Foreign Affairs Was Key to the Latino Vote in Florida
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 cortadito—the Cuban version of an espresso—and 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 thr
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