Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Mexico City Correspondent. In his current job, he covers Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

Beaubien joined NPR's Foreign Desk in 2002 after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked throughout sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. He reported on poverty on the world's poorest continent, HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, all-night acapella contests in South Africa, Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea. He covered the famines and wars of Africa, but also its inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates.

Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

From Mexico City he's filed stories on politics in Cuba, hurricanes in Haiti, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war. For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, he drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

He grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at KQED-FM in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

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3:03am

Wed April 4, 2012
Latin America

An Upgrade, And Bigger Ships, For The Panama Canal

Originally published on Wed April 4, 2012 8:17 pm

The Panama Canal is undergoing its biggest overhaul since it was opened nearly a century ago. A third channel is being built, which will allow more and larger ships to pass through.
Arnulfo Franco AP

Two giant ships move through the Panama Canal's two parallel channels at the Miraflores locks, heading toward the Pacific Ocean.

The orange and white Bow Summer is a tanker. The deck of the Ever Dynamic is stacked high with burgundy and blue shipping containers. More boats like these are backed up in both the Pacific and the Atlantic waiting to enter the narrow waterway.

Global trade has grown dramatically, but the Panama Canal — one of the most vital transit routes — hasn't changed its basic structure since it opened in 1914.

But that is about to change.

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5:54am

Sat March 24, 2012
Latin America

Pope Encounters A 'Wounded, Depressed' Mexico

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 9:49 pm

Pope Benedict XVI listens to a speech during his welcome ceremony in Mexico.
Gregorio Borgia AP

Crowds of people dressed in white and waving yellow flags lined the highway outside the Leon airport in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato to welcome Pope Benedict XVI. They cheered wildly when the grinning, 84-year-old pontiff sped past in his glass-sided popemobile.

The pope began his weeklong trip to Latin America on Friday afternoon. He's spending the weekend in Mexico before heading to Cuba.

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3:06am

Fri March 23, 2012
Religion

Pope Expected To Address Drug Violence In Mexico

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 12:24 pm

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to speak out against drug violence during his visit to Mexico, which begins Friday. Here, an actor is shown in front of a poster announcing the pope's visit Wednesday in the Mexican city of Leon, Guanajuato state.
Hector Guerrero AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI begins a visit Friday that takes him to Mexico, a country with around 100 million Catholics, and to Cuba, a place where church leaders have played an increasingly active role in seeking change.

There are sensitive issues in both countries that the pope is likely to address in some form. In Mexico, it's the brutal drug war that has claimed roughly 50,000 lives over the past five years.

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3:52pm

Mon February 27, 2012
Latin America

Violence Exposes Crisis In Latin American Prisons

In Honduras, female relatives of inmates killed during a fire at a prison argue with soldiers as they try to enter the morgue in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, on Feb. 20. The fire at Comayagua prison on Feb. 14 killed more than 300 inmates.
Esteban Felix AP

A series of fatal riots inside Mexican prisons last week and a deadly blaze at a penitentiary in Honduras are prompting calls for major penal reform in Central America.

Violence at three different penitentiaries in Mexico last week left 48 inmates dead, while the inferno in Honduras earlier this month killed 360 prisoners.

These deadly events underscore the problems of corruption, overcrowding, prison gangs and crumbling infrastructure that prisons face throughout the region.

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12:01am

Tue February 21, 2012
Latin America

Prison Break Epitomizes Mexican Drug War Woes

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 8:08 am

A relative of an inmate observes Mexican police behind the security fence after a riot inside Apodaca prison near Monterrey. At least 44 inmates were killed during Sunday's riot, and about 30 alleged members of the drug cartel Los Zetas were rushed out of the prison.
Julio Cesar Aguilar AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Mexico are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in the northern state of Nuevo Leon on Sunday.

The governor says the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape.

It was a jail break that epitomized the Mexican drug war: Rival gang members brutally killed each other, corrupt public officials looked the other way, and dangerous criminals went free.

