A U.S. Coast Guard crew (foreground) with six Cubans who were picked up in the Florida Straits in May. A larger Coast Guard vessel is in the background. The number of Cubans trying to reach the U.S. has soared in the past year. Many Cubans believe it will be more difficult to enter the U.S. as relations improve, though U.S. officials say there will be no rule changes in the near term. Tony Winton/AP hide caption

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More than 500 Cuban immigrants hoping to reach the United States live at this school turned shelter in northern Costa Rica after Nicaragua, a Cuban ally, closed its border to them. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

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Renewable energy sources — such as the Eolo wind park about 75 miles south of the Nicaraguan capital, Managua — generate about half of the country's electricity. Officials predict that figure could rise to 80 percent within years. Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Protesters burn tires to demonstrate against the inter-oceanic canal in Rivas, Nicaragua, on Dec. 22, 2014. HKND Group, a Chinese company, began work on a $50 billion canal, an ambitious rival to the Panama Canal. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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A new study finds that strenuous labor in the sugar cane fields of Central America is contributing to a mysterious form of kidney failure. Above: Workers harvest sugar cane in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. Jason Beaubien/NPR hide caption

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A statue of Jesus Christ called "Cristo Rey" is prominently located near the entrance of the Dimitrov neighborhood, which used to be so violent, people joked the Christ was being held up at gunpoint. Juan Carlos for NPR hide caption

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Nicaragua's Contra rebels in 1990. The U.S. backed the Contras in the 1980s, which led to the ouster of the leftist Sandinista leadership. But the U.S. aid violated American law and contributed to the biggest scandal of President Reagan's administration. Michael Stravato/AP hide caption

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A handout picture provided by Nicaraguan Army on Monday shows the place where what was first reported as a meteorite fell close to International Airport Augusto Sandino, in Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaraguan Army/ Handout/EPA/Landov hide caption

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A family swims in Lake Nicaragua, which will encompass nearly half of the proposed canal's 172-mile route. Environmentalists worry that oil spills, pollution and dredging will destroy the country's largest supply of fresh water. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

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Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who spilled secrets about the NSA's surveillance programs, has been condemned by U.S. officials. But he's been praised by some people around the world. In Berlin this week, supporters carried his picture at a demonstration. Ole Spata /DPA /LANDOV hide caption

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