Elections in the US: Republicans intensify the battle for the decisive Latino vote | International

The community of Los Indios, in South Texas, is made up of quiet one-story houses that proudly display an American flag. They are vast ranches of very green grass. Among the residences, businesses sell second-hand trucks. There are also churches. In the back part of the land, the wall that divides Mexico and the United States snakes like a gigantic back fence. This area is covered with propaganda that calls for a vote on November 8 for Republican congresswoman Mayra Flores, who gave a surprise in June with a victory in a Democratic stronghold. The triumph of Flores, the first Mexican to reach the Capitol, is projected like a ghost over the legislative elections.

The Latino vote could be decisive in a battle where Hispanics seem less willing than before to support the Democrats. In one of the most hotly contested Senate seats (Nevada), and in another Democratic-leaning but undecided seat (Arizona), Latinos make up 20% of voters. And they also top 20% in at least a dozen competitive House districts in states like California, Colorado, Florida and Texas.

Flores will be on the ballot again in November. He has a good chance of making it in the Rio Grande Valley area of ​​South Texas. She has proclaimed a conservative message aligned with that of Donald Trump, who went from having 28% of the Latino vote in 2016 to 38% four years later, despite his insistent xenophobic messages. “Make America Godly Again” (That the United States believes in God again), says one of her ads. Another promises: “God, Family and Country.”

Flores’ platform asks for a strong hand against those who come from the south, as his family once did, who migrated from Burgos (Tamaulipas). He also charges against leaders of the Democratic leadership in Washington, such as Nancy Pelosi, and opposes same-sex marriage. Her proposals have been echoed in a rural area where Trump ate a lot of ground from Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. This 36-year-old woman raised $1.6 million in donations over the summer, three times more than her opponent her. The figure makes it clear that the Republicans seem to finally invest in an area that they previously considered impenetrable.

Lenny Trejo, 63, says he will vote for Flores. Like the congresswoman, he was also born in Tamaulipas, the Mexican state on the other side of the wall. He has been working for more than 30 years for a transportation company that mainly serves northeastern Mexico. “It’s good to be able to vote for someone like us,” he says in Brownsville, a city with a long tradition of progressive voting within the conservative state, but which shows signs of changing to a purple zone, intermediate between the Republican vote (red) and Democrat (blue).

Trejo has never been very interested in politics. He voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and decided not to vote in 2020. His biggest concern right now is the economy and rising prices. “It’s been a really tough two years,” he admits. “Gasoline is through the roof and it’s the first time in years that I’ve had to help my two daughters pay bills,” she says. His pocket, like that of many in this area of ​​a state that is the US energy pillar, suffered from the highest price of fuel in more than 20 years. The economy seems to guide the vote of Hispanics in 2022. Eight out of ten will have it in mind when voting, according to the Pew independent think tank.

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Republican Rep. Mayra Flores of Texas speaks at a campaign event in Mcallen.
Republican Rep. Mayra Flores of Texas speaks at a campaign event in Mcallen.

After the economy, the next concern is health and abortion, a burning issue after the decision of the Supreme Court last June to annul the federal right to abortion by revoking the sentence of Roe vs. Wade.

In Texas, gun control is a major issue after the Uvalde tragedy in May, when an 18-year-old man killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in a majority Latino community. The anger felt by the families of the victims has become a force for change. Many support Beto O’Rourke, the politician who aspires to be the first Democrat to lead the state since Ann Richards in 1991. It seems unlikely: the current governor, Greg Abbott, leads him by almost nine points.

“Historically, 80% of Hispanics were Democrats, but the church has made many go with the Republicans because of their opposition to abortion and gay marriage,” explains Ronald Garza, 58, a Democrat who is fighting to be re-elected. as a county commissioner.

Immigration is also a priority issue. This year all records for arrivals of undocumented immigrants have been broken. For the first time, there were more than two million arrests on the border with Mexico, a phenomenon driven by emigrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. The epicenter of this crisis is Texas, where the governor has opted for a controversial measure: sending immigrants by bus to Northeast Democratic cities, such as Washington and New York. The relocation has a 54% support in the polls. “I am surprised that many of those who came to this country illegally now support being tougher on immigration. They tell me that they arrived by legal means, although I know that is not true. Others tell me that first they and then those who are arriving now, “adds Garza.

“I hope that gun violence and the end of abortion can motivate people to vote more than immigration,” says the Democrat, who won in a very conservative area. Some analysts believe that eight out of ten Hispanics would not vote for a candidate who does not support immigration reform, which would allow the regularization of millions of undocumented immigrants. The Biden Administration made great promises when arriving at the White House on this matter. Two years later, they remain unfulfilled. Biden’s approval among Latinos is 45%.

A non-monolithic vote

It is often said in each electoral cycle that the Latino vote is not monolithic. The issues that dominate local elections in Chicago are not the same ones that motivate the vote in California or Florida. There are also distinctions within racial groups. Latinos of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin are more likely to support Democrats (58% and 52%, respectively) than Cubans, who prefer Republicans (55%).

People attend an event to promote the Latino vote in the Hispanic neighborhood of Maryvale in Phoenix, Arizona.
People attend an event to promote the Latino vote in the Hispanic neighborhood of Maryvale in Phoenix, Arizona.EDGARD GARRIDO (Reuters)

Both major parties need a high turnout to benefit from the Latino vote. Although mid-term elections tend to attract fewer voters, the 2018 election set a record with 50.1%. “Latinos go out to vote in historic numbers despite the fact that we are the group that invests the least in participation,” says Héctor Sánchez Barba, president of the organization Mi Familia Vota.

Another threat to Latinos is the poor quality of information to which they are exposed. The networks and media in Spanish are only present in a handful of states, leaving the rest to social networks and the disinformation that they usually bring in electoral times. The dangers are clear. Congressman Joaquín Castro, who represents San Antonio (Texas), pointed out in a recent colloquium: “Although technology companies have taken some steps to combat disinformation, I am disappointed to see that they tolerate lies in Spanish that they would not allow in English, since they assign the content moderation to translators who are unaware of the Latin culture”.

Facebook promoted more than 2,000 posts during Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign depicting Latinos as invaders of the United States. Before that summer was over, a madman took up Trump’s call to action and drove 10 hours to El Paso, where he killed 23 people and injured more than 20 in an attempt to stop what he called the Hispanic invasion of Texas. ”, recalled the legislator. Two years later, all eyes are once again on Latinos.

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