Latin America

Latin America
7:07 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Lack Of Reforms During Latin America's Economic Boom Will Hurt The Region

Soybean harvest in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The South American giant is now the world's largest soybean producer.
Credit sdsoybean.org

For more than a decade, much of Latin America has enjoyed an economic boom. But at its annual meeting in Brazil over the weekend, the Inter-American Development Bank indicated the party is ending. And the situation may be worse because the region didn’t make productive reforms when times were good.

Hear the full story below.

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Commentary
10:54 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Castro Opens Cuba's Capitalist Door Another Notch – Should Washington Walk Through?

Cuban leader Raul Castro with leaders of the ruling communist party.
Credit Flickr

It may or not be a coincidence that Cuban leader Raúl Castro disclosed his new foreign investment law this week just as Venezuela was getting another big thumbs-down from the financial world.

Cuba’s threadbare communist economy depends on kindred benefactors like socialist Venezuela. But as that oil-rich country’s own economy continues to implode – the Fitch Ratings company downgraded Venezuelan credit to “Outlook Negative” on Tuesday – Castro has no choice but to open his island’s rusted doors more broadly to capital, capitalism and capitalists.

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Latin America Report
5:53 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Venezuela: Maduro's Offensive Puts Human Rights On The Defensive

Expelled National Assembly member Maria Corina Machado addressing an opposition rally in Caracas last month.
Credit Flickr

Caracas suffered another big power outage on Tuesday. The blackout shut down a hospital and a metro line and left large swaths of the Venezuelan capital without juice for much of the day.

One official response could be an upgrade of oil-rich Venezuela’s antiquated power grid. Another might be more spurious arrests of opposition politicians.

I’m betting on the latter.

That’s because the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro seems much more skilled at finding scapegoats than at fixing problems.

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Latin America Report
6:42 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

First Civil, Now Gang Wars. Who Would Want To Be President of El Salvador?

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Salvadorans are poised to pass Cubans as the third-largest Latino group in the United States, behind Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

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Latin America Report
9:29 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

How A Doral Woman Became A Victim Of Anti-Chavista Witch Hunts

Pietra Diwan in front of her Brazilian sweets business in Miami
Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN

Pietra Diwan takes pride in the master’s degree she earned in history back in her native Brazil. But a passion for historical accuracy may cost her the business she built here in South Florida.

As a historian, Diwan pays attention to document details. That’s why she raised flags last month when Venezuelan friends here started posting Facebook photos of the ongoing anti-government protests in Venezuela.

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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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Mexican Cartels
3:56 pm
Sat February 22, 2014

They Got Shorty! But Will Arrest Of World's Most Wanted Drug Lord Bring Change?

Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman after his arrest in Mazatlan.
Credit Mexican/U.S. government handout

Mexico's nightmarish, decade-long drug war seemed to start in 2001, when Joaquín Guzmán escaped from a Guadalajara prison inside a laundry truck.

So could this weekend's celebrated capture of Guzmán – the world's most wanted drug lord – mark the ebb of that violence?

Don't count on it – at least not until Mexico addresses more seriously the deep police and judicial flaws that helped make it so hard to collar Guzmán in the first place.

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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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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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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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Americas
10:43 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Beauty Queen Murder Shines Light On Venezuelan Violence

This May 23, 2005 file photo released by Miss Universe shows Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2005, posing for a portrait ahead of the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand. Venezuelan authorities say the soap-opera actress and former Miss Venezuela and her husband were shot and killed resisting a robbery after their car broke down. Prosecutors said in a statement that Monica Spear and Henry Thomas Berry were slain late Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela’s main port.
Credit AP file photo

  Venezuela got a tragic New Year reminder of one of its most pressing problems: violence. Mónica Spear, 29, a former beauty queen and a popular soap opera star who was raised in Orlando, was killed Monday night during a presumed highway robbery.

Authorities said her partner Thomas Henry Berry, 49, reportedly from the U.K., was also killed and that their five-year-old daughter was injured in the incident.

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Politics
5:47 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Caribbean Crusader: St. Vincent PM Gonsalves On Development And Disaster

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves assumed the Caricom chairmanship this month.
Credit secretariat.thecommonwealth.org

Christmas 2013 was the best and worst of times for Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Dec. 19. For Gonsalves, an outspoken populist who was about to take over as chairman of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, it was a moment of valuable political cachet: Francis has proven a champion of poor global underdogs like the small republics of the Caribbean.

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