Latin America

Beauty Queen Murder Shines Light On Venezuelan Violence

Jan 8, 2014
AP file photo

  Venezuela got a tragic New Year reminder of one of its most pressing problems: violence. Mónica Spear, 29, a former beauty queen and a popular soap opera star who was raised in Orlando, was killed Monday night during a presumed highway robbery.

Authorities said her partner Thomas Henry Berry, 49, reportedly from the U.K., was also killed and that their five-year-old daughter was injured in the incident.

secretariat.thecommonwealth.org

Christmas 2013 was the best and worst of times for Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Dec. 19. For Gonsalves, an outspoken populist who was about to take over as chairman of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, it was a moment of valuable political cachet: Francis has proven a champion of poor global underdogs like the small republics of the Caribbean.

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

As a boy, I always envied Hispanics at Christmas. That’s because they got a bonus Santa Claus.

Three, actually: Los Reyes Magos, a.k.a. the Three Kings, the Wise Men, the Magi – the fellows who each Jan. 6 lavished an extra round of toys on every kid I knew who had a Spanish surname.

As an adult, I’m still a big fan of los Reyes. And I think Jan. 6 – Epiphany, the day that Christians, especially in Spain and Latin America, celebrate the Magis’ visit to the newborn Jesus – offers another potential bonus:

The first eruption of eastern El Salvador's Chaparrastique volcano in 37 years sent ash and gas soaring as much as six miles into the air on Sunday and led authorities to evacuate thousands of people from their homes.

L'Osservatore Romano

They say Americans will do anything for Latin America except read about it. But even gringos couldn’t ignore the noise next door in 2013.

Seemingly overnight, Brazil experienced violent anti-government unrest – then just as quickly it became the spokesnation for a world outraged by the U.S. surveillance overreach exposed by Edward Snowden.

rapadoo.com

Christmas Day turned tragic when a boat carrying Haitian migrants capsized off the Turks and Caicos Islands. Seventeen of the more than 50 passengers were killed, while some fled and are still being sought.

This is just the latest in a growing spate of Haitian disasters on the Caribbean. Last month 30 Haitians drowned in a similar incident off the Bahamas.

madrid.olx.es

Gringos like me don’t forget their first hallaca.

Mine was lying on a simple white plate, in the coastal town of Lecherías, Venezuela, on the patio of my future in-laws’ home. It was a soft Caribbean Christmas Eve in 1985.

The tawny tamal was swaddled in smoked banana leaves that reminded me of the lush, exotic foliage of an Henri Rousseau painting. I unwrapped it, cut into it, took a bite – and rediscovered Christmas.

YouTube / U.S. State Department / SBNA

Six years ago I visited an indigenous village in southern Mexico called Santa Cruz Mixtepec. It was, or used to be, one of those impoverished rural hamlets that sent most of its population over the U.S. border to find living-wage work.

Until somebody got the bright idea to start promoting small businesses there. Through micro-lending and other assistance, Santa Cruz Mixtepec began sprouting small but viable enterprises. A carpentry shop. An irrigated tomato greenhouse. A window-frame maker.

Jean Marc Herve Abelard / rapadoo.com

The Dominican Republic is right about one thing. The nations of the world are indeed moving away from birthright citizenship. In fact, only 30 of the world’s 194 countries today automatically grant citizenship to anyone born on their soil – and no European nations do.

Flickr

When it comes to Latin American oil, South Florida’s attention seems exclusively fixed on South America. We focus on petro-titans like Venezuela and Brazil because we do so much trade with and receive so many immigrants from that region. But this week it was hard not to look west – across the Gulf of Mexico, at one of the most important oil reforms in almost a century.

Late Wednesday night, Mexico’s Congress approved President Enrique Peña Nieto’s plan to allow private and foreign participation in the country’s state-run oil industry for the first time in 75 years.

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