Will Venezuelans with US citizenship really make a difference in the race for the US presidency?
HAVANA TIMES – The presidential election has become a contentious issue for the community of Venezuelans in the United States. A population segment divided by the trauma suffered by their country of origin, reports the BBC.
Some support Trump because they fear his competitor for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, will lead the US towards socialism. And that’s a word they fear after their experience with the so-called “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.
Others favor Biden because they believe that Donald Trump has displayed the same authoritarian and undemocratic features that they previously saw in Hugo Chavez and, even more, in his successor, Nicolas Maduro.
However, Biden is not a socialist and, rather, his political positions are seen as centrist.
“I defeated the Socialists. That’s how I got the nomination,” he said during an interview last month. He was referring to his rival in the Democratic primary, Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist.
Sanders’ participation in the 2016 presidential campaign -when he contested the Democratic nomination with Hillary Clinton-, facilitated a public debate in the US on socialism.
Some of Sanders’ proposals, like expanding the health system to offer universal coverage, are popular among millennials in the US. They are policies that have existed for decades in democratic countries in Europe.
Within the Democratic Party there are leaders who belong to a movement called “Socialist Democrats”. Their most visible face is the young congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and some members consider themselves Marxists.
A commie behind every tree
Trump uses figures like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to present the Democratic Party as a platform for the extreme left to come to power. He assures that with Biden the “radical left” would arrive at the White House.
The severe crisis that Venezuela suffers led to an exponential increase in the number who migrated to the United States. They settled mostly in Florida during the last decade, giving this community growing importance in the presidential elections.
According to the Pew Research Center, Venezuelans are one of the fastest growing Latino migrant communities in the United States.
By 2018, Pew estimated that there were about 492,000 Venezuelans in the US. This implies an increase of 529% from the 93,000 who already resided there in 2000.
Mark Hugo Lopez, director of demographic research and global migration at the Pew Center, spoke with BBC Mundo. He said there are some 169,000 Venezuelans with the right to vote. People that took up US citizenship and are of voting age.
Both candidates are highly criticial of Maduro
Both Trump and Biden try to attract these potential voters with harsh criticism of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. They both describe him as a dictator.
But, in the end, how important is the vote of Venezuelans really in the November elections?
Fernand Amandi, an expert in the study of the Latino vote in the United States, points out that the number of Venezuelan voters is not large enough to have an impact in terms of the national vote. However, he believes they could be decisive in Florida, where there are approximately 50,000 Venezuelans registered to vote.
“When you think about the history of Florida, a state that decided the presidency 20 years ago by a difference of 537 votes, any subgroup of voters can be decisive. The Venezuelan vote like any other in Florida could decide who wins the state and the White House,” explains Amandi.
According to a survey by the University of North Florida, released in early September by the Miami Herald, although Biden surpassed Trump in the state as a whole, two out of three Venezuelan voters in Florida favored the current president.
Given the fierce competition, we must wait until after the elections to evaluate if that Venezuelan vote makes a difference.