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4:02pm

Sun February 19, 2012
Latin America

Female Candidate Battles Machismo In Mexico

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 11:15 am

Josefina Vazquez Mota celebrates her selection as the presidential candidate of the National Action Party in Mexico City on Feb. 5. She's the first woman to run for president in Mexico on a major party ticket.
Alfredo Estrella AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the National Action Party of Mexico nominated the country's first ever female presidential candidate, economist Josefina Vazquez Mota. As Vazquez Mota accepted the nomination, she vowed to be the first woman to become the Mexican head of state.

The PAN, as the conservative party is known in Spanish, is Mexico's current ruling party. It has also put forth a woman, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, in Mexico City's mayoral race. Both elections take place on July 1.

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12:01am

Thu February 16, 2012
Latin America

Mexican Cartels Push Meth Beyond U.S. Market

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 10:49 pm

Mexican police show the drug and weapons seized from Jaime Herrera Herrera, an alleged drug cartel member, in Mexico City on Tuesday.
Johan Ordonez AFP/Getty Images

Mexican Federal Police, some of them covered head to toe in white hazardous-materials suits, paraded Jaime Herrera Herrera in front of the media in handcuffs this week. Officials say he was the methamphetamine mastermind for Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who runs the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

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3:11pm

Tue February 7, 2012
Latin America

Can Vaccines Break Cholera's Deadly Hold On Haiti?

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:05 am

Haitians suffering from cholera symptoms rest at the treatment center in Mirebalais, a dusty town north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last June. The cholera epidemic in Haiti began in Mirebalais, believed to be the result of overflowing bathrooms from a nearby U.N. compound.
Eduardo Verdugo AP

The cholera outbreak in Haiti is currently the worst ongoing episode in the world.

Over the past 15 months, it has sickened more than half a million people and killed roughly 7,000. The bacteria has now spread throughout the Caribbean island, and medical experts say it will be around for years to come.

Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit, is planning to launch an unprecedented cholera vaccination campaign to try to curb the outbreak — but it faces many challenges, including a shortage of the vaccine.

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12:01am

Tue February 7, 2012
Latin America

Drought Ravages Farms Across Wide Swath Of Mexico

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 4:51 am

A vulture picks at a dead steer. Ranchers say many cattle have died because of the drought that has ravaged much of Mexico.
Jason Beaubien NPR

In the central Mexican state of Zacatecas, 76-year-old Genaro Rodarte Huizar rides his donkey along a dry riverbed. On his left is a dried out pasture; on his right is what used to be a cornfield; now it's just long furrows of gray, dusty dirt.

Rodarte says that for the past two years, the crops that he's planted here have failed. Normally, he plants beans and corn to feed his family, and oats to sell. He says he hasn't harvested anything because the land is too dry and there's no water.

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12:01am

Fri January 27, 2012
Latin America

State-Of-The-Art Hospital Offers Hope For Haiti

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 10:04 am

A worker pushes a wheelbarrow past the new National Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, on Jan. 10. When it opens this summer, the 320-bed facility will be Haiti's largest hospital and provide services and a level of care well beyond what's currently available.
Dieu Nalio Chery AP

Even before the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haiti's public health care system was perhaps the worst in the Western Hemisphere. Then the quake knocked down clinics, killed medical workers and severely damaged the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Now, the Boston-based group Partners in Health has set out to build a world-class teaching hospital in what used to be a rice field in the Haitian countryside.

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6:33am

Sun January 22, 2012
Latin America

Church Broadcasts Hope; Haitians Flock Post-Quake

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 9:24 am

Pastor Junior Antoine on stage at Shalom Tabernacle of Glory evangelical church, in front of a congregation that grew rapidly after the earthquake two years ago.
Jason Beaubien NPR

On Jan. 12, for the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake, thousands of people flocked to the Shalom Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The "church" is just a plywood stage under a patchwork of tattered tarps.

The crowd was so large that it spilled down a muddy hill toward a tent camp for earthquake victims. Most of the singing, swaying congregation were so far away they couldn't even see the podium.

The evangelical mission now claims to have more than 50,000 members and one of the most popular radio stations in Haiti.

