Americas

Brazilian investors buy Miami real estate. Haitian earthquake survivors attend South Florida schools. It's clear what happens in Latin America and the Caribbean has a profound effect on South Florida.

WLRN’s coverage of the region is headed by Americas editor Tim Padgett, a 23-year veteran of TIME and Newsweek magazines.

He joins a team of reporters and editors at the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and NPR to cover a region whose cultural wealth, environmental complexity, vast agricultural output and massive oil reserves offer no shortage of important and fascinating stories to tell.

Tim Padgett produces the weekly Latin America Report, made possible by Espírito Santo Bank.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Back in January, a Venezuelan security chief arrived in Washington, D.C. But he hadn’t come to rant at U.S. officials. He was there to sing to them. He had details about the allegedly epic ties between his country’s ruling socialist revolution and South American drug traffickers.

Charles Trainor / Miami Herald

May 20, 1985: Ronald Reagan was president. Madonna was topping the charts. And Radio Martí went on the air.

The Miami-based, federally-funded station began beaming Spanish-language news and entertainment into communist Cuba 30 years ago today. It was a sort of tropical version of Radio Free Europe – a Cold War effort to transmit information beyond the control of the island's totalitarian Castro regime.

Alexia Fodere / El Nuevo Herald

The Caribbean is known for blue water, white beaches – and red ink. The region is home to seven of the world’s 10 most indebted nations.

But the Caribbean’s worst crisis involves a U.S. territory: Puerto Rico, whose debt is a staggering $73 billion.

That burden now threatens to financially sink the island of 3.5 million people – and that in turn promises to drive more migration into Florida. Puerto Ricans are the state’s fastest-growing Latino group, especially in the central I-4 Corridor.

Ron Magill

Zoo Miami's mediagenic spokesman, Ron Magill, is a celebrity in Latin America thanks to his appearances on Spanish-language TV. But Magill had no idea he was famous in Cuba – until he finally visited the island last month. 

Communist Cuba is still a controversial subject in Miami. And because he’s such a high-profile Miami-Dade County employee, Magill had been hesitant to go there. But like so many Cuban-Americans, Magill resolved to see where his late Cuban father was from when President Obama announced last December the U.S. and Cuba were normalizing relations.

Gustave Dore / Wikimedia Commons

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme...

Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember...

-opening to "Don Quixote"

Anyone who’s grown up under communism can appreciate Cuban émigré Erisbel Tavio’s taste in books.

To survive totalitarian governments, and occasionally stand up to them, it helps to be a little insane. And there’s no more heroic nut in all of literature than Don Quixote, the protagonist of the classic novel of the same name by Spanish author Miguel Cervantes.

Mario Mendoza Cabrera / AP

Argentine-born Pope Francis knows it’s not enough to be the first Latin American pontiff. He also has to make that mean something.

So far he has. He’s condemned the region’s still epic inequality, he's tried to mediate the unholy mess in Venezuela – and most famously he's brokered a rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba that could thaw a century of bitter mistrust between Washington and Latin America.

Why Cops Are In The Crosshairs Of Venezuela's Murder Crisis

Apr 22, 2015
Andrew Rosati

Venezuelans are emigrating in droves to South Florida, and it’s not just because Venezuela’s economy is collapsing. Public security has imploded too: South America’s most oil-rich nation has the worst murder rate on the continent.

The homicide crisis has gotten so bad, in fact, that some of the most frequent victims today are the very people who are supposed to fight it: the police.

Cuba's Next Communists: Why Obama Needs Them To Make Engagement Work

Apr 15, 2015
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Cuban President Raúl Castro was the longest speaker at last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. At age 83, he was also the oldest.

And that matters as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations after a half century of cold war – a process that on Tuesday led President Obama to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.

It matters because President Obama says his new engagement policy isn’t meant to change Cuba overnight. It’s meant to help the U.S. influence democratic change once Castro’s generation of hardline communists is gone.

Tom Rollo / IEFA/Grace Photography

Starting today, Miami is the home of yet another major hemispheric gathering. The International Economic Forum of the Americas has moved one of its biggest events here - from a South Florida neighbor.

The International Economic Forum of the Americas, or IEFA, has become a key platform for issues affecting the Western Hemisphere. The Montreal-based group used to hold its annual World Strategic Forum in Palm Beach County. But it aims to raise its profile now by taking advantage of Miami-Dade’s more Latin American atmosphere.

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