With less than 24 hours for the polls to open, both presidential candidates are making one last push to persuade any undecided voters. Record numbers already show the impact the Hispanic vote is going to have in the 2020 election, and one group making its mark is the Venezuelan American vote.
“When it comes to Venezuela and Venezuelans, we have to think not only about the domestic issues that are affecting the Venezuelan community here in the United States,” Samuel Vilchez, a Venezuelan American said. “We also have to think about our relationship with our country back home.”
Vilchez, who has a political science degree and is president of the movement Familias Presentes in Orlando, is among the almost 90,000 Venezuelan Americans registered to vote in Florida.
“What we’ve seen is an incredible growth of the Venezuelan vote over the last four years or so, which means that there’s a lot of new voters who are up for grabs from both political parties,” Vilchez said. “The Venezuelan vote is also a long-term project because based on demographic data, we know that Venezuelans will grow as a share of the Hispanic electorate as well as the Florida electorate overall.”
Because it’s a community that’s shown great political interest, the director of the Hispanic Federation Florida said they’re working with local organizations to help them better understand the political system--one very different from the system 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled from.
“We have seen now how we have more Venezuelan Americans engage in the political process,” Yanidsi Vélez, director of the Hispanic Federation Florida, said. “We have noticed how this community has grown and has become very influential in local elections and local politics.”
The nonpartisan organization said for the past year and a half, they’ve been organizing events to educate the Venezuelan community. Recently a Venezuelan caravan was held in Kissimmee with the purpose of providing voter information.
“Not only to motivate them to get out to vote but really to understand the democracy that we’re living in the United States. How this system works for the community, for the people,” Vélez said.
It’s a system in which both political parties are working hard to win over.
“Right now as they come here and they come to political terms with this new reality, they’re listening. And both parties wanna make sure that in the long term they have Venezuelans behind them,” Vilchez said.
However, according to some political analysts, there seems to be greater support for the Republican party. University of Central Florida political science Prof. Aubrey Jewett said that support has to do a lot with the message of socialism.
“Many Venezuelans have come here over the last decade or so because of the economic collapse of Venezuela and the political collapse of Venezuela. It has become a socialist country,” Jewett said. “When the Republicans and Donald Trump talk about Joe Biden and the Liberal progressive wing of the democratic party being socialist, that really rings a bell for many Venezuelans who have moved to Florida. It’s not just a word. It’s something that has affected their life. It’s why they left the country that they love.”
Jewett added the Venezuelan American vote in the 2020 election will be critical.
“If you look back over the last decade, Venezuelans are one of the fastest-growing Hispanic groups in Florida,” Jewett said. “They’re looking at which president they think will do the most to get rid of Nicholas Maduro, get rid of socialism and get Venezuela back to being a prosperous politically free country.”