Tim Padgett

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. He has reported on Latin America for almost 30 years - for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief in Mexico and Miami (where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast) from 1996 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. He has covered every major Latin American and Caribbean story from the end of the Central American civil wars of the 1980s to NAFTA and the Colombian guerrilla conflict of the 1990s; to the Brazilian boom, the Venezuelan revolution and Mexican drug war carnage of the 2000s; to the current normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

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. In 2016 he won a national Edward R. Murrow award for Best Radio Series for "The Migration Maze," about the brutal causes of - and potential solutions to - Central American migration. His 1993 Newsweek cover, “Cocaine Comes Home,” won the Inter-American Press Association’s drug coverage award.

Padgett is an Indiana native and a graduate of Wabash College. He 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 career at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he led the paper's coverage of the 1986 immigration reform. Padgett has also written for publications such as The New Republic and America and 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 and is a member of the Catholic anti-poverty organization St. Vincent de Paul. He currently lives in Miami with his wife and two children. 

Even as the U.S. surpassed the grim milestone of 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths this week, Brazil has reached its own dark coronavirus marker.

In South Florida we tend to think of the golden age of cocaine (if it can be called that) as the 1980s – iconic Colombian drug lords like Pablo Escobar and cocaine cowboys marauding through Miami. But according to British-American journalist Toby Muse, cocaine's real golden age is…today.

COMMENTARY

We know one likely reason Brazil’s coronavirus emergency is in full meltdown. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro calls the pandemic a “media hoax” and has done everything in his power, like hosting a large pro-Bolsonaro street rally last weekend, to undermine social distancing.

Brazil is now the world’s fastest growing COVID-19 hotspot. Each day the country is reporting more than 10,000 new infections – and about a thousand new deaths. Brazil’s top scientists say the country isn’t even close to its pandemic peak yet. And over the weekend its health minister quit – the second to leave in a month.

WLRN’s Christine DiMattei spoke with Americas editor Tim Padgett about Brazil’s COVID-19 meltdown – and the political chaos that’s making it worse.

Nicaragua has reported just 25 cases of COVID-19 and only eight deaths. But Nicaraguan doctors there and in South Florida are speaking up with a much more ominous message.

Like so many doctors around the world, pediatric surgeon Roberto Herrera was exposed to the new coronavirus back in early March.

“Of course I was scared at first,” says Herrera. That's in no small part because he was also at-risk: he’s 61 and asthmatic. But Herrera insists he was never panicked. After all, he says, he lives in Costa Rica – which has reported only seven COVID-19 deaths and fewer than 800 cases.

Cuba has officially registered fewer than 1700 COVID-19 cases. But new data released by one of the island’s most respected institutes suggests the number may be much higher.

Ecuador's new health minister, Dr. Juan Carlos Zevallos, talks with WLRN's Latin America Report about the "horrifying" experience of trying to get his country's COVID-19 pandemic crisis under control. Calling Ecuador unprepared, he says, is "absolutely unfair."

Last month immigration rights groups sued the federal government to release migrants in South Florida detention centers because of the risks of infection from the new coronavirus. That’s what a U.S. judge is now ordering the Trump Administration to do.

COMMENTARY

America’s immigrant labor hypocrisy — especially Trump America’s immigrant labor hypocrisy — stinks. And right now, as we used to say in Indiana, the smell could knock a buzzard off a manure wagon.

Or perhaps in this case I should say it could make a meat-packing plant seem fragrant.

No country in Latin America and the Caribbean has been hit as hard by the new coronavirus as Ecuador. Brazil, a far larger country, may have more COVID-19 cases; but Ecuador’s death toll is thought to be twice as high as Brazil’s. And no place in Ecuador has suffered as terribly as the port city of Guayaquil.

COMMENTARY

President Trump turned up the pandemic chaos this week by halting U.S. funding of the World Health Organization and ordering his name slapped on U.S. Treasury relief checks. His Brazilian buddy, President Jair Bolsonaro, has effectively responded by saying: “Hold my beer.”

Until this month, it looked like Latin America and the Caribbean might be spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the world saw the tragic images from Ecuador of a sudden and overwhelming number of deaths from the new coronavirus – of corpses lining the sidewalks in the port city of Guayaquil. Meanwhile, the number of cases in Brazil is doubling or tripling every week – and so are the number of deaths.

