Steve Pyke

Back in 1998, just before he was first elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez described his socialist revolution to me:

“Our revolution is like a river and the rain,” he said with typical bravado. “It’s a natural force.”

These days, it’s looking more like a spent force.

Today, March 5, marks the first anniversary of Chávez’s death from cancer. He was still in power when he died, and his revolution still rules Venezuela.

Miranda Nathanson / Miami Herald

There comes a moment in every political upheaval when the sound and fury of protests have to hook up with the clarity and practicality of platforms.

For anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela, that moment's arrived.

Since Feb. 12, the oil-rich but deeply divided country has been rocked by student-led unrest. Protesters are lashing out at President Nicolás Maduro’s heavy-handed socialist government and its inability to solve a raft of economic and social crises, including South America’s worst inflation and murder rates.

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

Leopoldo López is a rock star among Venezuelans in South Florida. But in west Caracas he's the rich guy. And those contrasting images could affect the outcome of street protests playing out in Venezuela right now.

But first the obvious: This week’s arbitrary arrest of López, a top Venezuela opposition leader, is a reminder that President Nicolás Maduro’s already scant credibility is evaporating during the anti-government demonstrations that have swept his country since Feb. 12.

Sophia Padgett Perez

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. Big deal. This is Valentine’s week, when cocoa matters more than crude – and what’s important is that Venezuela produces the world’s best chocolate.

Problem is, will politics soon drag down Venezuela’s cacao (cocoa) industry the way it’s reduced the country’s oil output? On Feb. 14, at least, that’s a worrisome question, especially inside gourmet chocolate shops like Romanicos.

Thomas Henry Berry / Facebook

Latin American leaders don’t know how to stop their violent-crime epidemic, but they sure know how to spin it.

Former Miss Venezuela and telenovela star Mónica Spear and her ex-husband were murdered Monday night during a botched highway robbery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Their 5-year-old daughter was shot, too, but survived. As the shocking news spread throughout Venezuela and then Miami, where Spear often lived and worked, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro hit a spin cycle I’ve seen countless other presidentes employ after high-profile homicides.

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.

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.


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.

Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

When socialist Nicolás Maduro eked out last April’s special presidential election in Venezuela, I wrote:  “Even if Maduro won, he lost.”

Maduro defeated the opposition candidate – the same challenger Maduro's mentor Hugo Chávez had trounced just six months earlier by an 11-percent margin – by only 1.6 percent of the vote. Maduro’s lame performance shook the socialists’ claim that Chávez’s revolution would be just as dominant without Chávez, who had died of cancer in March after ruling Venezuela for 14 years.

What do Miss Universe and Miami Herald South America correspondent Jim Wyss have in common? Not a heck of a lot physically. But quite a bit symbolically: Left-wing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would have liked to use both of them recently to distract voters from his so-far disastrous administration.