The sharp deterioration of the economic, political and humanitarian situation in homeland Venezuela over the last few years has prompted up to 5 million Venezuelan out of the country, and a number, albeit modest, of those have established in the US. Thus, the Venezuelan population in the United States has risen 54% since 2015. Currently, about 329.000 Venezuelans are residing in the United States, 237.782 of them situated in Florida alone.
Venezuelans already represent the fifth-largest Latin American population in the U.S. Their voice is powerful and can sway the results of the elections, especially because most of them live in the widely recognized swing state of Florida. This circumstance has made them somehow decisive about the future of America and, indeed of the whole world, should they exercise their vote.
Yet Venezuelan-Americans remain strongly divided in the presidential election. The polarization has strengthened over time, along with the speculations about the legitimacy of the results.
Venezuelan Trump supporters perpetually hold on to the hope that a second Republican term would help the country lean away from the socialism they ran away from.
During a trip to Florida, Trump met with Venezuelan nationals who formerly fled Maduro’s administration and accused Biden of being a ‘puppet’ of the radical left.
Trump’s allusions to the similarities of Biden’s agenda to socialism is what has driven some former Democratic Venezuelan-Americans to switch to the Republican party.
However, the Venezuelans for Biden movement demonstrate that not everyone believes Trump’s rhetoric supporting Venezuelans’ interests.
Venezuelan-Americans who support Biden claim that the Trump administration has caused more harm than good, as the president’s words haven’t matched his actions.
For instance, many Biden supporters point out the Republican irony of denouncing socialism yet increasing difficulties for fleeing Venezuelans seeking asylum from the country’s disastrous crisis. Others point out the devastating effects of sanctions on the country’s economy.
It seems like there are two entrenched positions: Venezuelan Republicans who are scandalized by Biden’s alleged leftist policies and Venezuelan Democrats who believe that the Trump administration is not acting in a way that actually benefits the Venezuelan people.
Each side is voting against the candidate they deem as ‘bad’ rather than voting for a candidate simply because they strongly believe in their political agenda. In this aspect, they act like the majority of Americans.
The reality sums up to the fact that, in a way, each side is voting against the candidate they deem as ‘bad’ rather than voting for a candidate simply because they strongly believe in their political agenda. In this aspect, polls suggest, they act like the majority of Americans.
The question then remains: which candidate is more convenient for Venezuelan-Americans? Including those who are naturalized citizens and residents waiting to obtain their citizenship?
It is utterly impossible to answer this question without first considering that Venezuelans, like the rest of all Latin Americans that migrate to the US, represent multiple socioeconomic classes, ancestries, and identities. Uncontrollably, they hold diverse views about the priorities of a country’s government, even if they all suffer for Venezuela.
The motivations of Venezuelan-American voters are just as complex and intricate as the rest of the Latinx population in the United States. In addition to the ‘standard’ topics relevant for Latinxs -immigration policy, racial justice, education, health care, and job opportunities- Venezuelans place huge importance on the diplomatic relations between the newly elected president and Nicolas Maduro.
Anabella Morabito, a 28-year-old Venezuelan-American who studies education at Harvard, puts it simply, “Historically, U.S intervention in Latin America has been messy. I think the U.S has a huge influence on the [Latin American] region, but the Maduro presidency requires a multi-faceted, scaffolded approach to dismantle. It’s not just a matter of getting rid of Maduro.”
She migrated from Venezuela at the age of eight. And, although she considers her family background as being upper-middle-class, she recognizes, “I think there is absolutely a problem of classism in Venezuela, and once you exit that environment, you become self-aware, and you think critically and begin to understand how this problem amplifies Maduro’s populism [and his persistent stay in power].”
Mariela López, a 24-year-old Venezuelan immigrant and DREAMer who works as a clinical research coordinator, voices her opinion on a second Republican term, “He [Trump] makes a lot of false promises, and when he tries to follow through, there is no plan to fall back on.” She continues by saying, “When he tried to get rid of the DREAM Act, he did so without having anything ready in place.”
However, there are Venezuelan-Americans who, although have migrated more recently and have directly experienced corruption, energy and food shortages, hyperinflation, and violent crime under Maduro’s government, view the situation differently.
Although both presidential candidates seemingly denounce Maduro’s oppressive regime, it remains unclear whether their policies will be beneficial for the Venezuelan people.
Enrique Suarez left his country in 2016. He is now 32 years old and works as a professional window washer of skyscrapers in the Miami area. He is the sole earner of a family of four. When asked about which candidate would be more beneficial for Venezuelan-Americans, he says, “Particularly, I incline towards Trump because I see his policies as a person who is already living here, and not as an immigrant per se.” He is currently awaiting to receive his approval for citizenship.
Although both presidential candidates seemingly denounce Maduro’s oppressive regime, it remains unclear whether their policies will be beneficial for the Venezuelan people, not only in terms of migration and integration, but also employment, racial justice, and access to health care in the United States.
Running out of hope
As one of the other 237.787 American-Venezuelans who now call the state of Florida their home, I’m inclined to believe that it takes more than a ‘switch’ of presidency to help Venezuelans.
The Venezuelan crisis goes beyond what the U.S is capable -and most importantly, willing- to provide.
A radical change in the administration is not a rapid remedy for the end of a decade-long humanitarian crisis, nor will it signify a beginning of an end, as it has been demonstrated through the appearance of Juan Guaidó.
Guaidó, despite being recognized as a legitimate interim president by about 60 countries, has miserably failed to oust Maduro out of the country twice. A new- or “interim”- president will not magically change the course of Venezuela. A democratic transition period should start as soon as possible to overcome a political crisis that has destroyed the economy of what was an immensely rich and reasonably prosperous country not so long ago.
Even if the crisis in the country has been brewing for decades, and the corruption is institutionally embedded in the system, the current regime has made live in the country both unbearable, unaffordable and in some cases even life-threatening. Sadly, a Republican or Democrat president will not influence Venezuela the way most Venezuelans expect it to. We know how badly Trump policies have played off so far. At least, Biden is an open question.