Things That Matter

2020 Democratic Candidates Know Latinos Could Tip The Election So They’ve Started Pulling Out All The Stops

We are less than a year and a half away from the 2020 presidential election, and while the  incumbent President of the United States, real estate mogul and media personality turned politician Donald J. Trump is already tocando los tambores de guerra by attacking the  leading Democratic contenders, his potential opponents are still attacking each other. All around the country campaign offices are trying to come up with the best strategies, and have realizes that one key demographic for 2020 will be the Latino vote. 

As Jonathan Allen argues in NBC News : “Depending on how the race unfolds, Latinos might even end up being the key to the contest. That’s a function mostly of heavily Hispanic states, including California and Texas, moving up on the primary calendar at the same time that the chances for a protracted, delegate-by-delegate fight among several candidates appear to be more likely than ever. The possibility of African American voters splitting among several candidates for the first time in several presidential primary cycles also raises the stakes for candidates in trying to get an edge with Latino voters”. 

The candidates better start brushing up on their Spanish! (but please, no terrible gringo accents, porfavorcito). As Aida Chavez states in The Intercept after the debates a few weeks ago: “The desire to connect with Latinx voters was apparent in this week’s presidential debates, when several contenders made a direct appeal to the growing electorate by answering questions in Spanish on the national stage”. 

Latinos are a big, strong, decisive voting force for 2020: there will be 2 million more eligible Latino voters than African-American voters.

Credit: @abcfamily / Giphy

Just think about this: about 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, which is about 13 percent of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. By contrast, African-American voters will have 30 million eligible voters. Just let that sink in for a minute. 

According to a poll released by Univision after the debates, Kamala Harris seems to be getting her message across to Latino voters.

Credit: Univision

The message to take away from this poll is that Harris was perceived as the winner of the debates over the only candidate with a recognizably Latino name, Julian Castro. Her identity as a powerful, independent, woman of color might be seeping into the Latino preference. This is an election about ideas rather than looks, and also an election about who seems better prepared to take on Trump, and if Latino voters start imagining Harris debating Trump and holding her ground, well, things might get interesting. 

And yes, the race among Democratic candidates is tight and getting tighter, with at least three clear frontrunners.

Credit: RealClearPolitics

Unless something really dramatic happens, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris will be the candidate. They are the ones polling the highest in the race for the nomination and whom Trump has directed his attacks against. 

It is clear that immigration will be the main issue in this election and Elzabeth Warren took the first step by announcing an ambitious and humane immigration plan.

Credit: Giphy

Unless a major international conflict arises before the election, immigration policies, including how undocumented migrants are treated after being detained at the border, will be the main issue. Elizabeth Warren took the first step by announcing her sweeping immigration plan.  She wrote in a post on Medium when announcing what immigration policy would look like under a Warren administration: “We must address the humanitarian mess at the border and reverse this president’s discriminatory policies. But that won’t be nearly enough to fix our immigration system. We need expanded legal immigration that will grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands.” 

As we reported at the time: “This is a very intelligent approach to immigration, as it appeals to both those worried about the economy and how the United States can respond to the competition of global markets, and to the voters who consider current zero-tolerance policies, including ICE raids, inadmissible”. 

But others are falling far behind: enter Bernie Sanders and his big “socialist” problem among Latinos.

One of the big mistakes that many politicians make while trying to woo the Latino vote is assuming that all Latinos fall on the same end of the political spectrum. Bernie Sanders has certainly been guilty of this by failing to recognize that many Latinos, particularly powerful pockets of influence in places like Florida, actually despise left-wing politicians. As NF News argued: “Declaring yourself left-wing may be attractive among an American youth who have never lived under a socialist regime. But among Latino voters who have been exiled from left-wing regimes, this has consequences. This was demonstrated by the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who is the co-chair of the campaign by presidential pre-candidate Bernie Sanders, Carmen Yulín Cruz, when she refused to acknowledge that she and Sanders are socialists. Both Cruz and Sanders have refused to condemn the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela. Instead, Cruz chose to compare the humanitarian crisis facing Venezuela with poverty in Puerto Rico”. 