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3:25pm

Sun January 15, 2012
Reporter's Notebook

Haiti: Reflections On Overcoming A Year Of Disaster

On Thursday, Haiti marked the second anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake. NPR's Jason Beaubien was back in the Caribbean nation for the quake memorials and he sent us this reporter's notebook about covering Haiti over the last few years.

Haiti is a land haunted by ghosts. My translator, Jean Pierre, won't shut up about the ghosts. He points toward some men plodding up the dusty street hauling huge bags of charcoal on their heads.

"Zombies," he declares. "Dead dudes are everywhere."

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3:19pm

Thu January 12, 2012
Latin America

Ordinary Life Resurrected, Slowly, In Haiti

Originally published on Thu January 12, 2012 10:28 pm

A storefront in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is brightly painted with a message welcoming President Michel Martelly into power. Two years after a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the Haitian capital, progress is palpable.
Jason Beaubien NPR

In Port-au-Prince, a radio blares from speakers in front of a guy selling pirated CDs on Delmas, a main street in the Haitian capital. Women sitting along the side of the road hawk everything from vegetables to cigarettes to pharmaceuticals. Overloaded tap-taps, the pickup trucks that serve as the main form of public transportation here, chug up the hill.

The scene is one that's remarkable for being unremarkable: Though it occurred this week, it could just as easily have been Port-au-Prince two years ago, before a massive earthquake destroyed much of the capital.

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12:01am

Wed December 21, 2011
Art & Design

Unusual Diego Rivera Work Restored in Mexico City

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 1:54 pm

Diego Rivera's fountain of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc is a pumping station in Mexico City's municipal water system. It fell into disrepair for some time, but has recently been restored.
David Hiser National Geographic

The Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted in New York City, San Francisco, Detroit, Europe and the Soviet Union. But some of Rivera's most famous murals and most unusual projects are found in Mexico City.

In Mexico City, Rivera did far more than just paint. He collected pre-Hispanic pottery and indigenous folk art. And he experimented with sculpture and architecture.

And between 1950 and 1952, Rivera built a giant tiled fountain to the Aztec rain god Tlaloc as part of an overhaul of Mexico City's municipal water system.

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6:01pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Latin America

In A Drug War, Mexican Forces Accused Of Abuses

Federal policemen escort the armored car carrying a member of Los Zetas drug cartel on June 17. The security forces have been accused of abuses in the fight against the drug cartels.
Yuri Cortez AFP/Getty Images

In Mexico, the last five years of President Felipe Calderon's drug war have been marked by brutal violence, unsolved kidnappings and tens of thousands of deaths. Most of violence has come from the drug gangs, but some of these atrocities have been committed by the Mexican military and police.

Human rights groups say that as state security forces battle the drug cartels, they've tortured, abducted and killed criminal suspects and even innocent civilians.

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2:51pm

Fri December 9, 2011
Latin America

Mexico Busts Drug Cartels' Private Phone Networks

Mexican soldiers stand guard behind communication radios seized from alleged drug-cartel members in Veracruz, Mexico, Nov. 23.
Lucas Castro AFP/Getty Images

The Mexican military has recently broken up several secret telecommunications networks that were built and controlled by drug cartels so they could coordinate drug shipments, monitor their rivals and orchestrate attacks on the security forces.

A network that was dismantled just last week provided cartel members with cell phone and radio communications across four northeastern states. The network had coverage along almost 500 miles of the Texas border and extended nearly another 500 miles into Mexico's interior.

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10:31am

Tue November 22, 2011
Latin America

'Miss Bala': Beauty Queen Meets Drug Lord

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 10:14 pm

Stephanie Sigman as Laura in the Canana and Fox International Productions film Miss Bala.
Eniac Martinez 20th Century Fox

Throughout Latin America, stories about drug lords have permeated popular culture.

A television series called The Cartel of the Snitches is hugely popular in Colombia. In Mexico, ballads called narcocorridos recount the exploits of drug runners, and soap operas glamorize the lives of drug lords.

