Colombia

This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

Joel Palacios says he used to have it all — a well-paying government job that let him travel across Colombia, the respect of everyone he encountered. "Everywhere I was 'el doctor Joel,' " he says — doctor being an honorific commonly used to denote respect in Latin America.

Manuel Rueda / WLRN News

ABOARD THE USNS COMFORT | A few years ago, Dr. Juan Manuel Zambrano was a family physician in Mucuchíes, Venezuela, in the country’s mountainous western Andes region. That is, until the day he realized Venezuela’s medicine and medical equipment shortages made it all but impossible for him to practice anymore.

Rather than swords into plowshares, Colombian artist Doris Salcedo is pounding guns into floor tiles.

To explain why he grows coca, the raw material for cocaine, rather than food crops on his 5-acre farm in southern Colombia, Luis Tapia does the math.

Every three months, Tapia, 60, harvests the bright green coca leaves with his bare hands, then mixes them with gasoline, sulfuric acid and other chemicals to make coca paste. He then sells the paste to drug traffickers who turn it into powder cocaine. A pound of paste, he says, sells for more than one ton of corn.

"That's why everyone grows coca," Tapia says.

Jonathan Clay / US Navy

A U.S. Navy hospital ship leaves Norfolk, Virginia, Thursday on a mission that means a lot to people here in South Florida. It hopes to help bring relief to the worst migrant refugee crisis in modern South American history.

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COMMENTARY

As a registered independent, I neither supported nor opposed Maria Elvira Salazar’s Republican primary run for Congress from Florida’s 27th District, where I reside.

But there’s one thing about Salazar’s landslide victory on Tuesday that I’m unabashedly enthusiastic about. It may have finally driven a stake through the heart of one of South Florida’s most poisonous political practices: accusing your opponent of being soft on communist Cuba.

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.

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.

Tim Padget / WLRN.org

 Florida Gov. Rick Scott is traveling to Colombia to attend the inauguration of the nation's next president.

Scott's office announced late Sunday that the governor will fly to the Latin American nation to attend the swearing in of President-elect Ivan Duque. The governor will return on Wednesday.

Other American officials are also expected to attend the inauguration in Bogota. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is leading a presidential delegation.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Some thought it stunning last week when former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced he was resigning his Senate seat to defend himself in a criminal investigation.

But actually it was very fitting.

Associated Press

About two million Venezuelans are fleeing the economic and political crisis in their country and seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

READ MORE: Escape from Venezuela.

On Sunday, Colombia elected a new president, Ivan Duque, a conservative former senator who's pledged to rewrite a divisive peace treaty that ended the country's 50-year-old guerrilla war.

In the second and final round of elections, Duque won 54 percent of the vote, defeating former guerrilla fighter and onetime Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro, 58, who captured about 42 percent in the runoff. Duque will succeed outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos.

Paul Smith / UNHCR

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | La casa de Angélica Lamos es uno de los pocos lugares en Cúcuta donde se puede oir a los niños refugiados venezolanos reír en vez de llorar. De hecho, los niños chillan de placer jugando con globos en el patio de la casa mientras el ritmo alegre de una cumbia se cuela desde el café de la esquina.

No están desnutridos. No están enfermos.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | No es fácil para Jesús Mendoza hablar de todas las cosas que ha tenido que vender para comprar medicinas - medicinas que lo mantienen con vida.

Jesús recibió un transplante de riñón y tiene que tomar medicinas para no rechazar el órgano, sin importar cuánto cuestan. Y como Jesús vive en Venezuela, el precio es frecuentemente astronómico.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | Así suena la crisis de refugiados huyendo de Venezuela: los puños, nudillos y las manos abiertas de venezolanos indigentes -y sobretodo hambrientos- tocando las puertas de metal de las estaciones de ayuda humanitaria establecidas en la ciudad de Cúcuta, en el lado colombiano de la frontera.

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