In advance of president’s speech, Dems try to gain political traction among Florida’s Venezuelan voters

by | Feb 18, 2019

President Donald Trump will talk about the ongoing conflict in Venezuela during a Monday afternoon appearance at Florida International University in Miami. Trump is expected to reiterate his demand that Nicolas Maduro leave power in a speech that is targeted at Venezuela’s military leaders, as much as it is  targeted at the Venezuelan-Hispanic community in South Florida.

Trump’s remarks will further emphasize U.S. support for interim president Juan Guaidó, who has been in a power struggle with Maduro. Maduro has maintained the support of the Venezuelan military, the main reason he has retained power in the financially struggling country.

Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis are scheduled to attend the president’s speech, further underscoring the importance of Trump’s support of Guaidó among Venezuelan communities here in Florida. It’s a situation that frustrates Democrats who are vying for support from the state’s Hispanic community in the 2020 presidential election.

“Trump is doing the right thing, and I’m not going to criticize Trump for doing the right thing because you lose credibility,” Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Colombia-born Democrat, told Politico last week.

“Florida is won by tiny margins,” said Taddeo, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014. “If they can get enough margins with Venezuelans, with Colombians, with Nicaraguans, that’s how you get the 1 percent that you need. And Republicans are smart about playing the margins. We are not.”

Once again, Florida will be considered a key swing state in the upcoming election next year. Trump won  Florida by just 1.2 percent in 2016. Hispanic voters could mean the difference as to who wins Florida and possibly the  presidential race next year.

In a move to gain some political traction from the situation in Venezuela and grab some of the attention President Trump will receive surrounding his speech in South Florida, three Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation held a conference call Monday morning.  They called on Trump to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans who are living inside the U.S.

It was a move that was targeted at the state’s Hispanic voters, as much as it was directed at the president.

“While we’ve supported many of the moves of this administration for political and economic sanctions, it’s very important that we protect the Venezuelans that are here, that are living in our community,” said U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, a South Florida Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, another South Florida Democrat, estimates there are as many as 150,000 Venezuelans who are currently inside theU.S. and face the risk of deportation.

TPS allows immigrants from a country that is in conflict to remain in the U.S. until the conflict is resolved — regardless of their immigration status. The protective status was granted to Haitians who were in the U.S. following a major earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010

“This has been absent from the Trump administration’s agenda,” Deutch said. “Because, like with so many other things, the Trump administration’s words don’t match their actions.

“This administration is denying asylum requests and deporting people,” Deutch added.

The administration has been highly criticized for its response to Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico in 2017. Democrats have used the response to try to make inroads with Puerto Rican voters. The current situation in Venezuela could provide Republicans a counter balance among the state’s Hispanic voters.

State election officials say there are approximately 36,000 voters self-identified as being born in Venezuela. That’s compared to 340,000 self-identified Cuban-born voters and 210,000 voters who say they were born in Puerto Rico. The Venezuelan voters living in Florida are concentrated in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

But while the Venezuelan voting bloc is smaller than those made up of Cuban and Puerto Rican voters, they actively participate in the political process. About 65 percent turned out to vote in the last election.

In an election that will likely be another tight contest in Florida, Venezuelan voters could have an impact in next  year’s presidential contest in Florida.



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