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist leadership, Venezuelan voters handed a majority of congressional seats to a coalition of opposition parties.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports the opposition gains control of congress for the first time since Hugo Chávez ushered in victory for the leftist movement in 1999. She filed this report for our Newcast unit:

Michael Erickson

When I recently met Jamaican-American author Max-Arthur Mantle at a South Beach café, we talked about his engaging debut novel, “Batty Bwoy.” But we also chatted about the way he was sitting. That is, with his legs crossed.

“In Jamaica, if you cross your legs, if you’re a male, in a quote-unquote effeminate way, I would get my ass kicked,” Mantle told me.

“As soon as they see me their eyes would roll, then they would get red, and then the anger, then the whole hate will come. And then the slurs.”

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