Latin America

Rising rates of homicides and drug violence have created an overflow at Mexico's morgues. So much so, that several cities have resorted to storing dead bodies in refrigerated trailers.

This sparked a national scandal after some residents complained about the stench coming from one of the trailers parked in their neighborhood in the western city of Guadalajara.

Christian Palma / AP via Miami Herald

Mexico was in the news a lot last week. It hailed a new trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada to replace NAFTA – and President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Trump even spoke by phone about ways to improve Mexico’s economic development in order to reduce illegal immigration.

“We estimate joint investments of more than $30 billion toward that effort,” López Obrador said then in Mexico City. It was a major break from the animosity that’s existed between Mexico and the U.S. since Trump was elected two years ago after running a campaign that insulted Mexico – and Mexicans – at about every stop.

So this feels like a big moment for Mexico, which is economically and politically the most important country in Latin America for the U.S. Yet in this part of the U.S. – Florida and especially South Florida – we’re so focused on Cuba and South America that we rarely think about Mexico.

The University of Miami thinks that has to change.

Five South American countries and Canada have asked the International Criminal Court, a Netherlands-based tribunal, to place Venezuela under investigation for crimes against humanity. This is the first time a country has been referred to the ICC for investigation by an outside state. Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Canada submitted their request on Wednesday to the court.

Keith Dannemiller/Photo courtesty of the International Organization for Migration ©2014 IOM

Central America is now the largest source of undocumented migration across the U.S. southern border. The U.S. government has ramped up deportations of Central Americans to deter people from coming. In June, Vice President Mike Pence even traveled to Guatemala to warn Central Americans: "Come to the U.S. legally or don't come at all."

And yet they keep coming. A new study by researchers at Vanderbilt University says that’s because the U.S. is in denial about the real reason Central Americans continue leaving home. It's not poverty, they say, but violence.

A video of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro eating gourmet steak in Turkey while millions go hungry at home has provoked outrage worldwide. Venezuelan expats in South Florida are especially upset. But Maduro-watchers say that may be exactly what the socialist leader wants.

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.

Guillermo does not exist — on social media at least. He has a Facebook account, but he doesn't publicly use his real name. He doesn't have a profile picture, doesn't show his location, and never posts a single thing. He mostly logs in to read about sports.

Guillermo asked that his last name be withheld — he worries about his family. They still live in Venezuela. Amid political and economic chaos, over a million Venezuelans have left the country in the last two years.

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…”

Fernando Vergara / AP

The mass exodus from Venezuela is being called one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in Latin America’s history. On Thursday a prominent human rights group came to Miami to urge Latin America to forge a more unified response to the crisis – and its cause.

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.

Nicaragua has kicked out a human rights team from the United Nations, just two days after it published a report detailing repression, torture and abuse of protesters by the government.

"We put forward the report not to polarize, but rather to make known what we had seen," Guillermo Fernandez Maldonado, chief of the U.N.'s human rights mission in Nicaragua, told reporters on Friday. "We did not expect the government's reaction in this sense. We only did our job."

As the months-long crackdown on opponents of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega drags on, the small independent press in the country is coming under harsh attack.

One reporter has been killed, and dozens more say they have been beaten and threatened. Many reporters have fled or quit the profession. But a determined group of journalists remains.

They include reporters like Julio César López Chavarría.

When Argentine President Mauricio Macri told the country he had asked the International Monetary Fund to speed its disbursement of a $50 billion loan, he consciously aimed to assuage the fears of uneasy market watchers.

"We have seen new expressions of a lack of confidence in the markets, specifically over our financing capacity in 2019," Macri said in a speech posted to Facebook Wednesday, adding: "This decision aims to eliminate any uncertainty."

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.

Gregorio Borgia / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

As a Roman Catholic, I’m supposed to be encouraged by the anguished letter Pope Francis issued this week. The one in which he condemns the monstrous and never-ending “atrocities” of sexual abuse of children by priests – and their equally monstrous and never-ending cover-up by bishops.

But I’m not hopeful.

That’s because aside from being a Catholic I’m also a Latin Americanist – and I know how badly Francis, the first Latin American pope, failed Latin America in this crisis. That's why Latin Americans, particularly South Americans, seem to understand that this criminal tragedy won’t be solved by a papal crackdown on the priesthood. It can only really be addressed by a papal crack-up of that priesthood.

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