Bidding Trump farewell, Venezuelans in Florida reflect on a divisive four years

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Dispatches,
Features,
North America,
United States,
Venezuela

January 20, 2021

By
Andrea Acosta


WESTON, Fla.—Again in October, Adelys Ferro remembers attending a rally held by then-candidate Joe Biden at Florida Worldwide College holding a signal that learn “Obamacare Saved My Son.” An image of her on the rally went viral and was shared by each Biden and former President Barack Obama on Instagram.

A local of Caracas, Venezuela who has lived in the US for 15 years, Ferro felt strongly about her assist for Biden due to a well being disaster her son Arturo had gone by years earlier.

“It felt good to be a part of one thing historic,” she mentioned. “Arturo received sick in December 5 years in the past from an autoimmune illness that just about killed him. I received Obamacare for him for a couple of years and thankfully I by no means needed to pay after his first hospitalization.”

After the rally, Ferro determined to work with a group known as Venezuelans for Biden to point out her appreciation. However Ferro quickly discovered that supporting the Democratic candidate got here with its difficulties when she began receiving assaults on social media from fellow Venezuelans.

“Each my colleagues and I had been attacked in alternative ways,” Ferro mentioned. “My colleague had his photos printed on Parler…one other colleague had his handle printed…I obtained personal messages the place they threatened to rape and kill me.”

Division throughout the Venezuelan neighborhood will not be new. Ever since former President Hugo Chávez took energy in 1998, polarization has grown between the opposition and supporters of the socialist authorities. However many Venezuelan immigrants in the US had anticipated to depart that sort of division behind in their residence nation.

The Venezuelan inhabitants in the US has been rising considerably in current years. Because the 2016 elections, the Venezuelan inhabitants in Florida has doubled, to greater than 200,000 folks, round 53% of the inhabitants of Venezuelans in the US.

Moreover, the number of Venezuelans eligible to vote in the state grew by 184% from 2008 to 2018; making them the fastest-growing Latino voter group. Nevertheless, they nonetheless solely make up round 2% of all Latino eligible voters, with round 50,000 registering to vote in the 2020 elections.

An August 2020 poll by the College of North Florida’s Public Opinion Analysis Lab discovered that 66% of Venezuelans in Florida supposed to vote for Trump. This choice was seen in the election outcomes, when Trump got here nearer to successful Miami-Dade County, the place the Venezuelan vote was key, than every other Republican presidential candidate in 16 years.

The examine additionally discovered that 98% of eligible Venezuelan voters in Florida had been planning to vote, which makes the Venezuelan neighborhood two instances extra prepared to vote than different nationalities.

How did former President Trump achieve reputation amongst Venezuelans when comparisons between Chávez and Trump have turn into limitless? From their boisterous and authoritarian personalities to their animosity in direction of the media, each Trump and Chávez have divided and polarized their nations.

“Individuals may dislike dictators who’ve an reverse ideological view,” mentioned Patricio Navia, professor of Political Science at New York College. “Many Latinos say that they don’t like dictatorships and that they dislike Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua however they don’t see that what Trump was doing to disrupt the democratic course of may be very a lot the identical factor that Maduro has carried out in Venezuela or that Ortega has carried out in Nicaragua.”

As president, Trump acknowledged Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaidó because the reputable president of Venezuela, whilst President Nicolás Maduro remained in energy. This spoke to many Venezuelans in South Florida, as most of them oppose Maduro’s authorities. Moreover, when Guaidó tried to guide a navy rebellion in opposition to Maduro, Trump and senior officers voiced their assist. Trump additionally known as Biden a socialist a number of instances in the course of the marketing campaign, which rang as a warning to many Venezuelans.

In keeping with Rosangela Rodríguez, a 29-year-old from Caracas that lived in Florida for 11 years, individuals who have arrived in the US just lately appear extra prone to assist Trump.

“I do really feel that folks that simply arrived have a completely different perspective,” she mentioned. “I even had this occur in conversations with people who find themselves in Venezuela proper now, they’d inform me, how will you vote for Biden?”

“There have been many individuals saying it was fraud, Trump should be put again in energy with out the slightest thought of what they had been saying,” mentioned Antonio Catale, a Venezuelan who has been in the U.S. for 24 years. “It’s as a result of Venezuelans in Venezuela noticed Trump because the Messiah who was going to ship the Marines to take away the regime, and that didn’t occur.”

Eduardo Yespica, a 28-year-old Venezuelan who moved from Caracas to Weston, Florida when he was 13 years previous, thinks the distinction may additionally be generational.

“I see in older folks a lack of knowledge,” he mentioned. “It isn’t actually concerning the variations between the left and the suitable, however the actions taken [by the current administration] and that they’re democratic establishments and polarizing the federal government.”

Professor Navia agrees.

“The older technology may be very a lot influenced by the politics of the unique nation,” she mentioned. “However new generations are extra influenced by the politics in the brand new nation. So youthful Latinos, in basic, had been extra favorable to Joe Biden in Florida than older Latinos as a result of older Latinos are nonetheless very a lot influenced by what occurred in their residence nation, in order that they see every thing by a type of ‘Chávez’ lens.”

On Tuesday, as a last-minute determination, President Trump introduced that he’ll supply Venezuelan exiles safety from deportation with the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), deferring for 18 months the elimination of sure Venezuelan nationals current in the U.S. on January 20.

In the course of the 2020 marketing campaign, President Biden mentioned he would supply Short-term Protected Standing (TPS) to Venezuelan immigrants, which differs from DED solely as a result of the latter is issued by the president, whereas TPS wants approval by the Homeland Safety secretary.

Venezuelans like Catale are additionally rising involved concerning the occasions in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which introduced with it a sure sense of déjà vu for the violence Venezuela has skilled in current years.

“What occurred a week in the past demonstrated that political chaos could be reached at any second,” he mentioned. “I by no means thought I’d stay by a mob getting into the Capitol.”

The sensation that the revolt introduced for a lot of Venezuelans in the US could be summed up in a January 6 Tweet by Venezuelan-American comic Joanna Hausmann:

“This coup actually makes the U.S. really feel like residence.”