Election 2020

Foreign Affairs Was Key to the Latino Vote in Florida

If the Latino vote is to determine America’s future, it might help both parties to look southward and attempt to understand the people they want to sway on their own terms.

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For Republicans, catering to South Florida's Latino vote used to mean reaching out to the Cuban community in Miami-Dade County. This required a candidate to visit Café Versailles on Calle 8, whose denizens tend to like a cortaditothe Cuban version of an espressoand a hard line against the regime established by Fidel Castro. 

In 2020, however, it became apparent to both Republicans and Democrats that the Cubans aren't the only game in town.

Colombian Americans are now the second-largest Hispanic community in Miami-Dade County, according to the County's Commission, with 114,701 residents in the 2010 Census. In the state of Florida, Colombians rank third behind Cubans and Puerto Ricans in terms of Latin American voter registration according to Equis Research. Venezuelan-Americans rank seventh in terms of Florida voters of Latin American descent, but, as the Miami Herald reports, their numbers increased 352 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2017. As the Democrats in particular learned last week, these other Latin American blocs tend to dislike a lurch toward socialism as much as any long-established Cuban emigré.

Thus, it was easy enough for Donald Trump to appeal to both communities in Florida by assailing "Castro-Chavismo." Latin American progressives despise and ridicule this term as an electioneering bogeyman, yet the Cuban regime and the cadre that misrules Venezuela act as one: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is in power thanks to help from a ruthless Cuban security apparatus, and Cuba's economy is kept afloat with Venezuelan oil subsidies. 

What's more, Fidel Castro did have clear regional ambitions. It was no fluke that his henchman, Ernesto "El Che" Guevara, was gunned down while attempting to spur a socialist revolution in Bolivia. Castro eyed Venezuela's oil wealth since he took power in Cuba, and he mentored former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at least since 1994. Once he controlled Venezuela's vast resources, Chávez followed Castro's lead and intervened in almost every country in the hemisphere under an "anti-imperialist" banner. To label such a project of regional dominance with its architects' surnames is accurate. 

Meanwhile, the degree to which Trump exploited current Colombian politics in order to gain votes in Florida was remarkable. At a rally in Jacksonville on September 25th, for instance, Trump attacked "the Obama-Biden-Santos deal with Colombian drug cartels," which he described as "a surrender to the narco-terrorists." He was referring to the supposed peace deal between former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Colombia's communist FARC guerrillas, widely acknowledged as the world's largest drug trafficking organization.

The issue is contentious because Santos, who began negotiating with the FARC soon after taking office in 2010, declared a referendum in 2016 where he presented voters with the chance to approve a peace deal with the FARC. Both Santos and many pollsters assumed that a vast majority of Colombians would ratify his deal, which was hammered out in Cuba—with Venezuela as an "accompanying country"—and included 10 non-elected seats for FARC leaders in Colombia's Congress. On October 2nd of that year, however, 50 percent of voters rejected the Santos-FARC deal. The former president proceeded to ram the agreement through Congress, where he held a sizable majority.

Since then, the FARC themselves have lent further blows to the deal's questionable democratic legitimacy. Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, two of the FARC's top negotiators who met with the Santos government in Havana, were accused of trafficking drugs after the agreement was reached. Instead of taking up their free seats in Congress, they went into hiding and renewed their war against the Colombian government. Far from an exception, though, Marquez and Santrich are part of the 4,600 FARC "dissidents" who are still up in arms according to the Colombian Defense Ministry. As some critics of the agreement maintained during the referendum campaign, the Santos-FARC deal wasn't about peace; it was about power and impunity for guerrilla bosses. 

Cannily, Trump linked the Obama-Biden administration to the FARC deal because one of its crucial components was support from the U.S. government. This was in line with Obama's main priority in Latin America, namely normalizing relations with the Cuban regime, which was the main broker between Santos and the FARC. Since Venezuela was also involved in the negotiations, the Obama and Santos administrations legitimized Nicolás Maduro's autocracy just when its methods of repression were becoming most brutal. In turn, Trump's critique of the FARC deal buttressed his hard stance against both Cuba and Venezuela. In Florida, this combination proved politically successful.

