Latin America Report

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

Courtesy Ernesto Morales

President Trump astonished people across the country last week when he denied 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria. He insisted (falsely) that Democrats inflated the death toll to make him “look bad.”

For Ernesto Morales, Trump’s tweets exacerbated his awful memories of the storm, which demolished Puerto Rico a year ago this Thursday.

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald

Over the weekend the New York Times created hemispheric buzz. It reported that U.S. officials talked privately this past year with rebellious Venezuelan military officers. Those officers wanted U.S. help to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.

Apparently nothing came of the talks; the Trump Administration declined to help the rogue militares. But the Times story was more evidence that President Trump is exploring unusually strong action to topple Maduro. At the White House last summer, he'd already displayed that impulse.

“We have many options for Venezuela," Trump said then, "including a possible military option if necessary…”

Courtesy Guerda Nicolas

Haiti’s misfortunes – extreme poverty, political crises, natural disasters – are more than just material. They’ve also led to mental health issues. And until recently those were rarely adequately addressed in Haiti. That’s changed – and Guerda Nicolas is a big reason why.

Nicolas is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development, and the American Psychological Association just awarded her its international humanitarian award for her work promoting mental health services in Haiti.

Manuel Rueda

Last week José Molleja became one of the countless Venezuelans stranded on the border between Colombia and Ecuador.

The 22-year-old Venezuelan can’t find enough work to live in crisis-torn Venezuela. So he spent a week on a bus getting from Caracas to join relatives who’d already emigrated to Ecuador.

But when Molleja arrived he was stunned. Before, Ecuador had only asked Venezuelans to show a photo ID to enter the country. Now the country was suddenly making them present passports.

Venezuelan Government

Critics joke that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blames the U.S. – especially his Venezuelan foes living in the U.S. – whenever he stubs his toe. And most of the world ignores his leftist scapegoating.

But this month the world is wondering, cautiously, if Maduro might have a case, at least when it comes to some Venezuelans residing here.

Natacha Pisarenko / AP via Miami Herald

Last week, the new President of Colombia, Iván Duque, swore in his vice president, Marta Lucía Ramírez.

She is Colombia’s first female vice president.

Peter Haden / WLRN.org

Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel recently toured the U.S. southern border, talking to undocumented parents and children separated by President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

During a forum this month at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, heard how that border policy has begun to touch the Florida peninsula. Frankel interviewed a woman from Guatemala whose cousin was one of the migrants stopped at the border this year and separated from her child – a 10-year-old boy.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

This month the big topic of discussion about Venezuela isn’t focused on its plummeting oil output or food shortages or economic collapse. It’s about invasion.

According to reports, last year President Trump told top aides he wanted to order a military invasion of Venezuela.

Those aides talked him out of it, of course. But the reports have Venezuelans like 19-year-old Camila Duarte feeling confused – and irritated.

NALEO Education Fund

The last time the federal government asked about citizenship status on the U.S. census was 1950. Now federal officials plan to do it again in 2020.

Gilda Cespedes

The burn scars on Jaime Paz Zamora’s face and body are the most vivid reminders of why many consider him a hero of Latin American democracy.

In 1980, Paz was a vice presidential candidate in Bolivia, campaigning in an election meant to restore democratic rule after decades of military dictatorship.

One day, the small plane carrying Paz and his staff crashed after takeoff. Everyone on board was killed – except Paz. Authorities later called it an assassination attempt by military leaders.

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Ariana Colón’s 1-year-old son Sebastian shows off his first word – “Mamá” – as she speaks with me over the phone from the hotel room in Kissimmee, Florida, where they’ve been living this year.

Along with Sebastian’s father, they arrived there shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated their home island, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, last September.

The family has benefited from a federal program for disaster victims called Transitional Sheltering Assistance. It pays their hotel tab while they find gainful employment and permanent housing.

But meeting landlord conditions for that housing has proven as difficult for Puerto Ricans like Colón as it so often does for longtime Florida residents.

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Last month Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won another six year term in an election widely considered fraudulent. He tightened his authoritarian socialist regime's hold on Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves on the globe but is suffering the world's worst economic collapse today. As a result,  Venezuela experts say the opposition to Maduro desperately needs new leadership.

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Medellín is one of the century's most impressive comeback stories. Colombia's second largest city was once synonymous with the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and drug cartel terrorism. Today it's a modern, thriving - and mostly peaceful - metropolis.

But Medellín still can't shake its bloody reputation, as evidenced by the popularity of 'narco tours,' which show visitors key sites from the city's criminal past.

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