TIME columbus day

See How Christopher Columbus Got His Own Holiday

The 15th century explorer is known for "discovering" the New World

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, or at least, that’s what they told you in Kindergarten class.

In fact, that’s probably all you really remember about the Genoa-born explorer, Christopher Columbus — and only when Columbus Day rolls around, if you’re fortunate enough to get a day off for it (Only 23 states give their workers a paid day off to celebrate it, according to a 2013 Pew poll).

So you may be wondering how Columbus Day actually became a federal holiday, and who celebrates it. Watch the video above to find out.

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela’s New Opposition Leader Jesús Torrealba Takes on the Chavistas

Venezuelan Opposition Alliance Executive Secretary Jesus Torrealba speaks during a interview at his office in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 7, 2014.
Venezuelan Opposition Alliance Executive Secretary Jesus Torrealba speaks during a interview at his office in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 7, 2014. Fernando Llano—AP

Venezuela's opposition has tried and failed to beat Hugo Chavez's political descendants. Will a new leader make a difference?

In October 1958, the heads of the major political parties in Venezuela met at Punto Fijo, the Caracas home of former president Rafael Caldera. At the summit the political brokers agreed to share power between themselves—no matter who actually won future elections. For the next 40 years, Venezuela was essentially governed by a pair of conservative parties in what became called the puntofijismo. The left was sidelined and the poor largely ignored. The country, though, was prosperous and stable—up to a point.

Hugo Chávez came on the scene soon after the economy fell apart, partly thanks to a prolonged slump in oil prices that took a serious toll on Venezuela, a major crude producer. He campaigned for the presidency in the late 1990s, promising to end the puntofijismo and give a voice to the poor. “I am a product of history,” Chávez liked to say. He tirelessly toured the country’s less wealthy areas and went on to win the 1998 election in a landslide, redefining Venezuelan politics.

A decade and a half later, however, Chávez is dead and his successor Nicolás Maduro’s popularity is waning. One recent poll put Maduro’s approval ratings in the thirties, thanks in part to Venezuela’s annual inflation of more than 60%, shortages of the most basic consumer products and one of the world’s highest murder rates.

Yet, despite the widespread discontent, the country’s opposition still struggles to gain ground, limited in part by its perceived links to a failed old guard. Enter Jesús Torrealba, affectionately known as Chuo, a new executive-secretary of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD, Democratic Unity Roundtable), the umbrella group which represents political parties opposed to the government. Torrealba was chosen in part because he is able to engage with the country’s poor—something the elite members of the anti-Chávez opposition have repeatedly failed to do. “I’m from the barrio,” he told TIME, adding that he has seen the failures of the socialist government first hand. “Those of us who were poor have stayed poor; those in the middle classes have become poor.” His job is to direct the disparate opposition and help pick the eventual presidential candidate that will take on Maduro in the coming years.

Torrealba is a former Communist Party member, community leader and a presenter of the TV show “Radar of the Barrios,” a program where h gave the poor a chance to voice their anger. He is aiming to attract people like bread vendor Ernesto López, who wears a Chávez t-shirt in the Caracas slum of 23 de enero. López demonstrates the long odds Torrealba will face—there is little chance the 60-year-old will vote for the opposition, even though López, like many in his neighborhood, isn’t happy with Maduro’s performance. “At least we don’t have the dictatorship of puntofijismo,” López said. “They wanted to rob Venezuela’s riches for themselves and we don’t want to return to that.”

Torrealba insists he does not want to go back in time to the days of conservative rule. “A return to the past is neither desirable nor possible,” he said. Torrealba is hoping to make electoral headway for the Venezuelan opposition in National Assembly elections late next year. A good showing in that vote would pressure the government and bolster a potential recall referendum against Maduro in 2016. If not, the opposition would have to wait until 2019 for the next presidential election. “It’s embarrassing that in 21st century Venezuela, we’re debating communism versus capitalism, as if the Berlin Wall hadn’t fallen, as if the Soviet Union hadn’t gone through perestroika,” said Torrealba.

Torrealba, 56, was born in Catia, a poor sector in the west of Caracas. He worked as a journalist and teacher as well in activism and, in line with his working class credentials, is more gruff in dress and character than many of his colleagues in the MUD. He wants to take advantage of Venezuela’s natural resources, including the world’s largest oil reserves. Chávez hoped to channel oil wealth to the poor by launching welfare programs—however, critics say much of the money was largely squandered through inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. “We should be looking to construct a Venezuela that has a quality of life similar to the Nordic countries, though with a Caribbean twist,” he said, giving a nod to prosperous Norway, which avoided the “oil curse”—where countries with bountiful natural resources tend to underperform economically—that has befallen so many oil-rich nations.

Henrique Capriles, who twice lost presidential elections against Chávez and Maduro over the last two years, understood that he had to shed his wealthy image in order to attract those who were disaffected by Chávez and Maduro. Despite his family’s wealth, on the campaign trail Capriles would wear a tracksuit, ride into the country’s slums on his motorbike and play basketball with the locals. “I’m not the candidate of the old establishment,” he told TIME in February 2012, before winning opposition primaries. He lost to Maduro by less than a quarter of a million votes in April last year. He still considers himself the opposition’s leader and may well go on to be the MUD’s presidential candidate again.