Colombia's political scandal du jour also lent Trump an opportunity. On August 4, the Colombian Supreme Court put former president Alvaro Uribe under house arrest during an ongoing investigation into his alleged witness tampering. Uribe, who governed Colombia from 2002 to 2010, is best known for leading a successful military onslaught against the FARC when they were at the height of their power. Although often labeled a "neoliberal" in the international press, Uribe's policies combine elements of social and Christian democracy with heavy doses of protectionism and state meddling in the economy. The former president himself denounces "neoliberalism" for purportedly neglecting the community; in its stead, he promotes what he calls the "communitarian state," a pleonasm that justifies massive redistribution schemes.

Despite their ideological affinities, the Colombian left has never forgiven Uribe for combating the FARC and standing up to Hugo Chávez. Although his approval ratings have fallen steeply as of late in Colombia, he remains popular among expats in the United States. While Uribe was maneuvering his way out of house arrest by resigning from the Colombian Senate, which meant his case passed from the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to that of the Attorney General (who was conveniently named by the current pro-Uribe president), Miami-Dade County commissioners decided to rename 117th Avenue S.E. "Alvaro Uribe Way." The former president, argued the Commission, "has made direct, significant lifetime contributions to (the Colombian American) community."

Vice President Mike Pence echoed this sentiment on August 14, when he praised Uribe as a hero and called for the Colombian authorities to allow him to "defend himself as a free man." On October 10, when a municipal judge ruled that Uribe should be free while he stands trial, Trump himself congratulated him on Twitter, where he lauded Uribe as "an ally of our Country in the fight against CASTRO-CHAVISMO." Trump also stated that he would "always stand with our Colombian friends!"

Unsurprisingly, leftist politicians in Colombia proceeded to denounce American interventionism in national politics, although many of them soon intervened in the U.S. election by openly supporting Biden. Claudia Lopez, the Green Party mayor of Bogota, went as far as declaring "we won" when the media announced Biden's victory. In turn, high profile "Uribista" politicians campaigned publicly for Trump. Juan David Vélez, a member of Uribe's party who represents Colombians living abroad in the Colombian House of Representatives, is a dual citizen who voted for Trump and promoted his reelection, thus highlighting how blurred the boundaries of national politics have become. Perhaps ironically, the Trump camp appeared to benefit a good deal from porous borders. 

On October 7, the Biden campaign made a direct appeal to the Colombian American vote when their candidate penned an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Colombia, Biden assured, "is the keystone of U.S. policy in Latin America and the Caribbean." Biden also emphasized his support in the Senate for Plan Colombia, a military aid program launched under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations in order to fend off the FARC. This message was ineffective, not least because of the recent rise of an avowedly socialist wing within the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post's Lizette Alvarez attributes Trump's gains in Miami-Dade County, where he increased his share of the 2016 vote by 23 percentage points, to his tough talk against Maduro and his message "that a vote for Biden was a vote for the hardcore, liberty-stealing, privacy-filching socialism they had fled." But the result might also reveal weaknesses in the broader left-wing narrative beyond the attempt to sell collectivist policies to those who escaped their devastation. 

In the Colombian case in particular, race-obsessed politics falls flat. In the territory that became Colombia, historian David Bushnell wrote, an "extensive assimilation" of indigenous people into the Spanish colonial structure "categorically reduced a potential obstacle for national integration." Since the rise of its independence movement, the country's politics has created strong divisions along mostly ideological and sometimes religious lines, but seldom if ever racial ones.

Respice polum ("look to the north"), former Colombian president Marco Fidel Suarez (1918–1921) advised his countrymen, a reference to the growing power and influence of the United States. If the Latino vote is to determine America's future, it might help both parties to look southward and attempt to understand the people they want to sway on their own terms.

NEXT: Department of Energy Rolls Back Obama's Dishwasher Restrictions

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  2. Well silly me; I thought “they” voted for Trump because he did more than anyone ever had to improve the opportunities for everyone, which included “them” without being in the least demeaning or implying “they” needed special help.

    I know it is difficult for half the population, and half the politicians to grasp, but many people in the USA would prefer to be free. And that does, in fact, include all colors, both sexes, and all non-collectivist political thoughts.

