Things That Matter

The RNC Wants You To Think Biden-Harris Policies Are Socialist, These Cuban And Venezuelan-Americans Think Otherwise

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”.

Republicans oppose basic criminal justice reform even as people are serving life without parole in the U.S. prison system for the victimless crime of selling marijuana while Black.

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.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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.

Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images

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.”

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