Carrie Kahn

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Costa Rican officials say more than 800 people claiming to be from Africa have come to their country in just the last two months. Most are believed to be from the two neighboring Congo states in central Africa. But in a visit this week, NPR also found Eritreans, Angolans and Nigerians.

Authorities also suspect that some are from Haiti.

Central America has long been the route north for people fleeing violence or poverty in Latin America. Now it's also a route from Africa.

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Dozens of people crowded into the main hall of the Panama Canal Authority's headquarters last month to see which ship would win the coveted maiden voyage through the expanded canal slated for June 26.

All eyes were on 9-year old Margarita Rivas Silvera as she stuck her hand in a metal cage and pulled out the winning name.

Panama City is bustling with construction. At least half-a-dozen cranes dot its picturesque, oceanfront skyline, teeming with glass towers.

At one site, real estate broker Kent Davis steps into a construction elevator in a nearly completed 30-floor apartment building. Seventy percent of the apartments have already been sold.

Cuba's leadership won't change anytime soon, nor will its political or economic plans for the future. That's the take-away from the four-day congress of the Cuban Communist Party that wrapped up late Tuesday. And apparently to emphasize that the old guard remains firmly in control, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro made a rare public appearance.

José Ramón Fernández will probably never attend another Communist Party Congress. At 92, he's the oldest delegate to take part in the four-day meeting of Cuba's top communist leaders that convenes on Saturday.

Springtime is usually beautiful in Mexico City. As the weather warms, the purple jacaranda trees that line boulevards and dot neighborhoods are in full bloom. Everything is prettier, says Fernando Padilla, a driver taking a break in a park.

"It's my favorite time of the year," he says.

But this spring, his eyes are watering, his throat hurts and one day a week he's not allowed to use his car on the road, which means he's poorer too.

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It has been a turbulent week for Mexico's diplomats in the U.S. The reason for the shakeup can be summed up in two words: Donald Trump.

This week, the Republican presidential front-runner released details of one of his oft-repeated campaign promises — to make Mexico pay for construction of a border wall.

The plan, which involves blocking billions of dollars that Mexicans working in the U.S. send back home, seemed to shake up Mexico's top officials and cause a break in their months of relative silence about Trump's anti-Mexican comments.

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A historic trial is taking place in Guatemala.

For the first time, according to rights activists, the country is prosecuting military officials for sexual violence committed during the Central American country's three-decade long civil war, which ended in the 1990s.

In the trial going on this week, 15 women have come forward to accuse two former military officials of systematic sexual abuse in the 1980s.

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In one of the largest waves of Cuban migration in decades, more than 70,000 have fled the island this year, rushing to the U.S. out of fear that its preferential policy toward those escaping the Castro regime might change.

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Some 2,000 Cubans hoping to reach the United States are stranded in Central America. They've been traveling by land from South America. When the migrants tried to enter Nicaragua on foot, they were met with rubber bullets. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

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If you could start selling something in Cuba that would be a sure-fire money maker, what would it be?

Probably something that hasn't been widely available for more than 50 years in the state-controlled economy. A product for which there's pent up demand and one that would surely spruce up the place after decades of neglect.

Mexican businessman Jaime Murow Troice is already selling it: paint.

The best place to see Cuba's Internet explosion is along the busy Havana thoroughfare known as La Rampa, or the Ramp.

Named for its sloping descent toward the sea, it is congested and loud. Still, crowds pack the sidewalks, office alcoves and driveways here to get online. They huddle within a few blocks of huge cell towers atop the Habana Libre luxury hotel. All eyes are glued to smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Raul Cuba, 41, types a lengthy Internet access code and password into his phone. He only learned how to log on a month ago.

On the tarmac of Jose Marti International Airport, just off his chartered Alitalia flight from Rome, Pope Francis praised his host, Cuban President Raul Castro, who was standing by his side. Francis called the recent reconciliation between Castro's Communist government and the United States a model for the world. Further extending a friendly hand, Francis gave a shout out to Castro's older brother Fidel.

Not to go too far though, the pope also expressed his regret that he could not welcome all Cubans, a reference believed to refer to the dissident community.

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Cubans welcomed Pope Francis this evening as he arrived in Havana for a tour across the island nation. In a brief speech just after his arrival, Francis spoke encouragingly about the warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Here he is via interpreter on CNN.

Just a few blocks from Havana's iconic sea promenade, Gabriela Garcia Rodriguez invites a visitor to check out her second-story, two-bedroom, vacation-rental apartment.

Garcia, a recent university biochemistry graduate, charges about $40 a night for the modest accommodations.

September is usually the low point in Cuba's tourist season. After all, it's almost constantly raining, it's extremely hot and the threat of hurricanes is high.

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