Americas

Matias J. Ocner / Miami Herald

Last week President Trump dealt another blow to the U.S. policy of engagement with communist Cuba. He banned U.S. people-to-people travel to Cuba – and also cruise line travel, which last year carried an estimated 800,000 passengers to the island. It was just the latest rollback of the normalization of relations that Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, began five years ago. And it raises the question: Does U.S. engagement with Cuba have a future anymore?

YouTube

During heavy rains last year in a small town outside Havana, people saw something remarkable. Large freshwater catfish called claria were swimming in the flooded streets. In a video posted on YouTube, excited locals splash out to grab them.

But that happy scene was also an environmental alert. Claria are an invasive species in Cuba. They’re supposed to be confined to aquaculture fisheries, where they’re bred for food. Outside those farms – as these claria obviously were – they’re notorious for devouring anything in their paths.

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Last week representatives of Venezuela's socialist regime and its political opposition met for talks in Oslo, Norway. Norway had offered earlier this year to mediate between the two sides – but news of the meetings was a surprise, because less than a month ago opposition leader Juan Guaidó called (unsuccessfully) for an outright military overthrow of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro.

Boris Vergara / AP

It’s been a week since Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for the overthrow of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro. That effort failed when top military leaders balked at joining him. But it sparked renewed anti-government unrest and showed cracks in the military's loyalty to the socialist regime – which is widely blamed for dismantling Venezuela’s democracy and destroying its economy.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Three years ago, Venezuelan doctor Marco Salmeron seemed to have a good case for asylum in the U.S. Salmeron had fled Venezuela because prosecutors there accused him of human organ trafficking – but they’d provided little if any evidence to back it up. Salmeron called the charge political persecution.

Still, on a September morning in 2016, U.S. agents from the international police organization Interpol showed up at Salmeron’s home  in Pembroke Pines. As his wife and two kids looked on, they handcuffed Salmeron and took him to the federal immigration detention center in Miramar.

Desmond Boylan / AP

Last week, National Security Advisor John Bolton came to Miami to announce President Trump is unleashing a tool of the Cuban embargo: Title III.

“Americans who have had their private and hard-earned property stolen in Cuba will finally be allowed to sue,” Bolton, to resounding applause, told hundreds of mostly conservative Cuban exiles at a luncheon for Bay of Pigs veterans.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Venezuelan art dealer Romy Moreno was in South Florida last month when she got an urgent call from her husband, Roberto Marrero, in Caracas.

Agents of Venezuela's authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro were ransacking their apartment and arresting Marrero – who is the chief of staff to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The U.S. and 50 other countries recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate president.

Phil Laubner / Catholic Relief Services

Last week President Trump threatened to close the U.S. southern border because record numbers of Central American migrants are arriving there – including 100,000 apprehended in March. “I’m not playing games,” Trump warned. “We can’t hold people anymore.”

But what’s lost in Trump’s border-security bluster is that there’s something unusual about this wave of Central American migrants. Most are not from Honduras or El Salvador. Most are instead from Guatemala. And immigrant advocates say the main force driving them to flee here is climate change.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

It’s been less than a month since the visitor visas for Cubans coming to the U.S. were scaled down. A lot.

They used to be good for five years and you could come in again and again – similar to U.S. visitor visas for people from many other countries. But now: three months – and just one visit. And that’s clouded the future of Cuban entrepreneurs like Rubén Valladares.

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Most of the news from Venezuela in recent days is not encouraging for the restoration of democracy there. Late last week President Nicolás Maduro's regime arrested Roberto Marrero, the top aide to opposition leader Juan Guaidó - whom the U.S. and 50 other countries recognize as Venezuela's legitimate president. Then on Sunday, Russia flew a military advisor and 100 troops into Venezuela to support Maduro.

WLRN's Luis Hernandez spoke with Americas correspondent Tim Padgett on Sundial about the latest developments.

Jose A. Iglesias / Miami Herald

One of the more disturbing sounds to hit the media airwaves last summer was a recording obtained by ProPublica of Central American children crying at an immigration detention center in Texas. They’d been separated from their parents, who had come to seek U.S. asylum.

At that same place the summer before, in 2017, a Guatemalan girl named Ana was taken from her father. She was three. Ana was sent to a relative in Immokalee, Florida, who took her to immigration lawyer Jennifer Anzardo Valdes in Miami.

Desmond Boylan / AP

Cuban exiles and other foes of Cuba's communist government woke up Monday morning hearing that President Trump was going to get tougher on the regime. Specifically, they expected Trump to activate an unused tool of the Cuban embargo known as Title III. He did. But what they got instead was more of a letdown than a crackdown.

WLRN's Luis Hernandez spoke with Americas correspondent Tim Padgett about Title III – and why a lot of Cuban-Americans right now say it's still an unused tool.

Fernando Llano / AP

After the deadly clashes along Venezuela's borders this past weekend, authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro still looks firmly entrenched in power. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries as Venezuela's legitimate president. And now he says "all options" - even U.S. military intervention - should be considered to topple Maduro's socialist regime.

WLRN's Christine DiMattei and Tim Padgett talked about where the Venezuela crisis stands now - and where it's probably headed.

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