Panama

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.

Desmond Boylan / AP

As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, is something capitalist happening in the socialist countries of Latin America? We're talking about the sudden dollarization of Cuba and Venezuela.

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.

Arnulfo Franco / AP via Miami Herald

In Panama, the alleged sins of the father may have been echoed in South Florida by the sons. Two sons of former President Ricardo Martinelli – who’s facing a corruption trial back in Panama – were detained here this week.

Associated Press

The United States has extradited former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to face political espionage and embezzlement charges in his home country.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Monday that it will be for Panamanian courts to determine Martinelli's guilt.

Martinelli had been jailed in Miami since his arrest at his home in June 2017.

The 66-year-old Martinelli was Panama's president from 2009 to 2014. He is accused of embezzlement and illegally monitoring phone calls and other communications.

A short man with a ponytail peeks through a crack in a sheet-metal fence, calling out to see if anybody's home. His name is Dario Garcia and he is checking on some people with HIV to make sure they're taking their meds.

Garcia walks through the muddy yard, past chickens and scrawny dogs, to the cinder block house.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

When Vice President Mike Pence toured Latin America last week – Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama – it was the Trump administration’s first visit to a region that's wondering if Trump has any interest in it besides building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S Marshal

This interview was originally published on March 20.

Former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega is dead at the age of 83.  The Panamanian government announced his death late Monday night, May 29. In March Noriega had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor, and for a time had been in a coma.

It's 7 p.m. and the kitchen is preparing the first orders of the evening. Chef Mario Castrellón puts the finishing touches on a dumpling stuffed with a sea bass escabeche.

"Sometimes, customers get confused. They think, 'This guy [Castrellón] is nuts! I am eating a Chinese dumpling and he says it's Panamanian,' " laughs the chef and restaurateur. "But Panama's cuisine is fusion by obligation."

Alex Silva / AP via Miami Herald

Last week Brazil’s Senate voted overwhelmingly to impeach and suspend the country’s President, Dilma Rousseff. She now faces a long trial on charges of illegally using state bank funds to cover up big budget deficits.

Rousseff is caught up in an angry public revolt against Brazil's epic corruption, including a $3 billion scandal at the state oil firm Petrobras. But she calls her impeachment a hypocritical "coup" – pointing to the fact that more than half the members of the Brazilian congressional committee that recommended her ouster face corruption charges too.

Arnulfo Franco / AP

Here’s the conventional line you're hearing about President Obama and this week’s Summit of the Americas:

Up to now, Obama had been doing many smart things to improve dysfunctional U.S.-Latin American relations. On issues like immigration, the drug war and especially Cuba – in December he announced the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with its cold-war communist foe – a gringo president was finally getting it.

HBO/YouTube

COMMENTARY  

Kudos to British comedian John Oliver for his hilarious smackdown of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa this week.

The host of HBO’s satirical “Last Week Tonight” skewered – impaled, really – Correa and his juvenile social media war against anyone who dares criticize him. Oliver told the infamously thin-skinned presidente to “stop Googling yourself” and advised him that “being a world leader might not be for you.”

Panama Supreme Court

COMMENTARY

This past summer I wrote an article about Panama’s ultra-corrupt judicial system. It looked at the case of a dead man whose will had left tens of millions of dollars to poor children – and how the Panamanian Supreme Court made the highly suspicious decision to nullify that will and hand the money instead to rich adults.

Panama Canal Authority

The original version of this report was published on May 13 2014.

PortMiami has finally opened its new, billion-dollar tunnel. It’s the jewel of a $2 billion port makeover, which includes a major dredging project and skyscraper-size loading cranes for sending a lot more auto parts to Brazil and getting a lot more handbags from China.

But the long-term success of that effort may depend to a large extent on whether a quarrel gets solved a thousand miles to the south. In Panama.

Peter Nickalls / Flickr

This story originally ran on May 7, 2014  

Jorge Quijano has one of the coolest office views in the Americas: the Pacific port entrance to the Panama Canal. The panoramic vista seems to help Quijano, who heads the Panama Canal Authority, see the bigger picture.

On the one hand, Quijano understands why Panama has run the canal much more effectively than the United States did.

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