Latin America and the Caribbean have so far avoided the scarier level of COVID-19 infection seen in Europe, Asia and the U.S. But the region’s numbers are starting to jump. And hemispheric health experts on Tuesday had a warning for one country in particular.

The federal government has designated farm workers as "essential" to the U.S. food supply chain during the COVID-19 crisis. Ironically, about two-thirds of U.S. farm workers are undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Either way, they do most of our food picking and processing, especially in Florida.

So Paulino Gallegos has a question: If undocumented workers like him are “essential” to the cause – why was he recently locked up?

Two South Florida sheriff's officers, in Broward and Palm Beach counties, have died from the novel coronavirus.

Last week, we asked if the U.S. should loosen economic sanctions against countries during grave crises like the new coronavirus. We considered Venezuela; this week we look at Cuba — and U.S. sanctions against its communist regime.

To help stop transmission of the coronavirus, many federal immigration facilities have closed as of Tuesday night. But many are staying open in South Florida.

COMMENTARY

One of the most popular, and most ridiculous, social media discussions of the past year is the big Capitalism-versus-Socialism Debate. Thanks to President Trump’s right-wing demonization of socialism, and Bernie Sanders’ left-wing demonization of capitalism, folks in America – and in Latin America, thanks to Sanders’ recent kudos to Cuba – have decided it’s an either-or issue.

It’s not, of course. The best societies are always a hybrid of free wealth production and fair wealth redistribution. And the coronavirus pandemic, from São Paulo to Seattle, may finally affirm that commonsense reality across our absurdly polarized hemisphere.

When São Paulo, Brazil, reported Latin America’s first case of the new coronavirus last month, South Florida had reason to worry.

For weeks, people across Latin America and in the U.S. had been waiting for a major ruling on abortion from Colombia’s highest court. But the decision the justices issued Monday night was not all that major – and was an anti-climactic letdown for South Florida Latinos on both sides of the issue. 

Colombia’s highest court is about to issue a ruling that could return the country to a total ban on abortion – or bring it in line with Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. Either way, because Colombia is one of the region's largest and more culturally influential countries, the decision could have a profound effect on abortion rights in Latin America.

Two months ago, Democratic state Rep. Cindy Polo of Miami Lakes visited a prison in El Salvador. Polo met an inmate named Berta Margarita Arana, a Salvadoran woman serving eight years for attempting an abortion.

For years, Caribbean governments have argued their countries bear the brunt of climate change. A new U.N. study says Caribbean children may bear the worst of it.

FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA | Claudina Swann is searching for an object in the storm debris scattered around her backyard in the Bahamas.

“Something was here, and I was trying to, well, I don’t know,” she says in a perplexed voice. Maybe it’s part of a light pole. A wooden chest. A truck tire. Swann doesn’t really know what the object is. But she’s obsessed with finding it.

She says it saved her life and the lives of her two youngest children as they were being swept away last Monday during Hurricane Dorian.

Hurricane Dorian is predicted to finally leave the Bahamas Tuesday after spending two days wrecking - and in many places drowning -  the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

WLRN’s Sundial host Luis Hernandez spoke with Americas editor Tim Padgett about the Bahamas devastation – and the urgent need to help make South Florida’s island neighbors more resilient to monster storms.

The haunting pictures of smoke in Brazil this week have made the world aware of the emergency level of Amazon deforestation. Brazil experts here warn South Floridians this crisis is not as distant as it seems.

Last week Haiti saw violent street clashes between police and protesters calling for the ouster of President Jovenel Moïse. Moïse is accused of embezzling a million dollars in public funds earmarked for building new roads in rural Haiti – a case that’s part of a $2 billion embezzlement scandal rocking the western hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Moïse denies the charge. Still, the alleged larceny hits Haiti where it hurts most: its ruined agriculture industry.

One of the more disturbing sounds to hit the media airwaves last summer was a recording obtained by ProPublica of Central American children crying at an immigration detention center in Texas. They’d been separated from their parents, who had come to seek U.S. asylum.

At that same place the summer before, in 2017, a Guatemalan girl named Ana was taken from her father. She was three. Ana was sent to a relative in Immokalee, Florida, who took her to immigration lawyer Jennifer Anzardo Valdes in Miami.

Ever since U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cuba, began complaining of mysterious illnesses two years ago, scientists have struggled to identify the cause. Doctors at the University of Miami released their own report on Wednesday – and it shows they’re still struggling.

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