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Trump’s victory at Florida’s Latinos — “Magazolans” hope for military intervention

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Trump Latinos - Trump's victory at Florida's Latinos - "Magazolans" hope for military intervention
Foto: AP

Flori­da vot­ed for US Pres­i­dent . Repub­li­can cam­paign­ers began there ear­ly to woo — very suc­cess­ful­ly, espe­cial­ly among exiled Venezue­lans. You are in favor of US mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion. Three before the US elec­tion, a motor­cade is dri­ving through Mia­mi. Some hold “ for Trump” signs out of open win­dows or car­ry pro-police flags with them. The “anti-social­ist and anti-com­mu­nist car­a­van”, as the orga­niz­ers call it, is not the first of its kind, but this time it stretch­es for kilo­me­ters through the city, with 20,000 par­tic­i­pants in thou­sands of cars; includ­ing Cubans, Colom­bians, Nicaraguans and Venezue­lans. About 30 vehi­cles take part in the counter-demon­stra­tion for Demo­c­rat Joe Biden. Trump tweet­ed that day: “Joe Biden is a PUPPET from the CASTRO CHAVISTS”. Flori­da State’s are not the largest group of vot­ers, mak­ing up about 17 per­cent of the reg­is­tered elec­torate. But that is above the nation­al share of 13 per­cent. And it’s enough to make a choice. In addi­tion to the usu­al major issue, the econ­o­my, they are extreme­ly sen­si­tive to US for­eign pol­i­cy in the hemi­sphere. The Cubans in exile, for exam­ple, large­ly favor hard-hand­ed poli­cies against social­ist Havana. Even if that might bring fam­i­ly mem­bers there into every­day dif­fi­cul­ties. This is even more true of the rapid­ly grow­ing group of Venezue­lans in exile. Almost every­one is hop­ing for a mil­i­tary solu­tion to final­ly over­throw Pres­i­dent Nicolás Maduro. Four years ago, Don­ald Trump nar­row­ly won Flori­da, one of the keys to pres­i­den­cy. The reg­is­tered Lati­no elec­torate has since grown from 2 mil­lion to 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple. The Democ­rats had actu­al­ly seen a glim­mer of hope in being able to recap­ture the state. They com­plete­ly missed this goal. Trump tripled over­all lead and won Flori­da with 375,000 votes. Accord­ing to post-elec­tion polls, 47 per­cent of Lati­no vot­ers vot­ed for Trump, 12 per­cent­age points more than in 2016. Why?

First, Biden and Har­ris lost a media bat­tle for inter­pre­ta­tion in Flori­da. Sec­ond, Lati­nos in Flori­da are also more con­ser­v­a­tive than any­where else. And final­ly, accord­ing to a study, 60 per­cent of Lati­nos in the US believe that they will even­tu­al­ly become main­stream or at least improve their social sta­tus through hard work. You believe in the Amer­i­can Dream. It is of sec­ondary impor­tance that Trump assumed that immi­grants from Latin Amer­i­ca were “crim­i­nals” and “rapists”. You are already there and do not feel direct­ly addressed. The major­i­ty of Lati­nos say the US econ­o­my is the num­ber one rea­son why they vote: 80 per­cent. Both the his­tor­i­cal­ly low unem­ploy­ment fig­ures under Trump and the pan­dem­ic have left their mark: Lati­nos are more like­ly to work in ser­vice jobs. They have more coro­na infec­tions and deaths in their fam­i­lies to com­plain about, at the same time they have few­er finan­cial reserves, and are there­fore depen­dent on their jobs. In over half of the Lati­no house­holds, some­one was laid off because of the Coro­na cri­sis. A third told Pew Research that at times they did not have enough mon­ey to buy food.

Fear of social­ism exploit­ed

The two largest Lati­no groups in Flori­da by far are Cubans with more than 900,000 eli­gi­ble vot­ers and 850,000 Puer­to Ricans, who togeth­er make up 56 per­cent of the Lati­nos in Flori­da (55 per­cent of Cubans vot­ed for Trump). The Venezue­lans make up only 2 per­cent of the elec­torate, but 66 per­cent want­ed to vote for Trump. In addi­tion, they were extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic: 98 per­cent said in a com­pre­hen­sive poll by the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Flori­da before the elec­tion that they want­ed to vote at least prob­a­bly, 89 per­cent said “almost cer­tain­ly”. That was almost twice as high as that of oth­er Lati­nos. Trump designed his Venezuela pol­i­cy only for the pur­pose of win­ning Flori­da again, writes the New York Times. The self-pro­claimed Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Juan Guaidó was a guest at the White House in Feb­ru­ary and made acclaimed appear­ance at Trump’s State of the Union address. Ever stricter sanc­tions against Cara­cas showed the will to enforce and the par­al­lel secret meet­ings to get Maduro to resign, the goal.