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6:09am

Sun November 20, 2011
Business

Border-Town Factories Give Manufacturers An Edge

Originally published on Sun November 20, 2011 1:51 pm

Employees of TECMA, a cross-border plant or maquiladora, work in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Business leaders say the quick delivery time of goods from Mexico to the U.S. can help revive manufacturing in North America.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Officials in the United States have been wringing their hands lately over how to revitalize domestic manufacturing and keep factories from moving overseas.

But not all of those plants are going across the ocean to China or India or some other low-cost production hub in Asia. Many are relocating just south of the border to Mexico, prompting business leaders to argue that the U.S.-Mexico border region may be the key to rejuvenating manufacturing in North America.

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2:52pm

Wed November 9, 2011
Latin America

Mexican Deportees Strain Cities South Of The Border

A group of illegal immigrants from Central America deported from the United States eat at a shelter near the Mexico-U.S. border, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, July 28, 2010. Last year, the U.S. deported a record number of immigrants — and the Mexican border towns where they are being released face serious problems coping with the influx.
Alfredo Estrella AFP/Getty Images

For many Mexican migrants who've just been deported from the United States, the border city Reynosa is where the American Dream dies.

Maria Nidelia Avila Basurto is a Catholic nun who heads a church-run shelter for deportees in Reynosa, in the northeast corner of Mexico, just across from McAllen, Texas.

"Many of them arrive with nothing," she says. "We have to give them everything — clothes, shoes, everything."

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3:00pm

Sun November 6, 2011
Latin America

In Nicaragua, Ortega Poised For Re-Election

Originally published on Sun November 6, 2011 6:59 pm

Transcript

LAURA SULLIVAN, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan.

It's Election Day in Nicaragua where President Daniel Ortega is running for an unprecedented third term. The country's constitution sets a two-term limit, but the Supreme Court declared that unconstitutional. The longtime Sandinistan leader has been leading in the polls. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Managua.

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5:00am

Sat November 5, 2011
Latin America

Daniel Ortega Seeks Re-Election In Nicaragua

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:16 am

Daniel Ortega is seeking a third term in Sunday's elections despite a constitutional limit on holders of the office to two terms.
Rodrigo Arangua AFP/Getty Images

Nicaragua has a constitutional ban on sitting presidents running for re-election. But Daniel Ortega is doing just that, and he looks set to win an unprecedented third term.

This is an election filled with shifting ghosts. Characters from all sides of Nicaragua's tumultuous recent history are involved in the campaign.

Ortega, the former Marxist guerrilla and longtime Sandinista leader, is promising neoliberal reforms and a pro-business environment to attract foreign capital.

Ortega is leading in the polls — but legal scholars say he is ineligible to run.

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4:27pm

Wed October 26, 2011
Latin America

Drug Violence Swamps A Once Peaceful Mexican City

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 4:34 pm

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"Los Mata Zetas," or the "Zeta Killers," described themselves in a recent video as a paramilitary group that will go after members of the Zeta drug cartel. The Mexican government, however, has described it as a rival drug cartel that is just seeking to eliminate competition from the Zetas.

AFP AFP/Getty Images

In the latest twist to Mexico's drug wars, a new group has vowed to launch a paramilitary offensive against a leading drug cartel in Veracruz, a city that has become a flash point in the violence.

Over the past month, more than 100 bodies have been strewn around the city, which is one of Mexico's largest and oldest ports. The violence prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon to declare that Veracruz has been "left in the hands of the Zetas," one of the most brutal criminal organizations in the country.

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3:01pm

Tue October 18, 2011
Latin America

In Mexico, Tourism Survives Bloody Drug War

Mexico has launched a publicity blitz to attract more tourists. The vast majority of tourists travel to just one of a half-dozen destinations in Mexico — including Cancun, shown here last year — far from the drug violence.

Gustavo Graf Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yes, the drug war has created an image problem. But Mexico has launched an aggressive publicity blitz to try to attract more tourists, and it seems to be succeeding.

Even President Felipe Calderon is involved in the full court press to tout the wonders, delicacies and marvels of Mexico to potential visitors.

