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Tim Padgett

Tim Padgett is WLRN-Miami Herald News' Americas correspondent covering Latin America and the Caribbean from Miami. He has covered Latin America for almost 25 years, for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief, first in Mexico from 1996 to 1999 and then in Miami, where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast, from 1999 to 2013.

Padgett has interviewed more than 20 heads of state, including former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and he was one of the few U.S. correspondents to sit down with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during his 14-year rule. He has reported on, and written cover articles about, every major Latin American and Caribbean story from NAFTA, the Cuban economic collapse and Colombian civil war of the 1990s to the Brazilian boom, Venezuelan revolution and Mexican drug-war carnage of the 2000s. In 2005, Padgett received Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the oldest international award in journalism, for his body of work from the region. His 1993 Newsweek cover, “Cocaine Comes Home,” won the Inter-American Press Association’s drug-war coverage award.

A U.S. native from Indiana, Padgett received his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Wabash College as an English major. He was an intern reporter at Newsday in 1982 and 1983. In 1985 Padgett received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School before studying in Caracas, Venezuela, at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He started his professional journalism career in 1985 at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he led the newspaper’s coverage of the 1986 immigration reform. In 1988 he joined Newsweek in its Chicago bureau. Padgett has also written for publications such as The New Republic and America, and he has been a frequent analyst on CNN, Fox and NPR, as well as Spanish-language networks such as Univision.

Padgett has been an adult literacy volunteer since 1989. He currently lives in Miami with his wife and two children. 

President Trump astonished people across the country last week when he denied 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria. He insisted (falsely) that Democrats inflated the death toll to make him “look bad.”

For Ernesto Morales, Trump’s tweets exacerbated his awful memories of the storm, which demolished Puerto Rico a year ago this Thursday.

Haiti’s misfortunes – extreme poverty, political crises, natural disasters – are more than just material. They’ve also led to mental health issues. And until recently those were rarely adequately addressed in Haiti. That’s changed – and Guerda Nicolas is a big reason why.

Nicolas is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development, and the American Psychological Association just awarded her its international humanitarian award for her work promoting mental health services in Haiti.

It's August. And as we approach the most intense period of the hurricane season, a lot of us are thinking: How warm are the waters in the Atlantic and the Caribbean? How much fuel is out there for hurricanes to feed on?

What most of us don’t know is that the ocean waters here have an unusual feature that can actually help fuel hurricanes. We’re learning more about that now thanks to researchers like Johna Rudzin at the University of Miami.

Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel recently toured the U.S. southern border, talking to undocumented parents and children separated by President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

During a forum this month at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, heard how that border policy has begun to touch the Florida peninsula. Frankel interviewed a woman from Guatemala whose cousin was one of the migrants stopped at the border this year and separated from her child – a 10-year-old boy.

When the year started, we were astounded to hear Venezuela’s 2018 inflation rate could top 13,000 percent. That’s pretty bad hyperinflation. But Venezuelans now look at that forecast as the good news.

We haven’t heard much from Miguel Díaz-Canel since he became the new President of Cuba three months ago. But new regulations for private Cuban businesses came out Tuesday - and they may confirm fears that Díaz-Canel doesn’t wield much power.

Cuban officials are still identifying the 111 people who died in last Friday’s crash of a Cubana Airlines 737 on takeoff from Havana. Two surviving passengers remain in critical condition. Some Cubans here hope the tragedy will bring changes to how Cuba – and the U.S. – approach air travel on the island.

Fifteen years ago, violent clashes between Bolivian security forces and protesters over control of natural gas resulted in many civilian deaths. On Tuesday a jury in Fort Lauderdale found Bolivia’s president at that time responsible for the killings.

More than 60 Bolivian civilians were killed in 2003 when security forces opened fire on demonstrators during the so-called Gas War. Many of them were Aymara Indians.

The Bay of Pigs is one of the darkest episodes of Cuban-American history. But that failed 1961 attempt by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro had another dark result. Some of its resentful veterans came back to the U.S. to form a violent Cuban-American mafia called The Corporation.

After last week’s school shooting in Parkland that killed 17 people, a lot of focus has fallen on the home where the confessed shooter was living. WLRN spoke with the father of that family about the young man’s mental health issues – and about issues of gun ownership.

Updated Feb. 16

The 19-year-old man who’s confessed to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people on Wednesday left a violent social media footprint. But the teens and adults who might have stopped him say they weren’t aware.

Like so many recently arrived immigrants in South Florida, Nykoll Hernandez is proud of the college education she’s getting here – and just as proud to tell you what she’s studying at Broward College.

“I’m doing my major in hospitality and tourism management,” she says.

Except, “major” was not what came out of Hernandez’s mouth. What she said instead was “mayor.” In other words, she uttered one of the most common accent mistakes any native Spanish speaker makes in English: turning the j into a y.

