Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

How Do Latin Americans View the U.S. Election?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden (L-R) pictured in their first debate Sept. 29 in Cleveland. The candidates are pictured at their first debate Sept. 29 in Cleveland. // Photo: C-SPAN.

The results of Tuesday’s presidential race in the United States remained too close to call this morning as former Vice President Joe Biden approached the number of electoral votes needed to be elected, and President Donald Trump’s campaign launched a series of legal challenges in key states. How do Latin Americans view the United States’ bitter and contested national vote, and what do they most want to see from the next president? What do the results so far say about the influence of Latinos voting in the United States? Amid reports of missing mail-in ballots and potential legal challenges, to what extent do you see the election as being free and fair?

Carolina Goic Boroevic, senator and former presidential candidate in Chile: “First, I hope the dilemma over the votes is resolved as soon as possible and in the most transparent way possible. Raising doubts about the results in such a close election does not do the United States any good, and given the country’s relevance, it does no good to democracy worldwide. Regarding the Latino vote, and ballots cast for example in New York, California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, we can no longer speak of the Latino vote as one thing, because there are differences. In the first two states, we already know that Biden won and that he could also win Arizona. But, in Texas and Florida, we know that President Trump won. What happened in Florida reveals the volatility of the Latino vote, because in that same state last election, Hispanics had voted for Hillary, and today they support Trump. As such, it is difficult to say what all Latinos want, although I dare to point out that, regardless of who is elected as the next president of the United States, what the Latino community wants is for their voices to be heard and their rights to be respected, considering they are the largest minority, representing 18 percent of the population, and that they can define an election regardless of individual political positions. The United States is and has been an example of democracy throughout its history. The worst that could happen is that, beyond questions surrounding its electoral system, that there be doubts about the results, as President Trump has raised. I believe that, as of today, elections were free and fair. But I also believe the debate on whether the voting system is the most appropriate is totally legitimate; however, that cannot happen in the middle of a campaign or when there are doubts about results in an election as close as what we’re witnessing.”

Diego Arria, member of the Advisor board, director of the Columbus Group and former permanent representative of Venezuela to the United Nations: “I can only comment as a Venezuelan whose country does not have any kind of free elections, so I watch with envy and admiration the public and free display of the electoral process with full media participation—the complete opposite of our disastrous situation. Again, as a Venezuelan, I hope that the sanctions that President Trump has imposed on the narco-tyranny in my country will increase, in order to help us remove it from power. The influence of Latino voters is very mixed, as the Latino community is not homogenous. However, for example, results in Florida and Arizona eloquently show Latino voters’ growing influence. To me, the election looks transparent and fair. But I am not surprised that mail-in ballots could be contested.”

Arturo Sarukhan, member of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Board of Directors and former Mexican ambassador to the United States: “For the last four years, President Trump has consistently sought to undermine the institutions and norms of a democratic society, but never so blatantly as in the early hours after Election Day. His attempt to falsely claim victory and to subvert—torpedo, even—the election itself by calling for a halt to vote-counting represents the gravest of threats to the stability of the country and to liberal democracy worldwide. Regardless of the outcome, the winner will face a nation bitterly and profoundly divided—with a polarized and tribalized society—like at no other time since possibly the Civil War. The message that the ‘bananization’ of U.S. democracy sends to Latin America and the Caribbean, where resilient democracy has painfully and sometimes awkwardly and gingerly started to take root across most of the region, is deeply concerning, because what happens to democracy in the United States reverberates globally, and even more so across the Americas. And the president’s further erosion of democracy would have a domino effect felt around the world. Moreover, given his compelling win in Florida on the back of Cuban-American voters, a Trump re-election would likely mean a doubling down on the chest-thumping that has characterized policy toward Cuba and Venezuela—and that delivered that state on Nov. 3—and the little bandwidth given to any other hemispheric issues beyond border security and its interface with migration and fentanyl trafficking. And the strategic decision to prioritize other demographics over Latinos, particularly in Florida and Arizona—and even Pennsylvania—in an effort to lure back suburban white and senior voters could come back to haunt Democrats. The big lesson here is that Democrats need to stop taking Latinos for granted.”

Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian, director of the Department of Social Inclusion at the Organization of American States: “The post-election scenario in the United States seems complicated as we do not yet have a clear outcome. However, we should trust the institutional framework around the resolution of electoral disputes as the mechanism to bring the election to a close. Latin America awaits the results, probably with the same interest as U.S. voters. This is mainly because the region continues to see the United States as a key regional partner, especially in supporting processes that could bring about a democratic transition in Venezuela, as well as in terms of how best to address the root causes, and the effects, of major migration movements that include Venezuelan migrants and refugees as well as Central Americans. It is precisely issues such as these which became crucial to mobilize the Latino vote in key swing states. This reveals the growing role of diasporas in U.S. elections, and the crucial connection between domestic and foreign policy.”

Rubens Barbosa, former ambassador of Brazil to the United States: “The bitter and contested national vote in the presidential election shows how divided the United States is. Democracy is not threatened because of the strength of U.S. institutions, but the political polarization could lead to violence and clashes between supporters of the two candidates and parties. The results show that the majority of Latinos living in the United States have voted conservative and supported Trump. It is difficult to accept that the president of any country would go public to dispute the results of any election and denounce fraud without any evidence. To refuse to accept and take, again, to the Supreme Court the way votes are counted is not a good example to the world. Pollsters failed to deliver credible results. The mistakes in some states were outside the margin of error. And, last but not least, the media again continued polarized reporting along partisan lines. These are some serious attitude distortions that could affect future developments in the U.S. political scene.”

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