This is a big misstep, as Florida in particular is a key state for this and any other election, and Democratic voters are wary of candidates who might perform poorly in the state (remember Bush-Gore anyone?). 

There are some voices of reason in Sander’s campaign, as reported by The Intercept in an interview with Chuck Rocha, a senior Sanders adviser. “: “We know that we’re going to communicate with young Latinos in English, we know we’re going to communicate with young Latinos in Spanish. We also understand the cultural differences between Latinos in Des Moines, Iowa, and Latinos in the East Side of Las Vegas.”

The no-show: Joe Biden?

The former Vice President has sent conflicting messages on how important the Latino vote is for his campaign. On one hand, as reported by NBC News, “Biden’s outreach has included a fully bilingual website, bilingual advertising and the first candidate meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus”. On the other, he has missed key appearances at events where he could reach to Latino Democrats. As reported by The Boston Globe, he was a no-show at  “an important forum hosted by the Spanish-language network Telemundo and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that drew more than 800 of the nation’s top Latino policy makers and strategists”. Sanders and Warren attended. This lack of engagement could cost him dearly, as noted by the same publication: 

Denise Diaz, a 32-year-old city councilwoman from South Gate, Calif., said this was the second time Biden had disappointed her. The first was when he skipped California’s Democratic convention three weeks earlier.

“I have really changed my opinion in supporting him,” she said. “I am looking for someone who is relatable, has boots on the ground, and is accessible.”

You know what they say: camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente. 

Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

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Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

@democracynow / Twitter

Ecuador’s government announced a round of talks with leaders of the Indigenous groups who have been mobilizing against the government in a move to end the violence and chaos that has racked the nation for more than a week.

President Moreno announced he would withdraw the country from a deal reached with the IMF that many said would cause the greatest harms to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

In a major address, President Lenin Moreno announced he had struck a deal with indigenous leaders to cancel a disputed austerity package.

The news comes after nearly two weeks of protests that have paralyzed the economy and left seven dead.

Under the new agreement, President Moreno will withdraw the International Monetary Fund-backed package, known as Decree 883, that included a sharp rise in fuel costs. Indigenous leaders, in turn, will call on their followers to end protests and street blockades.

“Comrades, this deal is a compromise on both sides,” Moreno said. “The indigenous mobilization will end and Decree 883 will be lifted.”

The two sides will work together to develop a package of measures to cut government spending, increase revenue and reduce Ecuador’s growing budget deficits and public debt.

Ecuador’s Indigenous groups celebrated the announcement as a major victory.

“I’m so happy I don’t know what to say. I don’t have words, I’m so emotional. At least God touched the president’s heart,” said protester Rosa Matango in an interview with The Guardian. “I am happy as a mother, happy for our future. We indigenous people fought and lost so many brothers, but we’ll keep going forward.”

Caravans of cars roamed the streets early on Monday honking in celebration, passengers shouting, banging pots and waving Ecuadorian flags.

“The moment of peace, of agreement, has come for Ecuador,” said Arnaud Peral, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Ecuador and one of the mediators of the nationally televised talks. “This deal is an extraordinary step.”

Wearing the feathered headdress and face paint of the Achuar people of the Amazon rainforest, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, Jaime Vargas, thanked President Moreno and demanded improved long-term conditions for Indigenous Ecuadorians.

“We want peace for our brothers and sisters in this country,” Vargas said. “We don’t want more repression.”

The protests started when the President affirmed his support for an IMF-backed agreement, known as Decree 883.

The move sparked nationwide protests as prices rose overnight by about a 25% for gas and double for diesel. A state of emergency was imposed on Thursday. Truck and taxi drivers forced a partial shutdown of Quito’s airport and roadblocks have paralyzed major roads across the country.

Images from Quito showed protesters hurling gas bombs and stones, ransacking and vandalizing public buildings as well as clashing with the police in running battles late into the night.

Some protests became so violent that the government was actually forced to flee the capital of Quito for the coastal city of Guayaquil.

All of this was in response to Decree 883 which would have ended fuel subsidies that many of the country’s poorest citizens have come to rely on.

