By: Sal Nuzzo
October 29, 2020
The 2000 presidential election’s outcome was determined in the state of Florida, which George W. Bush won with just a 537-vote margin. Fresh off the heels of the snatch-and-grab operation to take young Elian Gonzalez back to the Castro regime, Florida’s Cuban community rebelled against Al Gore and turned the election over to Bush.
But Democrats’ Sunshine State pain extends far beyond 2000. In fact, in two of their last three defeats, Democrats would have won the White House if they had just held on to the state.
It appears that Florida and its 29 electoral votes will play a pivotal role in a presidential election yet again, and dissidents of oppressive Latin American regimes could determine the final outcome.
The polls, for what they’re worth, show that the race in this battleground state is very tight. The president knows it, which is why he has been holding rally after rally in the Sunshine State.
But if Trump wants to secure victory in Florida, there’s one thing he should do that’s far more important than continuing to visit it. That’s toning down his rhetoric on the “socialist” Left in the United States.
Yes, we all know what Biden’s health care and energy plans resemble. Still, the term “socialist” that Republicans have been understandably throwing around offends many Cubans and South Americans in Florida. They associate that label with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro—leaders who have committed genocide and other atrocious crimes against them. Put simply, they just don’t see Joe Biden as being of that ilk, and they perceive Republicans’ attempts to give him this label a disingenuous fear tactic to secure their vote.
In short, rogue bureaucrats in the Trump administration have prevented the government from liquidating Venezuelan assets to right the regime’s wrongs. Many Florida voters have understandably perceived this move as feckless coddling of a country that has caused so much pain and frustration for themselves and their immediate families.
Take one of the most high-profile examples—Crystallex, a mining company whose property was stolen by Hugo Chavez. The company’s motives were pure. It wanted to invest more than $500 million into infrastructure and other projects that would help the country’s most vulnerable communities. However, because it refused to engage in the pay-to-play schemes that the regime demanded, Chavez nationalized its mine outright.
The Venezuelan government was clearly in the wrong, and the justice system agreed. A World Bank arbitration awarded the company $1.4 billion for the illegal seizure. The Court of Appeals ruled in Crystallex’s favor, stating that the U.S. government could liquidate the assets of Citgo, an oil company owned and controlled by the Venezuelan state. The Supreme Court appeared to agree by declining to hear Venezuela’s appeal. But the Treasury Department has since protected Venezuela from having to pay up and respect private property rights.In doing so, they deprived citizens and businesses of their private property rights, all while angering a core voter bloc and a state that the president must win over.
The president has been a stalwart advocate of freedom in Venezuela, but in this case, unelected bureaucrats are sending mixed messages. It’s as counterproductive to the president’s election prospects as it is against free-market politics.
Sal Nuzzo is the Vice President of Policy for the Florida-based James Madison Institute.