On the PBS program The Royal Tour of Mexico, Calderon serves as the on-camera guide for TV host Peter Greenberg. The president leads a zip-line tour across a rain forest, rappels into a cave, climbs Mayan ruins and snorkels along a coral reef.

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4:25am

Wed September 28, 2011
Latin America

Education Is Latest Casualty In Mexico's Drug War

Originally published on Wed September 28, 2011 3:41 pm

In Acapulco, Mexico, teachers are out on strike at more than a hundred schools because of spiraling violence related to the country's drug war. Here, a child looks at a sign announcing the closure of a school in Acapulco, Sept. 1.
Pedro Pardo AFP/Getty Images

In the coastal Mexican city of Acapulco, teachers are out on strike — not over wages, working conditions or pensions, but because of crime.

Teachers say they're being extorted, kidnapped and intimidated by local gangs and they're refusing to return to their classrooms until the government does something to protect them. Over the last two years, drug cartels fighting for control of Acapulco have terrorized the once-popular tourist resort.

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12:01am

Wed September 14, 2011
Conflict In Libya

Freedoms Flourish On Walls Across Tripoli

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 8:14 pm

Caricatures of the ousted Gadhafi have sprung up all over Tripoli. This image of Gadhafi in chains is on a wall in the capital's Fashlum neighborhood.
Jason Beaubien NPR

In Tripoli, residents are painting the town red, green and black, the new colors of the Libyan revolution.

Under Moammar Gadhafi, the regime strictly controlled the images that were allowed in public. Storefronts had to be painted green. English was banned on signs. Anti-regime graffiti was quickly painted over and could be met with a harsh response.

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3:13pm

Mon September 12, 2011
Conflict In Libya

Arab Spring Blooms On Libyan Radio

Musicians and other Libyans who once dared not express themselves are finding a new outlet on the country's newly freed radio stations. Shown here, a recent day at the studios of Radio Libya — once a state-run station — in Tripoli.
Jason Beaubien NPR

The fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has brought about a dramatic change on the radio dial in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

In the past, Libyans could only tune in to the government stations. Foreign broadcast signals were blocked. And what the state-run stations offered was tightly controlled and laden with pro-Gadhafi propaganda.

Now, the airwaves that used to only carry four state-run stations — broadcasting only in Libyan Arabic as a mouthpiece for the Gadhafi regime — are filled with broadcasts from across the Mediterranean and neighboring Tunisia.

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12:01am

Mon September 12, 2011
Africa

Fears: Terrorists Could Land Looted Gadhafi Weapons

In Libya, there's growing concern over the vast arsenals of weapons that have flooded on to the streets since Moammar Gadhafi's ouster. Warehouses of surface-to-air missiles, mortars and anti-tank mines have been looted.

Soon after the rebels overran the headquarters of Gadhafi's much feared Khamis Brigade on the south side of Tripoli, rebels and ordinary citizens scavenged through a bombed-out warehouse on the base.

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4:00am

Thu September 8, 2011
Africa

Tripoli Residents Start Life Over Without Gadhafi

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, host:

And let's turn now to Libya, where the capital Tripoli is rapidly rebounding from the fighting that ousted Moammar Gadhafi from power. Less than three weeks after the rebels launched their assault on the city, shops are re-opening, the water and electricity are back on, and garbage is being picked up. Tripoli's new city officials are also working to re-establish security. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in the city and sent us this report.

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4:00am

Tue September 6, 2011
Africa

Libyan Rebels Threaten To Invade Bani Walid

Rebels in Libya have encircled the pro-Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid and are threatening to attack the town. Bani Walid is one of only a handful of towns still controlled by Gadhafi forces.

5:58am

Mon September 5, 2011
NPR Story

Rebels Tighten Hold On Gadhafi Stronghold

Originally published on Mon September 5, 2011 5:58 am

Rebel forces in Libya have surrounded the town of Bani Walid, southeast of the capital Tripoli. The rebels are still hoping to negotiate a peaceful takeover of the town, a stronghold of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi, and avoid further civilian casualties. But Gadhafi loyalists are refusing to surrender.

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