Marco Rubio

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Venezuela Gets Attention in Trump Tweet

The presidential tweet and photo op in support of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. / Trump Twitter feed

Venezuela got some attention this week from President Donald Trump, who earlier publicly supported Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo López in a tweet

Trump may have been encouraged by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who was photographed with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and López’s wife Lilian Tintori in the White House, perhaps also signaling that all is forgiven between Rubio – whom Trump mocked as “Lil Marco” throughout the presidential campaign – and the President.

Rubio and his wife later were scheduled to have dinner with Trump in the White House.

“Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of (just met w/ ) out of prison immediately,” Trump tweeted.

Foreign Policy magazine asked, “Could it be that the Venezuelan president is one strongman Trump doesn’t like?”

Venezuela does deserve U.S. attention. It is without a doubt a rogue nation. The once oil-rich country has plummeted into poverty, its people are starving, its constitutional guarantees under attack. Venezuela accused opposition leader López, an economist trained in the U.S.,  of inciting violence and anti-government protests. He was imprisoned about three years ago.

Obama Executive Order

Before leaving office, Barack Obama renewed an executive order designating Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security. Obama explained that Venezuela’s situation had not improved since the original executive order dated March 2015.

Obama argued against the Venezuelan government’s alleged “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-government protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-government protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant government corruption.”

Venezuela Shuts Down CNN en Español

Venezuela this week took CNN en Español off the air over its report about fraudulent Venezuelan passports, including passports to people alleged to have terrorism ties. It was one of Venezuela’s few remaining foreign news gathering operations.

CNN en Español  “instigates religious, racial and political hatred,” justified Venezuela’s Telecommunications Commission Director Andrés Eloy Méndez, who also accused the network of distorting the truth, generating a climate of intolerance and being an “imperialistic media organization.”

CNN en Español responded that it would put its live feed on YouTube and make it available in Venezuela.

Sanctions Venezuela Vice President

Prior to the Venezuelan government pulling the plug on CNN en Español the Trump administration hit Venezuela Vice President Tareck El Aissami with sanctions, stating he’s an international drug trafficker. The U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions freezes El Aissami’s assets in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with him.

CNN en Español and CNN conducted a year-long investigation into El Aissami, linking him to the passport scandal as well.

Protest at Lake Eola

On Saturday the Orlando area’s Venezuelan community was scheduled to march in Lake Eola against the Venezuelan government’s latest move. “No+ Dictatura en Venezuela” read poster for the event, to place at the bust of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan who “liberated the Americas” in the 19th century.

The protest was to take place in conjunction with worldwide protests in 18-plus cities around the world, also including Miami, New York, Houston, Charlotte (NC) and Washington, D.C.

Orlando’s Venezuelan community tends to be fiercely against President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez. Some people posted the CNN live feed link on their Facebook pages.

“Hasta cuando Venezuela, cada día nos cierran más las pocas ventanas de liberated de expresión, reaccionemos,” stated the Facebook post of Pedro Elías Carrasco García, who lives in Venezuela. (Until when, Venezuela. Each day they close the few windows of freedom of expression. We should react.”

Few Latinos at the Republican Convention

GOP conv. logo

As the curtan is about to rise on one of the most anticipated Republican national conventions in a long while,  one of the questions that begs an answer is, will there be Latino participation and, if so, what will that look like?

The last Republican to win the White House – George W. Bush in 2000 – brought Mariachi music to the convention, held that year in Philadelphia where the Democrats will meet this year. It was a hamhanded, although apparently sincere attempt, at Hispanic outreach that was preceded by a “Change the Tone” whistle stop tour of California during which Bush focused on racial inclusion and even spoke some Spanish.

In truth, there weren’t many prominent Latinos with speaking slots in 2000, except for George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose wife Columba is Mexican.

Still, that year, Bush earned 34 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Pew Hispanic Center. Four years later, he did even better, grabbing a 40 percent-share of the Latino vote – better than even Ronald Reagan‘s 37 percent in 1984, the year Reagan sought re-election. At the 1984 convention, Katherine Ortega, U.S. Treasurer and  a Latina originally from New Mexico, was the keynote speaker.

The 2004 Republican National Convention didn’t boast Latino speakers, except for Brian Sandoval, then Nevada attorney general and currently the state’s governor and Central Florida’s own Mel Martínez, elected to the U.S. Senate in that year’s November election.

In a fascinating and now supremely ironic twist,  Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat and then Georgia State senator, was the keynote speaker who had lamented earlier,. “I barely recognize my party anymore.”

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had some prominent Hispanic speakers, including Sandoval, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (who introduce Romney), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez, then Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño and wife Luce Vela Fortuño, then U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

Harsher Tone

How things have changed.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, takes center stage Monday as one of the most polarizing presidential candidates in modern times. He has spent months during the primary campaign alienating Latino voters, stating for instance that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, and that as president he will build a wall along the border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it, among other things.

Having thus offended not only Mexicans but Hispanics in general as well as others, what Hispanic stands for Trump?  What Hispanic is scheduled to speak at the convention or has been asked to speak at the convention? Bear in mind that Trump esentially has ceded the Latino vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, who polls show has an over 40-point lead among Hispanics versus Trump, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

The Republican National Committee finalized its convention plan today, Sunday. Combing through it, the first Latino and a Monday night prime time speaker is Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of an Arizona police officer Brandon Mendoza who died in a crash involving a a drunk driver who was undocumented. She is described as an immigration reform advocate.

Mendoza is part of a night entitled  “Make America Safe Again,” which includes two other moms whose children were killed in an accident involving an undocumented immigrant or allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant. Their pain is real. However,  Trump appears to be  doubling down on the trope of Mexicans as criminals. 

Tuesday Night

There are no Latino speakers scheduled for Tuesday night whose theme is “Make America Work Again,” which is odd considering that Hispanics make up 16 percent of the U.S. labor pool or about one of every six workers,. The figure is higher in certain industries such as construction. Hispanic labor force participation is expected to rise to about 20 percent or one of every five workers in 2020, just four years from now, according to the Department of Labor.

Wednesday Night

This night of the Republican convention, or “Make America First Again,” showcases prominent Hispanics and former presidential primary rivals Florida Sen. Marco Rubio via satélite – after he said he wouldn’t appear at all –and  Ted Cruz.

Thursday Night

The final night of the Republican convention, “Make America One Again,” would seem an ideal night to demonstrate some measure of inclusiveness. There are no Latinos scheduled to speak.

Note: Donald Trump’s children – Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, Donald Jr., as well as his wife Melania – have primetime  speaking slots.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor