Americas

Commentary
6:51 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Venezuela: Can Anyone Mediate This Mess?

It’s a shame that Venezuela just severed diplomatic and economic ties with Panama, because their respective presidents – Nicolás Maduro and Ricardo Martinelli – have a lot in common.

Yes, I know that Maduro is a radical socialist and former bus driver. And that Martinelli is a right-wing supermarket tycoon.

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Latin America Report
4:16 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

What My Talks With Hugo Taught Me About Chavismo In Venezuela

Hugo Chavez (left) talking to Tim Padgett in 2006
Credit Steve Pyke

Back in 1998, just before he was first elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez described his socialist revolution to me:

“Our revolution is like a river and the rain,” he said with typical bravado. “It’s a natural force.”

These days, it’s looking more like a spent force.

Today, March 5, marks the first anniversary of Chávez’s death from cancer. He was still in power when he died, and his revolution still rules Venezuela.

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Venezuela Unrest
7:56 am
Fri February 28, 2014

For Venezuelan Protesters, A Time To Ask: What's The Endgame?

Protesters wave an "SOS" Venezuelan flag during a diaspora rally in Doral last weekend.
Credit Miranda Nathanson / Miami Herald

There comes a moment in every political upheaval when the sound and fury of protests have to hook up with the clarity and practicality of platforms.

For anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela, that moment's arrived.

Since Feb. 12, the oil-rich but deeply divided country has been rocked by student-led unrest. Protesters are lashing out at President Nicolás Maduro’s heavy-handed socialist government and its inability to solve a raft of economic and social crises, including South America’s worst inflation and murder rates.

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Latin America Report
4:53 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

From Scorched Earth To Palm Beach: The Maya Are Coming To Florida

An outreach worker in indigenous Guatemalan garb aids a Maya family in Palm Beach County.
Credit The Guatemalan-Maya Center, Lake Worth

The Maya have many cool nicknames. The Greeks of the New World. Men of Maize. But you can add a more unfortunate moniker – the Children of Scorched Earth – to explain why they’re suddenly one of Florida’s fastest-growing immigrant communities.

The Maya are the largest indigenous group in the Americas, descendants of the glorious pre-Columbian civilization that occupied southern Mexico and northern Central America. Most live in Guatemala – where in recent decades they’ve faced one violent plague after another.

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Commentary
4:59 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Venezuela's West Side Story: Why Street Protests Aren't Likely To Topple The Regime

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald editorial board last year.
Credit C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

Leopoldo López is a rock star among Venezuelans in South Florida. But in west Caracas he's the rich guy. And those contrasting images could affect the outcome of street protests playing out in Venezuela right now.

But first the obvious: This week’s arbitrary arrest of López, a top Venezuela opposition leader, is a reminder that President Nicolás Maduro’s already scant credibility is evaporating during the anti-government demonstrations that have swept his country since Feb. 12.

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Latin America Report
3:15 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Crist And Cuba: Is Florida Ready For An Embargo Reversal?

Charlie Crist (left) announces his anti-embargo stance to Bill Maher.
Credit Real Time With Bill Maher / HBO

What does Charlie know that we don’t know?

Charlie Crist, Florida’s ex-Republican governor and now its leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate, assumed a real political risk this month: He called on Washington to lift the 52-year-old U.S. trade embargo against communist Cuba.

In an interview with WLRN, Crist insisted his changed stance is a matter of common sense.

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Opinion
8:14 am
Thu February 13, 2014

America, Florida Want Cuba Policy Change Because They Want Change In Cuba

Cuban women walk by wall graffiti in Havana.
Credit Flickr

A major poll released Monday confirms most Americans, and especially Floridians, feel it’s time to normalize relations with communist Cuba after more than a half century of Cold-War rupture.

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Latin America Report
6:10 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Chocolate And Chávez: Valentine's Day Confronts Venezuela's Strife

Alejandra Bigai, owner of Romanicos chocolate shop in Miami, shows off her assortment of truffles made from Venezuelan criollo
Credit Sophia Padgett Perez

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. Big deal. This is Valentine’s week, when cocoa matters more than crude – and what’s important is that Venezuela produces the world’s best chocolate.

Problem is, will politics soon drag down Venezuela’s cacao (cocoa) industry the way it’s reduced the country’s oil output? On Feb. 14, at least, that’s a worrisome question, especially inside gourmet chocolate shops like Romanicos.

