Latin America Is a Top Priority for Florida Latino Voters

Indian woman holding up Vote pin
Indian woman holding up Vote pin

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Miami and attend the last Democratic Debate before the Florida Primaries take place this coming Tuesday.

While there, one thing was clear: Latino Voters in Florida are looking for a President who will put Latin America as one of their top priorities when it comes to foreign policy. With that criteria in mind, there is only one person fit for the job: Hillary Clinton.

The Obama administration sometimes does not get credit for its success with Latin America. During the past seven years, the U.S has regained credibility and leadership in the region by building partnerships with a number of countries, downplaying the impact and influence of those who took an aggressive anti-American rhetoric, particularly the ALBA countries fueled by Venezuela's petro-politics and money, now in crisis given the significant drop in oil prices (another strategic success of the Obama administration).

The Obama Administration, under the advice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, were correct in the strategy of not engaging in needless political confrontation with governments that truly did not pose a threat to U.S security, but rather and unfortunately a threat to their own people; acknowledging with this strategy that confrontation lends perfectly to these authoritarian regimes. Rather, the strategy focused on human rights enforcement, including relevant actions through multilateral institutions, and stronger anti-corruption and anti-drug enforcement within the United States.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton provided leadership and vision to this successful approach, and continues to be outspoken on a variety of issues, such as the Colombian Peace Process, the advancement of democracy in the region, including in key places like Cuba and Venezuela, and the need to greater engage with the region on different topics, including security, trade, and climate change.

On the subject of Cuba, Secretary Clinton was instrumental in reestablishing diplomatic and expanding commercial relations with the island of Cuba, and at the same time, she continues to stand by the people of Cuba in calling out the human rights abuses that have been happening in the island since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

The combined impact of this approach will continue to push fundamental changes in Cuba at a time when a transition of power happening from the hands of Raul Castro, who has announced to step down in 2018, after being the strongman succeeding his brother Fidel; but most importantly should bring relieve and empowerment to Cuba's politically disfranchised people and fragile civil society.

In addition to Cuba, the Country of Venezuela is also facing a difficult situation; one of the highest inflations in the world, skyrocketing insecurity levels, and an authoritarian government led by President Nicolas Maduro, which is constantly being accused of human rights violations. The opening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba comes timely, and represents a major set-back to Maduro and "Chavismo" in Venezuela, which continues, together with declining oil prices.

Once we understand these trends in the region, it is easy to understand why lately President Maduro has kept a strong stance against Hillary Clinton, one of the architects of this successes, while praising Senator Sanders "revolutionary message."

If President Maduro attacks Secretary Clinton while praising Senator Sanders, it is because he is clear that a Clinton Presidency would mean a positive change for Venezuela and the region, as it was proven with her leadership for the Americas while Secretary of State, particularly, her strong stance to support Democracy in Venezuela, a subject where we have never seen any engagement by Senator Sanders over this critical years in which free press and human rights have been under attack.

Further, in a recent interview with a Colombian radio station, Senator Sanders admitted to not have been following the Colombia Peace Negotiations that have been happening in Havana, Cuba, for over three years.

Unfortunately, Senator Sanders' lack of understanding on some key foreign policy issues shows that under his presidency, Latin America might not be a top priority. That within itself is a worrying factor for many Americans.

As Latino voters in Florida come out to the polls this Tuesday, many of them will be looking for a leader who will not only empower them here in The United States but someone who will also engage with Latin America; a region that many of them used to call home. Hillary Clinton is that leader; she has the knowledge, experience, and conviction to ensure that The United States of America creates a strategic alliance with our closest neighbors that will allow for our world to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.