    1. “without being in the least demeaning”

      Are you certain of that? His push for a multi-billion dollar wall to keep their former countrymen out, as well as the shit he said to justify it could be taken as more than the “least bit demeaning”. Of course that’s not what he meant though, right?

      1. Their countryman? If they come to the US doesn’t that imply the US is their countryman?

        1. Not in the case of dual-citizens. But yes I could have picked a better word.

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        2. Also, I said “former countrymen”.

    2. So here’s the thing. You seem to only see “freedom” from a specific perspective. Taxes, firearms, and business regulations are impediments to freedom yes. But so are incarceration for non-violent crimes, loss of the right to vote, and mandatory minimum sentencing. Add in the whittling away of the Fourth Amendment, A cherry-picked First Amendment, and I think that your venerable Republicans have some work to do before you proclaim only half the country as those who choose freedom.

    3. Notice unreason wont discuss how Trump rocked the hispanic vote in states like Texas.

      Americans want secure borders.

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  3. Why do so many hacks fall for this trope that certain votes were key to winning? It also happens with 5-4 Supreme Court cases, where the difference is even simpler to understand: all votes were key, because if any of the 9 votes had been the opposite, so would the decision.

    In this case, you could tally votes by housewives, plumbers, military pilots, all sorts of ways, and as long as that group was large enough that it could have changed the election, there’s another “key vote” story.

    Fuck that noise.

  4. Sadly we have far too many people in this country willing to vote against their own interest. Collectivist ideologies are bad, and the democrats are helping promote them. Electing hard left candidates will not improve anyone’s life.

    1. Most people see their short-term interest first. And to a lot of people Democrats look like they want to do what is in people’s short-term interests.
      Unless people can be convinced that their interests are not best served by ever more government handouts and programs, I don’t think that we can compete with the left’s telling people they are voting against their own interests by voting for more conservative candidates (I always want to ask those people if they also harangue rich Democrats for voting against their own interests).
      I like to think that people could learn to vote for what they believe is right rather than for their own immediate interests. But that cuts both ways too, I suppose.

      1. Unfortunately, the more governments hand out benefits across the spectrum, the more reluctant everyone is to surrender their benefits. It’s easy to see the flaw in robbing Peter to pay Paul, but when government also robs Paul to pay Peter, and the two are both robbed differently and paid differently, you’d have to stop robbing both and paying both to get either one to agree to the change in status quo.

        Make it 300 million people all being robbed and paid differently, and the only thing they will agree on is to rob someone else more to pay them more.

        1. ^^^Yes

          Absolutely agree.

    2. Collectivism is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. But I see the MIC including the entire DOD as collectivist, no? Or what about Social Security/Medicaid/Medicare? One only need look at the reddish tint of states receiving the lions share of net federal spending to see that everyone is sucking from the collective government teat. And as the Republicans absorb the downtrodden whites from the Democrats this is only going to become more evident.

    3. As I’ve been telling my more liberal friends for the past several years, it’s both arrogant and hypocritical to think that individual people “vote against their own self interests”.

      But both democrats (about rural poor, working class whites, etc) and republicans (about urban blacks, other minorities, etc) are so fond of this refrain.

      If you think people are voting against their own interests, I say, you don’t have a proper understanding of their interests. Get around to figuring that out, and you might be able to convince them to vote on your side. Lecturing them like they don’t know what’s best for themselves is as good as calling them ‘deplorables’.

      1. Agreed, this attitude falls on a spectrum of patronizing to hostile. For all the blathering leftists do about a social safety net, and all the blathering rightists do about the magic of tax cuts, many, perhaps most, people vote on cultural issues. Apart from things like abortion and gay marriage that motivate huge numbers of people more than any economic policy, there’s a certain in-group phenomenon as well. The role the economy plays in elections seems to be little more than “it feels good now” or “it feels bad now.”

      2. Agree here with you and with Tony who follows. Trying to tell people they are voting against there own interest is losing strategy.

  5. Why do people continue to think that Latinos should vote as a block? Cubans in Florida share little in common other than language with Puerto Rican’s in NYC or 5th generation Mexicans in the Southwest. Add in Central Americans and South Americans (many of whom consider themselves white) and its even less of a cohesive“voting block” Its like saying all immigrants (and their descendants) from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland should vote as a block.