Fear of social­ism exploit­ed

The two largest Lati­no groups in Flori­da by far are Cubans with more than 900,000 eli­gi­ble vot­ers and 850,000 Puer­to Ricans, who togeth­er make up 56 per­cent of the Lati­nos in Flori­da (55 per­cent of Cubans vot­ed for Trump). The Venezue­lans make up only 2 per­cent of the elec­torate, but 66 per­cent want­ed to vote for Trump. In addi­tion, they were extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic: 98 per­cent said in a com­pre­hen­sive poll by the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Flori­da before the elec­tion that they want­ed to vote at least prob­a­bly, 89 per­cent said “almost cer­tain­ly”. That was almost twice as high as that of oth­er Lati­nos. Trump designed his Venezuela pol­i­cy only for the pur­pose of win­ning Flori­da again, writes the New York Times. The self-pro­claimed Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Juan Guaidó was a guest at the White House in Feb­ru­ary and made an acclaimed appear­ance at Trump’s State of the Union address. Ever stricter sanc­tions against Cara­cas showed the will to enforce and the par­al­lel secret meet­ings to get Maduro to resign, the goal.

The Venezue­lans have been strong­ly influ­enced by the expe­ri­ences of the decline of their home­land, says polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Maria Puer­ta Riera, who is her­self a Venezue­lan and has lived in Orlan­do, Flori­da for five years. “Peo­ple feel uncom­fort­able and are depressed,” she reports: “We are not dis­con­nect­ed from the sit­u­a­tion at home.” Rier­a’s fam­i­ly also still live in Venezuela. She cer­ti­fies her com­pa­tri­ots pure obses­sion with Trump and a pos­si­ble elec­tion vic­to­ry, as they hope for tab­u­la rasa help against Maduro’s lead­er­ship. “I’ve nev­er seen any­thing like it,” she says on the phone. Some of her com­pa­tri­ots and fanat­i­cal Trump sup­port­ers call them­selves “Mag­a­zolanos”, a mix­ture of Trump’s slo­gan “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again”, or MAGA for short, and their ori­gins. As ear­ly as ear­ly sum­mer, Repub­li­cans in the south­ern state had start­ed adver­tis­ing and bom­bard­ing Lati­nos with adver­tise­ments. Their mes­sage was sim­ple but effec­tive: the Democ­rats would be con­trolled by the left, would side with auto­crats, and could bring the US to ruin. In Span­ish-lan­guage tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, Biden was shown shak­ing hands with Maduro, smil­ing, a scene from 2015. This is fol­lowed by pic­tures of left-wing MPs Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders and Ché Gue­vara. Since for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma met then Cuban Pres­i­dent Raúl Cas­tro in March 2016, the tar­get area for the Democ­rats has been enor­mous.

At the same time, the Democ­rats tried to por­tray Trump him­self as an auto­crat who bru­tal­ly sup­pressed demon­stra­tors with the police and the army, as in the “Black Lives Mat­ter” protests. “The pow­er of the US pres­i­dent is total,” says Trump in a cor­re­spond­ing TV com­mer­cial before the names of Fidel, Chávez, Maduro and Trump flick­er across the screen. Trump is a “caudil­lo”, a leader of the same kind as left auto­crats, it says. Obvi­ous­ly, that was­n’t the right strat­e­gy. In Mia­mi-Dade, Flori­da’s con­stituen­cy with the high­est num­ber of vot­ers, Biden won by 7 per­cent. With Hillary Clin­ton, it was 30 per­cent four years ago. “He had a great chance of win­ning Flori­da if he had bet on the right mes­sages,” said Domin­go Gar­cia, head of the largest Lati­no orga­ni­za­tion in the USA, short­ly after the elec­tion.

For the polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Riera, the Democ­rats failed in par­tic­u­lar to win the Puer­to Ricans on their side. They are very recep­tive to their mes­sages. There was a lack of struc­tured sup­port, for exam­ple to reg­is­ter, apply for postal vot­ing doc­u­ments or get to the polling sta­tion. The case of Venezue­lans in exile shows how much fear­ful mes­sages tai­lored to cer­tain groups of vot­ers can get. In addi­tion, the influ­ence of false infor­ma­tion on Venezue­lans is great, says polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Riera. “I also get arti­cles about QAnon from rel­a­tives in Venezuela,” she says. QAnon is the rad­i­cal con­spir­a­cy cult whose sup­port­ers believe that Trump has been cho­sen to destroy a child moles­ter ring run by Democ­rats and the “elite”. Venezue­lans in exile with­out friend­ships with white Amer­i­cans find them­selves in a vicious of learned dis­trust of insti­tu­tions and democ­ra­cy, as well as frus­tra­tion and des­per­a­tion about the sit­u­a­tion at home, said Riera. So they still hope that the pres­i­dent will stay in office.

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