The provincial town of Mage seems a world away from the violence and drug dealing that plague Brazil's larger cities. On a recent afternoon, the central square is a picture of calm. Children play around a fountain; older people sit on the many park benches dotting the area, under the shade of trees.
Mage, about 35 miles northwest of Rio, is close enough that people can commute to the city, which many of them do. Yet it's far enough away that nothing much really happened here in the past. But residents say that is changing.
Latin America is riddled with crime, and no place is more violent than Honduras. It has just 8 million people, but with as many as 20 people killed there every day, it now has the highest murder rate in the world.
It would be easy to blame drug trafficking. Honduras and its Central American neighbors have long served as a favored smuggling corridor for South American cocaine headed north to the U.S.
Last week a Venezuelan-American friend in New York sent me an e-mail raving about a new, free mobile phone app called Abastéceme. Its most important use: locating toilet paper. Well, that and about two dozen other basic everyday items, from rice to deodorant, which are in chronically short supply these days in Venezuela.
In Latin America — home to the vast majority of the world's most violent cities — it's said the only part of a prison a guard controls is the gate, leaving convicts to fend for themselves inside, even running criminal networks from behind bars.
I wanted to understand how a prison like that worked, and I was in luck: A colleague knew a man serving time a Venezuelan prison. The prisoner got in touch with the leader of the inmates, who sent word that he'd be willing to see us.
Latin America and the Caribbean is a region of stark paradoxes, and that has never been truer than in the past decade: Even as the continent enjoys one of its most dynamic economic booms, it’s suffering one of the worst violent crime crises in its history.
We are standing in front of a huge bank of screens, in the middle of which is a glowing map that changes focus depending on what the dozens of controllers are looking at.
The room looks like something straight out of a NASA shuttle launch. The men and women manning the floor are dressed in identical white jumpsuits. With a flick of a mouse, they scroll through dozens of streaming video images coming into the center.
The phone is ringing off the hook at the crowded waiting room at the Domestic Workers Union in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In the past decade, millions of Brazilians have joined the middle class. Advocates say this isn't just the result of a growing economy or social spending, but also laws like the one just passed that enshrine domestic workers' rights.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago next week. President Obama already swung through Mexico and Costa Rica this month and next month Obama will host the presidents of Chile and Peru at the White House.
When she won a James Beard award for her cookbook, Gran Cocina Latina, Maricel Presilla felt gratified to be acknowledged for the "work of a lifetime," as well as for "the collective work of millions of Latin Americans that live on two continents, in the Caribbean Islands, and also in the U.S."
In Rio de Janeiro, tourists are drawn to Copacabana for its wide beach and foliage-covered cliffs. But a month ago, not far from the tourist hub, an American woman and her French male companion were abducted. She was brutally gang-raped; he was beaten.
Perhaps what was most shocking to Brazilians, though, was the age of one of the alleged accomplices: He was barely in his teens.
"Why? That's what you ask yourself," says Sylvia Rumpoldt, who is walking with a friend at dusk by the sea in Rio. "It's horrible. It's criminal energy."
Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 4:11 pm
Vin Diesel speaks lousy Spanish. No surprise, that. So why then was he invited to hand out a music award at the Premios Billboard and why did he say Sí to the invitation when it seems that's about all he can say in Spanish?