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Commentary
4:46 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Can Venezuela's U.S. Dollar Restriction Keep $1 Billion Out Of Florida?

Trading U.S. dollars for Venezuelan bolívares
Credit venezuelaanalysis.com

What do you do when your country’s foreign reserves are dropping at a rate that would make avid bungee jumpers nauseous? If you’re left-wing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, you take strong, decisive macroeconomic action.

You withhold dollars from Mickey Mouse.

Yessir, you discourage your countrymen from traveling to Florida, by further restricting the amount of dollars they can spend there with their bank credit cards – from $2,500 to $700.

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Latin America Report
7:36 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Colombia's Peace Crisis: Pres. Santos Confronts The Skeptics – And The Spies

Credit El Nuevo Herald

This week’s Colombian voter poll had to feel like a back-handed compliment for President Juan Manuel Santos.

The new survey by the Bogotá research firm Ipsos-Napoleón Franco shows Santos with a 17-point lead over his closest competitor in his bid to win re-election in May. But Santos garners just 25 percent of the vote. Half of those polled said they were undecided or intend to cast a blank protest ballot. That’s hardly cause for cumbia dancing at the Casa de Nariño presidential palace.

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Latin America Report
5:58 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Brazil's Slaves Are Being Freed – But Are Its Slaveholders Being Punished?

An enslaved worker hauling charcoal for pig-iron production in rural Brazil.
Credit Chernush / Free the Slaves

I bought Francisco Lima his first taste of freedom in decades.

A cheeseburger.

It was 2004, and Brazil was starting to confront one of its most distressing problems: slavery. I was in northern Pará state, in the Amazon, observing a special police unit that raided slave-holding farms and firms and liberated workers like the 74-year-old Lima.

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Latin America Report
10:37 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Alan Gross And The Vatican: Could The Keys Of St. Peter Unlock A Cuban Jail Cell?

Alan Gross, left, with his wife and two daughters at his Maryland home before his 2009 arrest in Cuba.
Credit Gross family

Can the Vatican free Alan Gross in Cuba? It helps first to consider how the Roman Catholic Church freed itself in Cuba.

Cuba has seen surprising turns in recent years. Fidel Castro handing the communist dictatorship to his younger brother Raúl. Raúl decreeing capitalist reforms to save the communist dictatorship.

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Commentary
6:19 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Holy Hispaniola! New Haitian Cardinal Rises While Old One Next Door Stumbles

Bishop Chibly Langlois, Haiti's first Roman Catholic cardinal.
Credit haitilibre.com

Pope Francis didn’t have to say it. He let the timing say it for him.

The pope this week named Haitian Bishop Chibly Langlois as one of 19 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. In the process, he all but declared a shift in clerical power on the large Caribbean island of Hispaniola. And he may also have delivered a rebuke to the Dominican Republic, the country that shares that isle with Haiti, and to the D.R.’s controversial cardinal, Nicolás López.

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Latin America Report
7:22 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

U.S. Aid Official: 'We Have To Change The Way We Do Business In Haiti'

USAID Haiti mission director John Groarke visits Haitian farmers.
Credit haiti.usembassy.gov

Right after Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, I rode in a U.S. Army helicopter ferrying food and medical supplies into demolished Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.

As we descended near the suburb of Pétionville, and as corpses became visible amid the ruins and campfire smoke billowed up in our faces, the pilot said he couldn’t put us down. Too many people were running to the landing spot, and they risked being killed by the chopper rotors.

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Commentary
11:12 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

The Miss Venezuela Murders: Maduro Needs To Create Police Instead Of Plots

Mónica Spear and ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry. Both were murdered by gunmen during a botched roadside robbery in Venezuela on Jan. 6.
Credit Thomas Henry Berry / Facebook

Latin American leaders don’t know how to stop their violent-crime epidemic, but they sure know how to spin it.

Former Miss Venezuela and telenovela star Mónica Spear and her ex-husband were murdered Monday night during a botched highway robbery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Their 5-year-old daughter was shot, too, but survived. As the shocking news spread throughout Venezuela and then Miami, where Spear often lived and worked, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro hit a spin cycle I’ve seen countless other presidentes employ after high-profile homicides.

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