But Torrealba will have his work cut out. Silvana Lezama, 20 years old and studying communications at the leafy Monteávila University in Caracas, took part in anti-government protests earlier this year, but isn’t impressed by the opposition’s new leader. “We need a leader that motivates us and I don’t feel motivated at all by Torrealba,” she said. Luis Vicente León, a local political analyst, added: “It’s a tough challenge but Torrealba is capable.” Few protesters were interested in the MUD-led opposition that was personified by characters like Capriles and López. They just wanted a change, with little notion of how it would come about. Torrealba must tap into both the energy of protesters and the disaffected poor—and convince them that the days of puntofijismo are long gone.

TIME Colombia

31 Children Die in Colombian Bus Inferno

The charred remains of a bus, in which children died in, is seen in Fundacion, northern Colombia, on May 18, 2014
The charred remains of a bus, in which children died in, is seen in Fundacion, northern Colombia, on May 18, 2014 Reuters

A bus that was returning from a religious service in Fundación, near the historic city of Cartagena, on Sunday erupted in flames and caused 31 children and an adult to burn to death, and another 24 kids to be injured

Thirty-one children and one adult burned to death and another 24 youngsters were injured after a bus caught fire in northern Colombia.

The vehicle was returning from a religious service in the town of Fundación, near the historic city of Cartagena, when it erupted in flames around noon on Sunday, the local mayor, Luz Stella Duran, told reporters.

Most of the victims were between 1 and 8 years old, and many of the survivors are battling horrific injuries in hospitals in the area of nearby Santa Marta.

“The injured have second- and third-degree burns, and many are still in a critical condition,” Cesar Uruena, working for the Red Cross, told Agence France-Presse.

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to Fundación on Sunday, where he promised that the authorities would cover all medical and funeral expenses faced by the families.

“The entire country is in mourning for the death of these children,” said Santos, who is currently in the midst of a bitter election campaign ahead of May 25 national polls.

The police initially blamed the blaze on a mechanical problem. Nevertheless, furious locals quickly besieged the home of the driver, who vanished shortly after the incident.

One witness told CNN affiliate Caracol that the driver had left the children to put gasoline into the vehicle’s tank.

TIME South America

Powerful Aftershock Rocks Chile a Day After Massive Earthquake

A resident walks along a damaged road after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique
A resident walks along a damaged road to Alto Hospicio commune after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique April 2, 2014. Ivan Alvarado - Reuters

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit northern Chile late on Wednesday night, shaking the same area where a more powerful earthquake hit just a day before and caused some damage and six deaths

A massive aftershock struck northern Chile on Wednesday night, just a day after an earthquake prompted evacuations of cities along the coast, generated a 7-ft tsunami that crashed into the country’s northern coast, and set off tsunami warnings across the Pacific.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center posted a regional tsunami warning after Wednesday’s aftershock, but said there were no indications of a substantial threat to communities elsewhere in the Pacific.

Wednesday night’s 7.8 magnitude quake was the largest of myriad aftershocks in the past 24 hours and struck about 14 miles south of Iquique, setting off evacuations in northern Chile, where six people were killed by the quake on Tuesday.

 

TIME South America

Venezuelan Student Leader Killed in Anti-Government Clashes

Clashes between anti-government protesters and state security forces have resulted in the death of student leader

A student leader was fatally shot in the chest Monday night in the Venezuelan university city of San Cristobal, as protests continue to rock the country.

The mayor of the city, Daniel Ceballos, said the student, Daniel Tinoco, had been killed after dark, although he did not say who might be responsible, the Associated Press reports. The incident came after a full day of street clashes between both peaceful and violent protesters and the Venezuelan security forces.

Anti-government sentiments have run hot in San Cristobal, where for the last month there have been on-going protests against escalating inflation, high murder rates and short supplies of basic goods. Venezuelan National Guardsmen fired teargas and plastic shotgun pellets at the demonstrators.

Ceballos accused the government forces of reacting disproportionately, claiming that “where the government sees paramilitaries, in truth there are just citizens who are defending themselves.”

[AP]

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Marks First Anniversary Of Chavez’s Death

While President Nicolas Maduro struggles to live up to his legacy

Supporters of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took to the streets across the country Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of his death from cancer.

A planned military parade in the capital city of Caracas was set to demonstrate current president Nicolas Maduro’s ability to mobilize the population, reports Reuters, as a series of violent anti-government protests continue to undermine his leadership.

Chavez was immensely popular among the poorest members of Venezuela’s population, thanks to his anti-American rhetoric and generous spending on slum projects. Yet barely a year after his death, his successor has faced a series of challenges from the protests, which have resulted in a reported 18 deaths. Maduro has been blamed for not doing enough to overcome many of the country’s problems, including rampant crime and spiraling living costs.

However, Chavez’s cousin Guillermo Frias claimed that although Chavez “changed Venezuela forever,” he insisted that “Maduro is also a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand.”

[Reuters]

TIME Marshall Islands

Castaway Fisherman ‘Survives 13 Months’ at Sea on Turtle Blood and Fish

Jose Salvador Albarengo, 37, a fisherman from El Salvador, told officials that he survived more than a year adrift in the Pacific Ocean, drinking turtle blood and catching fish with his bare hands.

Albarengo said he went on what was supposed to be a one-day fishing trip more than a year ago from Mexico, but was blown out to sea.

He was found in a disoriented state on a remote coral atoll, Reuters reported.

But the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, Gee Bing, said he was skeptical of Albarengo’s account.

“It does sound like an incredible story and I’m not sure if I believe his story,” Bing said. ‘”When we saw him, he was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past. I may have some doubts. Once we start communicating with where he’s from, we’ll be able to find out more information.”

Albarengo was found with no identification with him.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser