Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers a wide variety of global security and economic issues for NPR News. He brings to that assignment many years covering international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

Gjelten's overseas reporting experience includes stints in Mexico City as NPR's Latin America correspondent from 1986 to 1990 and in Berlin as Central Europe correspondent from 1990 to 1994. During those years, he covered the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia, as well as the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

With other NPR correspondents, Gjelten described the transitions to democracy and capitalism in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union. His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

Prior to his current assignment, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years, visiting the island more than a dozen times. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008."

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work. His 1992 series "From Marx to Markets," documenting the transition to market economics in Eastern Europe, won an Overseas Press Club award for "Best Business or Economic Reporting in Radio or TV." His coverage of the wars in the former Yugoslavia earned Gjelten the Overseas Press Club's Lowell Thomas Award, a George Polk Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He was part of the NPR teams that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for Sept. 11 coverage and a George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the war in Iraq. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to reporting for NPR, Gjelten is a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week and serves on the editorial board of World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and a freelance writer.

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Latin America
2:23 am
Thu April 11, 2013

Venezuela's Next Leader Faces Tough Choice On Oil Program

Venezuela's acting president, Nicolas Maduro, fist-bumps a worker of the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., last month. Maduro faces opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in Sunday's presidential election. Whoever wins will have to tackle the legacy of Chavez's oil programs.
Miraflores Presidential Press Office AP

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 9:59 am

As Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez thought in grandiose terms, and his country's vast oil riches enabled him to act on his vision. But Chavez died before he had to deal with the flaws in his model, and some hard choices await his successor.

Key to Chavez's notion of "21st Century Socialism" was the redistribution of Venezuela's oil earnings. The country's oil reserves — estimated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to be the largest in the world — are worth tens of billions of dollars a year in potential revenue.

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Asia
4:13 am
Sat April 6, 2013

U.S. Parries N. Korean Threats With A Fresh Plan

South Korea conducts military exercises near the border with North Korea on Wednesday.
Ahn Young-joon AP

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 3:32 pm

You might think alarm bells would be sounding in Washington, given the warnings coming out of North Korea. But when they talk about North Korea, U.S. officials are sounding like exasperated parents responding to a child's tantrum.

At the White House on Friday, spokesman Jay Carney said the United States "would not be surprised" if North Korea actually carries out a missile test.

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Asia
4:40 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

Amid Threats, N. Korea's Neighbors Rethink Defense Policies

South Korean marines work on their K-55 self-propelled howitzers during an exercise against possible attacks by North Korea near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday.
Ahn Young-joon AP

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 7:50 pm

North Korea has been a big headache for the United States, with the new leader there saying almost daily that his country is ready to go to war.

Speaking in Washington on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. can't afford to dismiss that talk as bluster.

"It only takes being wrong once, and I don't want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once, so we will continue to take these threats seriously," he said.

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