Other indigenous demands included higher taxes on the wealthy and the firing of the interior and defence ministers over their handling of the protests.

In a shift from the heated language of the last 10 days of protests, each side at the negotiations praised the other’s willingness to talk as they outlined their positions in the first hour before a short break.

“From our heart, we declare that we, the peoples and nations, have risen up in search of liberty,” Vargas told The Guardian. “We recognize the bravery of the men and women who rose up.”

This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

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This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Since making her way to Capitol Hill at the start of the year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most progressive voices in Congress — and her recently-unveiled policy package to tackle US poverty assures that her vision for the country hasn’t gotten any less bold.

“I am both energized and humbled to introduce legislation today to build upon the most transformative programs of the last century,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

The first-year lawmaker’s legislative package is called “A Just Society,” and it includes six individual bills.

ocasio2018 / Instagram

First, the Puerto Rican congresswoman aims to update the way the US government currently calculates poverty and determines eligibility for welfare. At the moment, a single person is considered “poor” in the US if they make less than $12,500 a year. If someone makes more than that, then they are unable to benefit from programs like Medicaid, even though they could still be struggling gravely economically.  Through the proposal, called the Recognizing Poverty Act, Ocasio-Cortez would prompt the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to modify the equation so that it takes more details into account, including a person’s geographic cost of living, what portion of their income they spend on health insurance or child care, and spending toward utilities. This act would undoubtedly result in a rise in the number of people who live at or below the federal poverty level and would widen people’s eligibility to welfare programs, like Medicaid, food stamps and family planning services.

According to the U.S. Census, about 40 million Americans live in poverty, a harrowing reality that the congresswoman doesn’t think many people in the country know or understand. “If we can acknowledge how many Americans are actually in poverty I think that we can start to address some of the more systemic issues in our economy,” she told NPR.

Her policy bundle includes proposals that could help the country’s most marginalized communities, including immigrants and people who were formerly incarcerated. For instance, her Mercy in Re-entry Act proposes that individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense would be ensured access to all federal public benefits. Presently, many states ban people with felony drug convictions from receiving welfare and food stamps.

Even more, formerly incarcerated individuals often struggle to obtain government-issued IDs. 

ocasio2018 / Instagram

Additionally, her so-called Embrace Act would guarantee federal public benefits access to anyone, regardless of their immigration status. Currently, undocumented immigrants, including DACA holders, are not eligible to receive most federal public benefits, including benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), regular Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). They’re also ineligible for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are prohibited from purchasing unsubsidized health coverage on ACA exchanges. Still, these individuals might be able to take advantage of some benefits that are deemed “necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations,” such as emergency Medicaid, access to treatment in hospital emergency rooms, or access to healthcare and nutrition programs under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, rumors that the Trump administration is considering blocking immigrants using public benefits from getting their green cards is currently halting the most vulnerable in these communities from using those life-saving benefits.

“From the New Deal to the Great Society, we have shown time and again that our nation is capable of implementing big ideas and bold solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face,” Ocasio-Cortez, 29, said in her statement. “We must once again recognize the breadth and consequences of poverty in this country and work together to ensure a path forward to economic freedom for everyone.”

Her wide-ranging proposal also considers tenants and workers.

ocasio2018 / Instagram

The Place to Prosper Act would tackle the housing crisis by introducing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases, among other provisions. Meanwhile, the Uplift Our Workers Act would prompt the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget to create a “worker-friendly score” for federal contractors.

Finally, the congressional freshman also proposed a resolution dubbed A Just Society Guarantees the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for All that would request the Senate to ratify the U.N. Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

While critics have called Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal a “radical, extreme-left agenda,” the congresswoman believes it could effectively tackle the US’ poverty crisis and help the people of one of the wealthiest nations in the world to live a life beyond destitution. 

“In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez says in a video introducing her legislation. “That’s what a just society means to me.” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative package is her latest ambitious proposal. Back in February, when the congressional newbie was just one month on the job, she introduced the much-talked-about Green New Deal, a series of proposals backed by leading Democrats to tackle climate change.

Read: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Made A Student Loan Payment During Meeting To Prove A Point About Corruption