Why do so many Venezuelan immigrants support right-wing candidates in Latin America and the US?

By Lautaro Grinspan – nbcnews

When far-right economist Javier Meili was sworn in as Argentina’s new president last month, his supporters took to the streets of the capital Buenos Aires, carrying national flags and wearing Messi football jerseys.

There were a handful of Venezuelan flags amid a sea of ​​blue and white, A recurring image in Miley’s campaign events,

Laura Ruiz was holding one of them. When Miley walked out of the presidential palace to give a speech, Ruiz waved his flag enthusiastically. Her hope, she said, was that Miley would see the flag and know that Venezuelans like her support her.

Venezuelan immigrants hold Argentine and Venezuelan flags during a march in support of President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 24, 2019.Riccardo Seppi/Getty Images File

The 36-year-old immigrant was not yet able to register to vote in the October elections, but she says she became “indirectly” involved in the political process, advocating for Mili and leftists within her circle. Against.

This is a common story in Argentina and throughout the Americas. Scarred by the economic collapse, widespread corruption, and repression of civil liberties associated with socialist leaders in their home country, many of the millions of Venezuelans who have recently relocated have thrown their support behind right-wing movements across the continent. Migrant activism comes against the backdrop of warnings from right-wing forces Venezuelan-style socialism threatens to spread,

Political scientist Ariel Goldstein of the University of Buenos Aires declared, “Venezuela represents something like the ghost of communism (…) The right to the region has found in Venezuela a clear image that symbolizes the failures of that system.”

Throughout her campaign, Miley waved chainsaws at rallies to underline her support for public spending cuts. In his first speech as president, he said in 1998 that failure to follow through on these adjustment plans would lead the country into “a cycle of decline that will take us into the darkness of Chávez and Maduro’s Venezuela”, referring to President Hugo Chávez in 1998. ” As of 2013, and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Two other right-wing figures to whom Miley is often compared – Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro – have attempted to rally voters with similar rhetoric.

Experts believe there is a receptive audience for this type of discourse among the growing Venezuelan diaspora throughout the region. In recent years, more than 7.5 million people have left Venezuela, creating a problem The most serious migration crisis in Latin America’s modern history,

Many are starting new lives with outspoken opposition to leftist movements or candidates that they associate with the disaster they had to leave behind.

In the United States, this dynamic has helped strengthen Latino support for Republicans in Florida, contributing to a shift to the right in recent elections in this state. swing state (Say the vote changes) for a long time. Similar changes may be occurring in places across the continent with high concentrations of recent Venezuelan immigrants.

A few weeks before Miley’s win in Argentina, Regional Authority scored another win in Ecuador with Daniel Noboa. He was also encouraged by support from the Venezuelan diaspora.

“The circumstances that forced you to leave Venezuela They show you everything in black and white“But the politics of receiving countries is not black and white,” said Eugenio Martínez, a Venezuelan political analyst who lives in Florida.

Active on social networks, but without votes

Originally from the Venezuelan port city of Maracaibo, Elisabette Hernandez now lives in Cordoba, Argentina. She says she was distressed by the hyperinflation and supply shortages in Argentina during the previous leftist government, which evoked memories of daily life in Venezuela.

“I became very depressed,” he said.

During last year’s Argentine presidential campaign, Hernandez garnered thousands of views on a TikTok account titled trapped in socialism, In his video, he said he has “come from the future” to warn Argentina about the ultimate consequences of socialism and urged his users to support Miley. They also distributed pamphlets in favor of the candidate in the city parks.

“Many people have written to me to tell me that hearing about my experience has opened their eyes,” she said.

According to Martínez, Venezuelan migrants are more politically engaged than other migrant communities. After all, there is a widespread belief among the group that the country’s problems are primarily rooted in the mismanagement of the ruling regime. Many people were also forced to migrate due to political persecution.

“Venezuelan diaspora very politically active“In relation to both what’s happening in Venezuela and the local politics of the places where they are located,” Martínez said.

As relatively newcomers to the countries in which they have settled, it is unlikely that most Venezuelan immigrants have been naturalized, meaning they cannot yet vote. But many people have found social media to be a powerful platform for sharing their opinions.

In Argentina, the right-wing social media ecosystem that has been so important in bringing Miley closer – especially to young voters – regularly publishes messages warning Venezuelans against voting for the left.

Jose Mago, a 33-year-old Venezuelan immigrant in Buenos Aires, opened a TikTok account thinking he would use it as a travel page. But after some videos promoting Miley and criticizing leftists became successful, she said she decided to dedicate the account to politics.

Edilbert Mendoza, 21, is a medical student who came to Argentina from Venezuela four years ago. A few days before the election, he uploaded a video from a Miley rally to TikTok, where he urged Argentines to “vote accordingly”.

,Cubans warned us And (now) we tell you,” he added. This short was viewed millions of times and was shared on the internet by Miley herself.

Venezuelan immigrants in Mexico City, December 26, 2023.
associated Press

“We have been very effective here,” Mendoza said in an interview.

The abundance of stories like Mendoza’s and Mago’s does not mean that the Venezuelan diaspora is monolithic. But more liberal-leaning Venezuelans have been more cautious when talking about politics in the Venezuelan enclaves.

Adelis Ferro is a member of the Venezuelan with Biden group and a resident of Weston, a Miami suburb nicknamed Westonazuela for its large Venezuelan community. In the period immediately preceding the 2020 elections, He found it difficult to wear a Biden T-shirt in the supermarket Without feeling uncomfortable, get rid of the social stigma that other people also condemn.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of respect anymore,” Ferro said of the dynamics within South Florida’s Venezuelan community.

Still, Ferro is more optimistic about the Democratic message in 2024 because “Biden has been in power for three years and there is no socialism here.”

The situation facing Maduro is a litmus test

In response to unprecedented levels of migration in the hemisphere, right-wing figures in some countries have made anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalism a key part of their outreach to voters.

At a campaign rally in December, former President Donald Trump repeated white supremacist rhetoric when he said immigrants were “poisoning the bloodstream of our country.” In Chile, concerns about immigration and open xenophobia against Venezuelans helped the far right grow their influence there. Immigration could also play a role in Mexico’s presidential elections later this year.

But could nativist attitudes or policies that restrict immigration prevent immigrant groups like Venezuelan migrants from supporting right-wing politicians? Experts consider it unlikely. That’s a lesson from the recent electoral swing in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis won re-election in 2022. 58% Latino voteDespite sending two planeloads of asylum seekers, mostly Venezuelans, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, critics criticized it as a political maneuver.

Martínez said, “It seems that Venezuelan migrants care more about the Venezuelan government and the politicians who condemn Maduro than about their immigration policies.”

Florida also symbolizes the kind of political influence that long-term immigrants can have, particularly on foreign policy. For decades, Cuban American voters and legislators have successfully influenced Congress and several presidential administrations to take radical stances on US–Cuba relations. If it reaches the same level of organization, the Venezuelan diaspora could contribute to the diplomatic isolation of the current Chavista regime.

in Argentina, The situation remains serious, The country ended 2023 with an inflation rate over 200%, and Miley warned that the economic outlook will get worse before it gets better. But the new president has already implemented parts of his program, reducing the role of the state. He has also ended diplomatic relations with Caracas.

Venezuelan immigrants are encouraged. Some people are even postponing their plans to leave the country to try their luck in the United States. Hernandez’s TikTok account will no longer be called trapped in socialism,


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