MIAMI — Versailles, the long-lasting restaurant within the coronary heart of Little Havana, has for many years been Miami’s political hub and a must-stop for politicians attempting to court docket Cuban-People votes.
As individuals sip cafecito and eat croquetas on the landmark restaurant, the excitement right here nowadays is what Cubans say is the alarming rise of Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose unabashed protection of late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has riled Cuban-People who view his feedback as a private assault.
On this essential swing state, Cubans in the Miami area — as soon as largely Republican, however with a youthful era that leans extra liberal — are used to being closely wooed by political candidates who rely on their assist to win votes in South Florida. However Sanders’ rising reputation – even after expressing sympathetic views of Castro and different authoritarian regimes – underscores an issue for Florida Democrats, particularly in South Florida, which has numerous Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans whose households suffered below dictators.
“For me, it is very, very insulting and really unhappy that we’re in a rustic, we left international locations the place we have been working from or escaping from communism and the oppression of human rights violations, to return right here and now be in a rustic the place the front-runner for the Democratic nominee is a identified communist sympathizer,” stated Maria Fernandez Gomez, a voter with Cuban roots. “He has turned off all the Cuban inhabitants in Miami and I might enterprise to say the Venezuelan inhabitants, Nicaraguan inhabitants, due to these feedback that he has made.”
Gomez stated Sanders’ rhetoric is just not solely offensive, it’s private. Her household left Cuba within the 1970s, and so they got here to Florida after being among the many few fortunate Cubans to take “Freedom Flights” to Spain.
“My father was army age when he was on the brink of go away Cuba,” Gomez stated. “They would not let him out. He was an anti-revolutionary and a political prisoner so this hits near dwelling for me.”
There are 1.three million Cubans residing in Florida. Estimates of what number of Venezuelans stay within the state vary from about 60,00Zero to 100,000. These numbers are essential in a purple state the place just some thousand votes might swing the election.
“The fact is that in a state that could be a 2 % state, it is essential. Sixty thousand votes might make the distinction. Cubans are clearly far and past crucial,” stated Eduardo Gamarra, a Florida Worldwide College politics professor. “Amongst Hispanics, the massive concern is that Bernie has sort of turn into the caricature of what the Republicans have painted.”
Gamarra stated if Sanders wins the nomination, will probably be troublesome, if not not possible, for the Cuban and Venezuelan Democrats in Florida to again him.
“For Republicans, will probably be Christmas in August if Bernie will get the nomination. I believe it would even mobilize individuals to vote in opposition to the Democrats,” he stated.
In a current “60 Minutes” interview, Sanders stated: “We’re very against the authoritarian nature of Cuba nevertheless it’s unfair to say every thing’s dangerous. When Castro got here into workplace, what he did? He had a literacy program.”
He has additionally infamously praised the Cuban revolution as “profound,” saying it offered the nation’s individuals with “free well being care, free schooling, and free housing.”
The feedback actually haven’t endeared him to the Cuban-American neighborhood, a as soon as sturdy Republican voting bloc that has been leaning left in recent times.
“I’m a Cuban Democrat. I watched the interview with Bernie Sanders. I’m not a supporter of his to start with however that put the nail within the coffin for me. There may be nothing good with the Castro regime,” stated Raquel Robaina, a Cuban immigrant.
Born in 1960 in Havana, Robaina stated she arrived in Miami when she was two months outdated. She says many Democrats — together with herself — are utterly turned off by how out of contact Sanders is with voters like herself.
“He acknowledged literacy as his instance of one thing good,” Robaina stated. “Literacy is schooling. Who cares if somebody can learn at a excessive degree if all they’re studying is propaganda and lies and so they haven’t any freedom of thought — that’s not schooling. That’s indoctrination. Reasonable Democrats, we don’t agree in any respect with Bernie Sanders’s line of pondering.”
Venezuelan immigrants sing the identical tune, saying they fled the brutal Maduro regime with solely the garments on their again. Sanders was the one Democratic candidate to show a blind eye to the Trump administration’s recognition of Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaidó as that nation’s president.
“I’m a enterprise proprietor now. I left Venezuela in 1994 however my household resides there, and it is an ideal instance, this case occurring in Venezuela, between residing in democracy and residing in socialism. Most people I do know are actually fearful of Bernie Sanders. He could have no alternative right here in Florida,” stated Luis Blanco, a Venezuelan immigrant who owns a burger joint in Sweetwater.
These feedback have been echoed by Elias Attie, 20, a Venezuelan immigrant who got here to Florida two years in the past.
“We don’t wish to cross the identical factor as in Venezuela, as a result of in Venezuela we all know what occurred and we don’t need that to occur right here in U.S.,” Attie stated. “That’s the reason I left.”
Apart from his rhetoric, political analysts say a few of Sanders’ government-run coverage concepts, like his push for “Medicare-for-all,” has some average Latino voters working the opposite manner and presumably towards Trump.
Maria Falcon, 85, who left Cuba for Miami 40 years in the past, stated she’s lived in a socialist nation and it’s not as great as Sanders is portraying it to be.
“Bernie Sanders likes every thing free. Giving meals stamps. College free … he by no means lived in Cuba! If you happen to lived in Cuba, that it’s communism, repression. Persons are hungry, they don’t seem to be given something without cost,” Falcon stated.
Whereas Sanders’ future in Florida nonetheless stays unsure, Latino voters listed here are getting ready to solid their ballots on March 17 within the state’s major.