    1. Because it is much easier to lump people together into color coded groups — which, in turn, permits politicians and their campaigns to continue selling themselves by churning out pabulum for low information voters instead of actual policy proposal.

      Assuming what people believe saves them the trouble of actually having to talk to people — people that, in any event, are not seen as people but as a means to an end.

  6. FARC is a murderous bunch of thugs the world would be better off without. That said, ending the drug war and legalizing all drugs is the best path forward.

  7. I think it was Cassandra, in Greek mythology, who was blessed with the ability to foretell the future but also hit with the curse that no one would ever believe her prophecies.

    It is the fate of capitalists to constantly warn the left about the clear consequences of socialism, and the left never wants to believe it–until they suffer the consequences themselves.

    1. And Trump’s economic interventions? Does he and the rest of the Neo-Populists on the right get a pass as non-leftists?

      1. We’ll see if Biden’s idiotic policies provide better results than Trump’s.

        Good money says not only no, but hell fucking no.

      2. Trump was wrong on trade, and I criticized him for that every time it was brought up.

        Biden is promising to pass Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and to increase corporate taxation.

        Because Trump wasn’t perfect, doesn’t mean he wasn’t the best alternative–or that he wasn’t vastly superior to Biden.

        And there were only two possible outcomes–one vastly superior to the other.

        1. Stop lying Ken. You’re parroting Trump’s ignorance about who he was running against. That’s two dimensions of pathetic.

          Democrats do not want to usher in neo-Stalinism. They are normal capitalists, if anything to the right of all leftist parties in the civilized world.

          Now that we’ve cleared that up, you can stop voting for right-wing authoritarian incompetents.

          1. The reason you don’t know that Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and increasing corporate taxes are socialist policies isn’t because you’re dishonest. It’s because you’re an ignorant joke. If you don’t know that Joe Biden is currently arguing for all three of these things on his campaign website(s), that’s also because you’re an ignorant joke.

          2. “Democrats do not want to usher in neo-Stalinism.”

            Of course not.

            They want to usher in neo-Marxism, followed by neo-Leninism, and only later to be followed by neo-Stalinism.

            1. I gave three specific examples of socialist policies from Biden’s website.

              Tony doesn’t know what socialism is, or he wouldn’t have said what he said.

              He’s an ignoramus.

              1. Tony is a great example of what happens when people seamlessly shift along with the Overton window. He must be quite young because it does not appear that he has any frame of reference of how things were in prior decades.

                In Tony world, socialism is a center-right phenomenon that he calls “capitalism.” You are exactly right. He has no fucking clue.

                1. I don’t think it even runs that deep.

                  He’s just emoting.

  8. in this country, you gotta get the Cubans …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mV2DiYhICU

  9. Would’ve been nice to have foreign policy discussed at either debate. But we had to discuss climate change which is an obsession for literally ones of people.

    1. And abortion. We had to talk about abortion too. And racial justice.

      We can’t talk about anything that might make DJT good.

  10. You know who else had henchmen?

  11. Think how long ago we could have stopped treating Cuba like a prison colony if we didn’t have the electoral college.

  12. And how does this relate to Biden who has been on the wrong side of foreign affairs decision for most of his 40 plus years in government. See Libya, Iraq. Syria, the Arab Spring, the JV team ISIS, Russia, etc.

    He even thought splitting Iraq into 3 countries was the way to go. Like Turkey would allow an independent Kurdistan on its border.

    He is beyond beig able to think through logically based decisions and with the current advisors he has it is beyond hope.

    He is an idiot when it comes

    1. Trump’s big idea in Iraq was to betray our allies and let them get slaughtered.

      1. Trump’s willingness to disengage from Syria is one of the policies I actually applaud him for. He took a shitload of heat from the hawks in his own party for that and he deserves credit for having the balls to actually do something to extract this country from forever war in the ME.

      2. Right. Because it’s better to continue to spend American blood and treasure in unwinnable conflicts, as long as it’s OTHER Americans’ blood and not yours.

  13. I was listening to Douglas Murray and he noted how shocking it was to listen to the American media’s obsession over segmenting and racializing voter ‘classes’ into ethnic subgroups.

  14. Appellate court ruled for Trump and is throwing out thousands of mailin ballots in PA.

    Trump won NC, AK, and Georgia today.

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