The Colombian actor will play Venezuela’s former president, Hugo Chávez, in the series “Huge Chávez: El Comandante.” This will be the first show to tell the story of Chávez, who was in power from 1999 until his dead on March 5, 2013. He died from colon cancer at 58, but his politics and rules live on in Venezuela.
The series is being produced by Sony and if his transformation is any indication of how good it’s going to be, we’re hooked.
Democrats and the Republicans have both finished their 2020 conventions and who knew digital, socially-distanced political conventions would make such compelling TV?
Both parties promised to deliver positive, uplifting conventions that would begin to help heal a nation divided. Instead, the Republicans took the stage to paint a potential Biden presidency as a dark future that would eventually fall into socialist and communist hands.
To illustrate their ‘concern’ for the country, Republicans welcomed a number of Latino voices to help cast their predictions as rooted in history. They say look no further than Cuba and Venezuela for examples of what progressive policies could do to the U.S. In doing so, the Republican Party—longtime defenders of the U.S. blockade on Cuba—sought to demonize Biden and his supporters and mobilize the Cuban- and Venezuelan-American base in hotly contested South Florida.
The RNC featured a number of Latino speakers who painted a dark image of the Democratic Party.
Although Kimberly Guilfoyle may have stolen the show with her rousing speech, several other Latinos spoke out at this week’s Republican National Convention. One in particular, that many pundits are still talking about, was Maximo Alvarez – a Cuban-American who gave an objectively emotional speech.
Alvarez, a Cuban-born immigrant, suggested that a win for Democrats in November would make America totalitarian — and he compared Joe Biden to the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. “I heard the promises of Fidel Castro,” he said, “and I can never forget all those who grew up around me, who look like me, who suffered and starved and died because they believed those empty promises. They swallowed the communist poison pill.”
‘Free education, free healthcare, defund the police? Trust the socialist state more than your family, than your community,’ he said. ‘They don’t sound radical to my ears, they sound familiar,’ Alvarez said.
In contrast, Alvarez said that Trump was ‘fighting the forces of anarchy and Communism.’ He, along with the rest of the RNC, is trying to liken Biden’s moderate platform with the revolutionary political thought and practice of Fidel Castro.
The Republicans, though, have it exactly backward: It’s Trump’s GOP that has facilitated the kinds of oppression that echo the human rights abuses of the 20th century’s communist regimes.
But it’s Trump and the GOP who have been painting a dark image of the Latino community in the U.S.
From the moment he announced his candidacy for president in 2016 – when he called Mexicans rapists and criminals – to his administration’s inhumane and possibly illegal moves on immigration enforcement, Trump has cast Latinos as a threat to the U.S.
Now, however, with a close election looming in the not-so-distant future, Donald Trump (on his own website) says he is working to “preserve our nation’s freedom and prioritize the success of the Hispanic American community.”
Some believe that the Trump campaign may be on to something. Even after he branded Latinos as rapists, 29% of them voted for him. (Yes, he said Mexicans. But we know he meant Latinos.) These populist, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies risk turning away legions of Latino voters but Carmen Graterol (a Venezuelanx who spoke to Mitú), admits that “populism always finds its way, and it takes an authoritarian figure to pull it off.”
Although Trump rails against socialist policies, he is arguably the most authoritarian president in U.S. history.
At the start of the primary season, Priorities USA used testimonials from Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants who compare President Trump to a Latin American dictator, or a “caudillo”.
The ads were rolled out throughout Presidents Day weekend and featured the hashtag “CaudilloDay”. One of the ads features a Venezuelan immigrant, Samuel, who lives in Orlando. He came to the United States at the age of 11. In the video, Samuel compares Trump’s political rhetoric as “Chavismo”.
The Republican hypocrisy when it comes to its communist smear campaign hardly ends there. Trump’s signature policy is and has been building a wall to prevent emigrants from coming across at the Southwest border. Where does the party of “Build the wall!” get off talking about communist regimes with harsh restrictions on freedom of movement?
Republicans say many of Biden’s key policy ideas are ‘socialist’ but most Latinos – including Cuban- and Venezuelan-Americans – don’t agree.
Many progressive ideas and policies have made their way into the 2020 Democratic conversation. Among the most attacked policies tend to be universal healthcare, access to tuition-free college, and defunding the police. But an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Independents support these ideas or in a similar form.
Last year, over 60 percent of Americans polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation backed a Medicare-for-all style plan. The idea has enjoyed majority support since 2016, Kaiser said, and that support has only grown as the country is ravaged by the pandemic.
Yami Hernandez, a Venezuelan-American from California, agrees. She told Mitú that the U.S. should “adapt to new alternatives that help contribute to achieving a society that we all want.” She added that she “had the opportunity to access a free university education in Venezuela” because she “lived in a capitalist system that mixed socialist ideas.”
When asked about these core policies, Carmen Graterol – of Venezuela – said “I think center is key and that the United States is fighting its own fight for access to universal healthcare and free higher education, and whoever sees this as ‘extreme left’ is just wrong.”
On immigration, Trump’s policies stemming the flow of refugees and migrants, is straight out of populist playbooks.
Many people who fled the communist regimes that the GOP wants Americans to fear now, were exactly that: people whose lives were untenable in their home countries. Today, that’s true of Venezuelans trying to escape a country pulverized by a dictator and a nightmare economy, African migrants who risk drowning to make it to Europe and Mexican and Central American refugees trying to escape violence sparked by America’s global drug war.