Congress ended the federal government shutdown on Monday only after Republicans assured Democrats they would move to pass a DACA bill. DACA means Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – the 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. They're also known as Dreamers. Their struggle to avoid deportation – and live here legally – began almost two decades ago, and it's one of the century's most compelling immigration stories.

Last week the renowned Key West Literary Seminar held its 36th annual gathering – and the theme of this year’s four-day event was “Writers of the Caribbean.” Thanks to President Trump, it turned out the organizers could not have picked a timelier subject.

The Trump Administration announced Monday it will end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 200,000 Salvadorans living in the country. South Florida’s Salvadoran population is relatively small - but the TPS ruling will still be felt here.

This Friday, Dec. 15, is the day Puerto Rico’s governor pledged to have all the island’s electric power restored. That’s not going to happen – but some Puerto Ricans have gotten power back after their long, long night in the dark.

Almost eight years after an earthquake destroyed their country – and prompted the U.S. to let them stay in this country protected from deportation – more than 50,000 Haitians were told on Monday they will soon lose that benefit.

We still don’t know what or who caused the alleged sonic attacks that injured U.S. diplomats in Havana. Which is why Cuba put its own scientists online this week to debunk the claims.

Some two dozen personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana say they were victims of acoustic attacks. The high-pitched sonic blasts started last year and caused hearing loss and other illnesses.

COMMENTARY

In 2012, conservative Florida Senator Marco Rubio made one of the strongest pitches for the DREAM Act I’ve ever heard.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which has been sitting on Capitol Hill in one form or another since the turn of the century, would grant legal status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Rubio, a Cuban-American, said helping those so-called Dreamer immigrants was a “humanitarian mission.”

Last June, President Donald Trump pledged to make it harder for Americans to visit Cuba and do business with the communist island. On Wednesday his administration released its new Cuba regulations – and ironically, private Cuban entrepreneurs may get hit worst.

PATILLAS, Puerto Rico – Jan Carlo Pérez’s family has a farm in Patillas, Puerto Rico. It’s a town of lush green hillside forests known as the Caribbean island’s “emerald of the south.” But right now Patillas – close to where Hurricane Maria made landfall in September – is a struggling disaster casualty.

SAN JUAN – Like many in Congress, Florida Senator Bill Nelson had been frustrated by not being able to see Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction first hand. So Sunday he took a commercial flight to the U.S. island territory – and voiced some criticism of U.S. relief efforts.

ANALYSIS

Ever since former President Barack Obama normalized relations with Cuba three years ago – heralding the possibility of a new era after half a century of hostility – cold warriors on both sides of the Florida Straits have gnashed their teeth at the rapprochement.

But in the coming days and weeks, sources say the Trump Administration may well shelve a good chunk of the new normal in favor of the old normal the hawks prefer – in effect, the re-freezing of U.S.-Cuban relations.

Standing outside his church in Palmetto Bay on Sunday, Jesus Figueroa listened intently to information coming across his iPhone from Puerto Rico on Zello. The walkie-talkie app transmits messages on group channels when cell phone service is a challenge – and in Puerto Rico right now it’s an epic ordeal.

Puerto Rico woke up Thursday morning to catastrophic damage and flooding after Hurricane Maria. The major storm roared across the Caribbean island on Wednesday, and the devastation – especially power outages – is island-wide.

Growing up in Miami, Luis Gazitúa lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 – one of the most destructive storms ever to hit South Florida. That’s why the Coconut Grove attorney recognized the awful danger of Hurricane Irma.

Irma was even bigger and stronger than Andrew. So when early forecast models this month showed it heading straight for Miami, Gazitúa and his family decided to evacuate South Florida.

“We had actually booked rooms in Orlando,” Gazitúa says at his law office in Coral Gables. “My father, my brother, our children and our wives and my mother.”

Political conditions in Venezuela are growing darker by the day. But so is Venezuela’s financial situation. In the meantime, Florida politicians are calling for more help for Venezuelan immigrants.

Much of the international community now labels Venezuela’s socialist government a dictatorship. And this week the regime is doing its best to live up to that billing.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence came to the Venezuelan enclave of Doral on Wednesday promising that  the Trump administration would “bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Miami-Dade County on Wednesday to thank it for helping the feds deport undocumented immigrants. But experts say his claims about crime in cities that don’t cooperate – so-called “sanctuary cities” – are exaggerated.

This year President Trump ordered local governments to comply with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants who’ve been arrested. He warned sanctuary cities they would lose federal law enforcement funding if they didn't.

Uruguay has long been known for its sweet pastries called medialunas. But right now it’s better known for marijuana. On Wednesday the small, progressive South American country became the first in the world to allow the nationwide commercial sale of pot – and the U.S. is watching.

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