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. 

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.

Mexico was in the news a lot last week. It hailed a new trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada to replace NAFTA – and President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Trump even spoke by phone about ways to improve Mexico’s economic development in order to reduce illegal immigration.

“We estimate joint investments of more than $30 billion toward that effort,” López Obrador said then in Mexico City. It was a major break from the animosity that’s existed between Mexico and the U.S. since Trump was elected two years ago after running a campaign that insulted Mexico – and Mexicans – at about every stop.

So this feels like a big moment for Mexico, which is economically and politically the most important country in Latin America for the U.S. Yet in this part of the U.S. – Florida and especially South Florida – we’re so focused on Cuba and South America that we rarely think about Mexico.

The University of Miami thinks that has to change.

Folks on Haiti’s north coast are still shaken after Saturday night’s strong earthquake there killed at least a dozen people and injured almost 200. The quake was produced by a Caribbean fault line that’s been relatively quiet for centuries.

In this election season, Florida politicians are making an unusually strong effort to bond with Latino voters. But those good intentions led one prominent Florida politico to do something he’d now like to take back.

Nicaragua’s political unrest ignited again Sunday – and a teenager was killed during an anti-government demonstration in Managua, allegedly by security forces loyal to President Daniel Ortega. A top student leader of the movement against Ortega came to Miami Monday night – to a standing ovation.

Central America is now the largest source of undocumented migration across the U.S. southern border. The U.S. government has ramped up deportations of Central Americans to deter people from coming. In June, Vice President Mike Pence even traveled to Guatemala to warn Central Americans: "Come to the U.S. legally or don't come at all."

And yet they keep coming. A new study by researchers at Vanderbilt University says that’s because the U.S. is in denial about the real reason Central Americans continue leaving home. It's not poverty, they say, but violence.

Nicaragua’s political violence is now forcing people to flee – and many are coming to South Florida. Organizations here are helping them find ways they can stay here.

A video of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro eating gourmet steak in Turkey while millions go hungry at home has provoked outrage worldwide. Venezuelan expats in South Florida are especially upset. But Maduro-watchers say that may be exactly what the socialist leader wants.

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.

Here’s an only-in-Miami story. This week a woman who speaks no Spanish tried to order food at a Taco Bell drive-through in Hialeah. Things didn’t end happily.

Over the weekend the New York Times created hemispheric buzz. It reported that U.S. officials talked privately this past year with rebellious Venezuelan military officers. Those officers wanted U.S. help to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.

Apparently nothing came of the talks; the Trump Administration declined to help the rogue militares. But the Times story was more evidence that President Trump is exploring unusually strong action to topple Maduro. At the White House last summer, he'd already displayed that impulse.

“We have many options for Venezuela," Trump said then, "including a possible military option if necessary…”

The mass exodus from Venezuela is being called one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in Latin America’s history. On Thursday a prominent human rights group came to Miami to urge Latin America to forge a more unified response to the crisis – and its cause.

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.

Many Central America observers say this past weekend was disappointing for democracy in the region. In Nicaragua and Guatemala, critics charge the country’s presidents are behaving like the dictators of Central America’s past.

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.

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