By Pedro Paúl Betancourt @PedroPaulB
Every four years, the U.S. media, political analysts, and even the presidential candidates themselves, recognize the importance of the Latino vote in selecting a new president. This year, however, it is even more relevant. For the first time, Latinos are the largest minority in the country, with 13.3% of registered voters, making them a decisive electoral factor. However, the Latino vote, unlike other minorities in the United States, is not monolithic.
On a national scale, the Latino vote seems to favor Joe Biden, thanks to the support of key demographic groups such as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, who have traditionally supported the Democratic Party. But in Florida, the battle for the Latino vote is much narrower. According to a Pew Research Center poll, unlike the rest of Hispanics in the country, 58% of Cuban registered voters identify with the Republican Party, while only 38% identify with the Democrats; 65% of non-Cuban Hispanics identify with the Democratic Party and 32% with Republicans.
Sixty-five percent of the 1.4 million Cuban registered voters live in Florida and these, along with other Hispanic groups such as Venezuelans and Nicaraguans residing in the same state, prefer Donald Trump. According to a study by El Diario, 66% of them intend to vote for Trump on November 3. The reason? According to the Pew Research study, 75% of Cuban-American voters say that foreign policy and violence are their electoral priorities, versus 45% for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans.
For this reason, the candidates’ position toward Cuba and Venezuela is decisive for these voters. Venezuela has always been crucial to the United States’ interests in the region, but now it has become a powerful threat to the security of the entire Hemisphere due to its organized-crime activities and the growing and strengthened alliance of Nicolás Maduro’s regime with Iran, China and Russia.
The regime’s links with terrorist groups, criminal gangs and organized-crime groups are becoming clearer and more obvious every day. Maduro no longer supports himself thanks to oil, but through drug trafficking, arms trafficking, gold smuggling and other businesses that favor international irregular groups who are free to do business in Venezuela in exchange for protecting the stability of the regime. Given the new reality of the country, withdrawing and abandoning the spaces occupied by American companies would only leave the door open for an adversary to gain complete control of Venezuela’s strategic position in global geopolitics.
Notwithstanding the Democrats’ more isolationist foreign-policy stance, and Republicans’ more interventionist position, both parties agree that Venezuela is crucial to U.S. interests. This results in bipartisan support to recognize Juan Guaidó as Interim President of Venezuela.
That’s why whomever wins the U.S. presidential election should look at Venezuela as a matter of State, not as a partisan issue. Despite their differences, both parties understand that Venezuela is a key geopolitical issue for the United States, so we can expect both parties to continue to implement policies aimed at weakening the Maduro regime.
Generally, the U.S. considers three fundamental issues in its foreign policy: national security, drug trafficking and terrorism. In the case of Venezuela, all three elements are present: Venezuela is a proven narco-state that violates human rights and shelters terrorists. Therefore, it is false to think that the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will sit idly by.
Consequently, it is important that the United States remain an active presence in Venezuela with the ability to have a real impact in the achievement of democratic objectives. U.S. presence will also help generate economic stability in a country that’s key to maintaining the balance of power in the Western world. Without U.S. presence in Venezuela, it will be very difficult to achieve fast reconstruction. To pull out and leave the door open to adversaries - such as Russia, Iran and China - would be a serious and dangerous mistake for the United States.
Likewise, we Venezuelans living in the United States, must demand that political leaders define a unified path. We must also press them to brake the support that some countries still offer Maduro. We have to stop thinking whether we like Biden or Trump and start worrying about protecting our interests, as well as demanding compliance with adequate policies. And we need to dig deep to see which candidate is truly committed to restoring democracy and justice in Venezuela in the next presidential term.
Pedro Paúl Betancourt is a Venezuelan consultant and political analyst. (OPINION)