The Next El Chapo Is a Hacker

1. Argentina: The Next Wave of Teenage Heartthrobs

They may not be able to legally drink yet — at least, not in the U.S. — but the next wave of Latin American artists in their teens is already poised to reshape the entertainment industry. Billboard recently featured 22 of them to “keep on your radar,” from Argentina’s Nicki Nicole (a smooth-toned trap star) to Colombian-born Antonia Jones (a pop-funk-R&B artist with feminist zest) to Mexican teen trio Eslabon Armado (which has people swooning with their traditional sierreña tunes and romantic croons).

2. Colombia: Banana-Sweet Beats From the Caribbean

The record Baile Bucanero, showcasing 37 musicians from around the Caribbean and led by Colombian producer Mario Galeano Toro and his Ondatrópica music project, immediately transports you to beach sand and splashing waves, hot showers of brass and the types of buried treasure that only previously unearthed musicality can provide … a place where cumbia, calypso, and other melodies are brought back to life through modern electronic and native island instruments.

3. Uruguay: The Surprising King of Steaks

Sizzling inside, searing on the outside, juicy and chewy, the Baby Beef Garcia is one of the best-tasting steaks in the world and it’s under $20. In Uruguay, a beef-loving country where grass-fed cows outnumber people 3-to-1, people so adore their asadas — barbecue-like family gatherings — that many homes dedicate a room to the beloved task. And while many know Argentina as the beef capital of the world, the truth is that the country has shed some of that reputation since political reforms in 2006 led to a decrease in global exports.

4. Barbados: Beaches Are the New Work-From-Home

At a time where most countries are shut off to Americans as the United States tries to curb its world-leading COVID-19 cases, Barbados recently announced a 12-month “Welcome Stamp” visa for visitors who would like to work remotely from the Caribbean country. The shift has the digital nomad community abuzz, as well as those who, working from home for the first time, are suddenly imagining what life could be like in some more exotic locale. The island nation has only had about 100 COVID-19 cases so far, suggesting it may be as safe a place as any to wait out the pandemic — fruity beach drink in hand, of course.

new covid epicenter

1. Brazil: Absence of Leadership

Global health leaders are now referring to the region as the world’s new hot spot, as deaths there now account for nearly half of daily coronavirus deaths worldwide. The political leaders of Bolivia, Honduras and Brazil have all contracted the virus, and the latter — President Jair Bolsonaro — has been particularly problematic. Bolsonaro has insisted the nation reopen its economy despite having the second-most deaths in the world. Organizations like the Landless Workers Movement, a group of Marxist-inspired socialist farmers, are filling in for the state. The group has given out more than 1,500 tons of food and 60,000 lunch boxes to homeless families.

2. Paraguay: Where the Fight Is Being Won

Paraguay and Uruguay, two small Latin American countries that both share a porous border with the disaster zone that is Brazil, have largely remained unscathed by the coronavirus — with just 25 and 31 deaths respectively. As The Guardian notes, the countries are worlds apart: Uruguay is one of the most progressive and least impoverished in Latin America, while Paraguay has both high poverty and a reputation for intense political corruption. Uruguay can point to its social safety net — which has included expanded health care options and near-universal access to running water — as well as its high testing rate, the fourth-best in the world: It conducts 1,610 tests per new case, in contrast with the United States, which only does about 52 tests per new case. Meanwhile, Paraguay has kept COVID-19 contained domestically while militarizing key parts of its Brazilian border to keep foreigners from transmitting the virus.

3. Cuba: Locking Down the Mulas

As a health matter, Cuba has weathered the virus well, suffering fewer than 100 deaths. But its lockdown has strained the socialist nation’s already strapped economy by cutting off the flow of foreign goods via travelers called “mulas,” or mules. By traveling to the U.S. and elsewhere and returning with remittances and items unavailable in state-owned shops, these roughly 50,000 mulas were a crucial part of the island economy generating some $8 billion a year, or 8 percent of GDP. Now they’re grounded for the foreseeable future.

some gritty truths

1. Peru: A Climate Change Fight Led by Native Leaders

From Peru to Ecuador and beyond, Indigenous communities in Latin America are gaining momentum in combating policies and projects they fear could cause even more environmental damage. Their battles — and, increasingly, successes — are forcing governments and companies to pay attention in the face of threats of more organized action. In the southern Peruvian Andes, for example, 13 communities are fighting a copper mine, concerned about environmental and health impacts. These groups have received an assist from the Argentina-born Pope Francis, who in October called a meeting of bishops to specifically address rainforest preservation … and invited non-Catholic Indigenous communities to join the conversation.

2. Chile: A Populist Moment Toppling a Turn to the Right

Latin America has elected a slew of economically conservative leaders in recent years, from Brazil’s Bolsonaro and Ecuador’s Lenín Moreno to Chilean billionaire Sebastián Piñera and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri. But the latter lost his reelection efforts last year, in part because of a sweeping anti-corporate populism sweeping Latin America. With inequality surging and economies floundering even before COVID-19, the right tide is ebbing as approval ratings plummet and activists fight against austerity measures and taxes that targeted lower income residents, such as the increase in bus and metro costs that led to mass unrest in Chile. It will take new ideas, focused on working people, to respond to the requests pressed by these protest movements.

3. Mexico: The Next El Chapo Is After Your Smartphone

Over decades, organized crime in Latin America has perfected its illicit businesses. Extortion, kidnapping and trafficking narcotics have reeled in billions of dollars. In response, governments are building walls to stop criminal efforts. But a new lucrative recipe for making money might render those walls irrelevant. Latin America’s criminals are dropping into underground online markets to purchase a different type of dangerous weapon: code.

you need to know…

1. Venezuela: Tareck El Aissami

Embattled (to put it mildly) President Nicolás Maduro made a curious pick this year for his new oil minister. El Aissami, who is of Lebanese descent and has long had ties with Venezuela’s Middle Eastern allies, had little experience in the oil sector and is wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. While some analysts say his predecessor was sacked for straightforward incompetence, others suggest El Aissami’s appointment is a sign of Venezuela’s ever-closer relations with Iran. Last week, El Aissami tested positive for COVID-19, a sign of how close the disease is coming to the country’s highest echelon.

2. Ecuador: Martín Domínguez

Still in his 20s, the Quito-based Ecuadorian comedian has created a sketch comedy empire out of Enchufe TV, a web series that began on YouTube (where it now has 23 million subscribers) and has jumped to linear television. He is known for his skewering of social norms, such as in his “The World Upside Down” series that parodies what life would be like if heterosexuality carried the stigma homosexuality does in many cultures (preview: the young protagonist guiltily switches from pro wrestling to Glee when his dads enter the room, trying to hide his straightness).

3. Guatemala: Gloria Álvarez

She looks like she’s just come back from Burning Man, describing herself as always “a bit like a gypsy,” and has been a popular speaker about the virtues of discouraging populism everywhere from Iceland to Argentina. And her platforms spelled out in three books are seemingly contradictory: Álvarez believes in reducing state bureaucracy but ramping up free market capitalism, a strong military, and legal and accessible abortion in a region known for its anti-choice views. This rabble-rouser staged a symbolic run for president of Guatemala (she was too young to serve) but has much larger reach as a regional influencer.