When asked about Trump’s authoritarian and populist rhetoric, Daniela Ferreira – a Cuban-American in Florida – told Mitú: “As a political refugee from Cuba, I am horrified to see that Donald Trump is turning the country my family fled to into the country my family fled from.” She added: “When I see Trump threaten to jail political opponents, undermine our democratic institutions, and attack a free and fair press, I relive the trauma my family and I endured in Cuba.“
She doesn’t think that Trump and the Republican’s fear-mongering will work, saying that “our communities already lost one homeland, and we will not allow Donald Trump to make us lose another.”
Latinos aren’t falling for Trump’s fear-mongering and many see their future in policies but forth by Biden-Harris and the Democratic Party.
Thanks to the influence of Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Biden-Harris ticket is among the most progressive in modern history. There is so much to be excited for: from support for a public healthcare plan that would include coverage for every undocumented person in the U.S., to decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level, and reinforcing protections to a woman’s reproductive health and her right to choose.
These are policy issues that Americans care deeply about, including Cuban and Venezuelan-Americans. And as the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Latino community, we need leaders like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that will listen to scientists and base their decisions off the recommendations of experts.
When asked what would attract Cuban and Venezuelan-Americans to a Biden-Harris ticket, Daniela Ferreira told Mitú, that apart from policy “I think Joe Biden’s faith and Kamala Harris’ immigrant roots really resonate with our community on a personal level. She added that “Our communities also care deeply about the economy, and know from experience that Joe Biden has the knowledge and ability to lead us out of a recession just as he did with the 2009 Recovery Act.”
For many Cuban-and Venezuelan-Americans, a Biden presidency represents their shared values.
While the Latino vote is not a monolith, Latinos are very much politically involved. Latinx voters were reaching new turnout highs during the 2018 midterms, and the Biden-Harris team is counting on this enthusiasm among Latinx voters to help push them over the edge come November.
When speaking to voters like Daniela Ferreira (the Cuban-American in Florida) it’s easy to see why the Biden-Harris team is so confident. When asked what a Biden-Harris presidency would mean to her, Daniela told Mitú: “Hope. It can be summarized with just that one word. For the past four years, I have lived in fear that we are on the precipice of losing our country, a country my family and I risked our lives to reach.” She and so many other Latinx voters believe that a “Biden-Harris administration will restore the soul of our nation.”
Jesus spent three months awaiting his immigration case in Mexico thanks to the Migrant Protections Protocol (MPP) policy. “Remain in Mexico” is a fate that has left many migrants targets of cartel violence, but Jesus was a fortunate exception. After fleeing from Venezuela, then waiting in Mexico, he was able to win his court case without a lawyer and without being fluent in English.
The judge granted him withholding of removal which would normally protect a migrant from deportation. Jesus seemed to have scored a win or at least that was how it seemed. Soon after, he was taken back to Mexico with no explanation as to what was happening.
NPR featured Jesus’ story which proved to be a cascade of unanswered questions left by Customs and Border Protection — albeit with a hopeful ending.
Jesus and immigration lawyers are now scrambling to figure out what is going on.
When Jesus became one of 55,000 migrants forced to await a court date in Mexico for the second time, things began to seem vexingly suspicious. Kennji Kizuka, a lawyer with Human Rights First, took on Jesus’ case after his win in court.
“The proceedings in immigration court were finished. There were no more hearings to be held,” said Kizuka.
Kizuka told NPR that immigration officials put a false court date on Jesus’ paperwork, however, the date did not appear on any court docket. The court date is significant because migrants can only return to Mexico if they have a pending court appointment.
“They put a fake date on a piece of paper that says you have an upcoming hearing. And there was no hearing,” Kizuka said. “They wanted to return him to Mexico again, and they needed to convince the Mexican officials to take him back.”
CBP appears to be sending mixed signals to migrants.
A spokesperson from CBP told NPR that they do not use fake court dates and said the date was legitimate. CBP also says that migrants who are granted a withholding of removal protection can still be deported if authorities are considering appealing the judge’s ruling. NPR found 17 instances where migrants who were granted the same protections were deported.
“When an immigration judge’s decision is appealed or under consideration for appeal, immigration proceedings remain underway,” a CBP spokesman said.
However, Kizuka believes the documents that CBP gave to Jesus contained numerous false statements asserting that he had pending court dates when he does not. The government did not choose to appeal’s Jesus’ case either. To make matters more confusing. Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark Morgan says migrants who have won their cases should be able to stay in the U.S.
“I don’t think that should be happening,” Morgan told NPR with regard to Jesus’ case. “If that’s happened the way you described that, then that’s an anomaly. It’s a mistake. But we’ll take a look at that.”
Jesus scores a second win — but it won’t help other migrants necessarily.
Kizuka met Jesus in-person to help get him back into the United States using the judge’s court order. They were met with resistance.
“They told us that Jesus was not going to be allowed into the United States,” Kizuka said. “One officer told me that by going back to Mexico, his deportation had already been carried out.”
Kizuka did not give up. He argued at the border for four hours. He had other staff members call the Department of Homeland Security. He had them call members of Congress. He contacted anyone who could help. Finally, they gave in with no explanation.
Jesus is now living in Florida with his sister and mother. The three of them are fighting to receive asylum and become citizens. However, Jesus’ story highlights how much luck is necessary for any migrant to get the system to work properly for them even if they act lawfully throughout the process.
In Venezuela, Jesus was a police officer but when government officials asked him to arrest members of the opposition party for crimes they did not commit, he refused. His family became targets of violence, resulting in the murder of his father.
“They started to persecute me and my family,” he said. “They killed my father. My mother was followed. She was threatened with a pistol and beatings.”
When he was held in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico he narrowly escaped kidnappings and violence, much of which he witnessed himself. Jesus is content in Florida but he did not feel he was treated with dignity on his way to getting there.
“I hoped the treatment would be warmer, more humane,” Jesus said. “But the officials are really harsh and insulting to migrants. And the system is really complicated.”