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

Ways to Connect

Andres Leighton / AP

Since taking office, President Trump has worked to gain more Latino support in Florida by casting his rival Democrats as socialists – like the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. Last week, WLRN talked to the Democratic SuperPAC Priorities U.S.A. about the Trump's strategy. They claim it’s the President who resembles Latin American dictators.

This week WLRN speaks with Kelly Sadler, a spokesperson for America First Action, a Republican SuperPAC that strongly supports Trump. (Sadler was a communications aide to President Trump but left the White House amid a controversy over remarks she reportedly made about the late Senator John McCain.) Sadler spoke to WLRN’s Tim Padgett and Alejandra Martinez from Washington about the President – and how the GOP plans to attract more Hispanic voters.

Priorities USA via Twitter

Last week, the Democratic Super PAC Priorities U.S.A. launched a social media ad campaign that's created a lot of buzz in South Florida.

Manuel Rueda / For WLRN.org

Colombia’s highest court is about to issue a ruling that could return the country to a total ban on abortion – or bring it in line with Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. Either way, because Colombia is one of the region's largest and more culturally influential countries, the decision could have a profound effect on abortion rights in Latin America.

Courtesy YQ Studio LLC

“José” is an award winning film from Guatemala about a young gay man’s struggles to find love in a socially conservative, homophobic society. “José” opens this Friday in South Florida theaters. But its star, Guatemalan actor Enrique Salanic, won't be here for the film's American premiere, as he'd hoped. That's because the U.S. has denied Salanic a visa to enter the country.

Gaston de Cardenas / AP via Miami Herald

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó rallied Venezuelan expats on Saturday at the Miami Airport Convention Center, an event that marked the end of a two-week world tour that included Europe and Canada. The aim was to rekindle international support for his campaign to oust authoritarian Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, which started a year ago.

WLRN’s Tim Padgett was with Guaidó on Saturday. Padgett spoke with WLRN’s Luis Hernandez about whether Guaidó’s movement still has a future – and why he didn't get to meet President Trump.

Europa TV

Early last year, Bulgarian officials discovered almost $70 million had been transferred from Venezuela to a bank in their capital, Sofia.

Menly Cortez / State Innovation Exchange

Two months ago, Democratic state Rep. Cindy Polo of Miami Lakes visited a prison in El Salvador. Polo met an inmate named Berta Margarita Arana, a Salvadoran woman serving eight years for attempting an abortion.

YouTube

In 2012, the Presidents of Venezuela and Iran met at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. The bromance between Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alarmed Washington, since Venezuela and Iran were (and still are) sworn enemies of the U.S. So Chávez had fun joking that Ahmadinejad had come to help him “fire large missiles” at America.

That remark may have sounded merely mischievous back then. But not today. Not with the U.S. and Iran actually trading missile fire this month and raising fears of a larger military conflict.

Julie Jacobson / AP via Miami Herald

Port-au-Prince was a canyon of crushed concrete and horrified screams as Jean Samson Edouard ran panicked and barefoot through the capital’s Carrefour-Feuilles district.

It was shortly before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 — a decade ago this Sunday. A magnitude-7.0 earthquake had just destroyed much of Haiti — and killed anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people, according to most estimates (although the Haitian government had put the toll as high as 300,000).

Rodrigo Abd / AP

It's hard to wrap your arms around everything that happened 2019 in Latin America and the Caribbean. It's even harder to find any good news — from the violent political unrest that rocked capitals from La Paz to Port-au-Prince, to a record number of fires that ravaged the Amazon rainforest.

Courtsey Sonny Holtzman

Thirty years ago this Friday – Dec. 20, 1989 – the U.S. invaded Panama. The main objective was to capture the Panamanian dictator, General Manuel Noriega, who was wanted in the U.S. for drug trafficking. The invasion also restored democracy in Panama.

What's less known is that the effort in Washington to oust Noriega started in Miami, at what was then Dadeland Bank. The bank was owned by Panamanian exiles — and the man who connected them to Congress in the 1980s was a board member: Miami attorney Sylvan “Sonny” Holtzman.

YouTube

Last month a big anniversary in the western hemisphere went largely unnoticed in the U.S.

Havana – one of the oldest capitals in the Americas – celebrated its 500th birthday. Among the few Americans at the fiesta was former Key West city commissioner and Cuba native Tony Yaniz.

WSVN via YouTube

Twenty years ago this week, on Thanksgiving Day, a 5-year-old Cuban boy named Elián González was found floating on an inner tube in the Atlantic off Fort Lauderdale. His mother had taken him with her fleeing communist Cuba. She drowned. For the next seven months, Elián was the focus of a bizarre tug-of -war between his father in Cuba and his Cuban exile relatives in Miami – who wanted to keep Elián in the U.S.

David J. Phillip / Associated Press

Few issues dominate our politics today more passionately than immigration, but we rarely see the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border dramatized in fiction. Now Texas author and border native Oscar Cásares has written what one critic calls a “quietly suspenseful” novel titled “Where We Come From.”

Instagram

Two years ago, Levin de Grazia told WLRN he was the victim of a malicious online defamation campaign.

“This situation is like a witch hunt,” he said.

De Grazia is a Venezuela native and co-owner of the Bocas restaurant chain in South Florida. He’s based in Doral – the largest Venezuelan enclave in the U.S. – and he feared the effort to smear his name could ruin his business.

“It could break us,” he said at the time. “No Venezuelans want to go to a Chavista restaurant.”

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