Jim Wyss

Jim Wyss is the South America bureau chief for The Miami Herald. He has a master of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor of arts degree from American University in journalism and Spanish. He lives in Bogota, Colombia.

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Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

Puerto Rico lowered its flags to half-staff Thursday and Gov. Wanda Vázquez declared a “day of mourning” to honor Walter Mercado, the astrologer and television personality who died Saturday due to renal failure.

While Vázquez had sent her condolences via Twitter shortly after his death, some wondered why she hadn’t played a more prominent role in sending off one of the island’s most famous celebrities.

Associated Press

Detailed information on more than 20 million people — most of them thought to be Ecuadorean nationals — was found on an unsecured server in Miami, providing identity thieves and scammers a treasure trove.

The internet security firm vpnMentor said it discovered the cache of information during a routine scan of the internet and that the data breach had been closed last Wednesday.

Twitter

This post was updated at 3:40 p.m.

Anti-government protestors in Venezuela were engaged in running street battles with security forces, as interim President Juan Guaidó said factions of the military were supporting his high stakes push to oust Nicolás Maduro.

MIGUEL GUTIÉRREZ / EFE via Miami Herald

Venezuela Interim President Juan Guaidó is demanding the release of his chief of staff after security forces arrested Roberto Marrero in a predawn raid and took him from his home in Caracas.

On Twitter, Guaidó said that security forces loyal to his rival, leader Nicolás Maduro, had planted rifles and a grenade at Marrero’s home.

“The raid began at approximately 2 a.m. and we don’t know where they took him,” Guaidó wrote. “He must be freed immediately.”

Getty images via Miami Herald

Flanked by commanders of the armed forces, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the country’s military was firmly behind President Nicolás Maduro and the constitution and warned those who were supporting Juan Guaidó’s claim to leadership that they were engaged in a “dangerous plan” that was “destined to fail.”

In a national address, López said he had been in communication with his field commanders and different branches of the military and they were unified in their support of 56-year-old Maduro.

Getty Images via Miami Herald

Raising his right hand before a cheering crowd of supporters, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of the country, called for new elections and put himself on a collision course with Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s embattled but still powerful leader.

Guaidó, the 35-year-old president of the National Assembly, said it was his constitutional duty to take the reins of the troubled country and said he knew his act of defiance “would have consequences.”

Ariana Cubillos / File AP Photo

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: Cilia Flores, the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, was sanctioned Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury Department, in what it called a crack-down on Maduro’s “inner circle” of corruption.

Also named were Minister of Defense Padrino Lopez, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez.

C.M. GUERRERO / Miami Herald

As the international community piled on Venezuela Monday, the White House rolled out new sanctions and more than a dozen countries rejected Sunday’s “sham” presidential elections that handed Nicolás Maduro a new six-year term.

On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an order limiting Venezuela’s ability to liquidate assets “at fire sale prices,” the Associated Press reported.

The move might be aimed at keeping Venezuela from selling off its stake in the CITGO oil company, which operates in the United States.

Associated Press

The White House on Monday continued tightening financial sanctions on Venezuela, issuing an order prohibiting U.S. citizens from making any transactions in the Petro, the socialist administration’s newly launched cryptocurrency.

The presidential order prohibits U.S. citizens from dealing in “any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token” issued by Venezuela after January 9, 2018.

Venezuela launched the Petro last month, and had touted the new cryptocurrency as a way to raise international financing amid Washington’s crackdown.

State Department

For the first time in more than 18 months, Venezuelans trying to go to the United States for business or pleasure can apply for a visa in Venezuela.

In a statement on its website, the U.S. embassy in Caracas said it will begin accepting applications for B-1 and B-2 visas — used for temporary business and tourism travel — starting Jan. 17.

Associated Press

One of Venezuela’s highest-profile political prisoners, the former mayor of Caracas, escaped from house arrest early Friday and made his way into Colombia, immigration officials confirmed.

Antonio Ledezma has been under arrest since Feb. 19, 2015, when the socialist administration accused him of plotting a coup against President Nicolás Maduro — charges the U.S. State Department has called “ludicrous.”

Speaking to radio reporters in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta, Ledezma said he was going to travel the world to keep fighting for Venezuela.

Jim Wyss / Miami Herald

ST. MARTIN -- Ten days after Hurricane Irma turned St. Martin into a jigsaw of ripped metal and shattered wood, residents were still struggling with an existential question: Should they cling to an island that can barely support life or start over elsewhere?

Irma hit the shared Dutch and French Caribbean island as a Category 5 hurricane with winds in excess of 200 miles an hour, turning the picturesque tourist haven into a sweltering trash heap without power, water or communications. What the hurricane didn’t steal, looters often did.

Associated Press

The U.S. will not rule out a “military option” as it continues to ratchet up sanctions on Venezuela, President Donald Trump said Friday.

“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary,” Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club.

“We are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away,” Trump said. “Venezuela is not very far away and people are suffering and dying.”

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, who's seen as a symbol of anti-government protests, has been released from prison and put under house arrest, the country’s Supreme Court confirmed Saturday.

Associated Press

Venezuelans took to the streets again Thursday, braving tear gas, beatings and bloodshed as they try to force President Nicolás Maduro to hold elections in the crisis-riddled nation.

But even as a growing number of people seem willing to put their lives on the line to push for change, Maduro appears to have the backing of the one group that might make a difference: the military.

Since taking office in 2013, Maduro has showered the armed forces with privileges and powers that have isolated them from the worst of the economic malaise, and guaranteed their loyalty.

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