The Latinx population is plagued with a dilemma in the upcoming 2016 general election: vote for Hillary Clinton, or vote for Hillary Clinton. That appears to be the approach of the mainstream media and supporters of Hilary Clinton in terms of attracting new voters. But, is such an approach fair? Does Hillary Clinton deserve the Latinx vote? The answer is an unequivocal no.
Perhaps it is best to explain what is meant by the phrase “Hillary Clinton does not deserve the Latinx vote.” “Does not deserve” does not connote a show of support for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Nor is it a show of solidarity with third-party candidates Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party, and Jill Stein, of the Green Party.
This is simply an outcry from the Latinx community, to say our votes are earned, not given by default. Just because your opponent has openly criticized and insulted our culture and values, our support is not, and should not be, automatic.
This is a matter of expressing our voices. It is a matter of exposing the hypocrisies of Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment in their dealings with the Latinx community in terms of both domestic and foreign policy.
Domestic Pandering to the Latinx Population
The first of the many reasons that should and must be discussed, is the propensity of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party at-large to pander to Latinx voters. The recent leak of emails from key officials within the Democratic National Committee are evidence of this behavior.
The leaked emails showcase a worrying trend of the main political establishment that sees the Latinx population further exploited. This type of exploitation is most worrying, as the Democratic Party is using the bombastic rhetoric of Donald Trump as a means to expand their own political capital.
Her choice in running mate, Tim Kaine, has been seen by many as a move to garner more support in the Latinx community. This move was understandable. Why reveal a strategy of overt pandering and choose a high-ranking Latinx politician such as Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, that would be disastrous.
It was proper to choose the Minnesota born, former Honduran missionary turned Spanish-speaking lawyer and politician. The time spent in Honduras is key, because this is where he learned “fe, familia y trabajo,” all things the Latinx community can appreciate of course.
What is not appreciated, however, is the exploitation of personal experiences with a particular community, for the sole purpose of garnering votes. These personal experiences are supposed to engender one to the desired demographic, as actions conflict with “lessons learned.” But, this is the reality of politics. The propensity to pander to the domestic Latinx population does not translate in terms of foreign policy towards Latin America.
Clinton and Latin-America: A Complicated History
To begin, the Clinton record in Latin America is abysmal and absolutely horrific. First off, she has blatantly exaggerated the effectiveness of Plan Colombia, which “helped the [Colombian] government figure out how to secure their country from drug traffickers and rebels. And it took a number of years, but now it is a success story.” Of course, it has not been a success story. The policy has seen the increased militarization of Colombia, a country that at the time was already reeling from almost four decades of internal conflict with guerrilla movements (see: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia [FARC] and Ejercito de Liberación Nacional)
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) through this strategy has become known as a narco-trafficker, as well as a guerrilla movement. The group itself has been reeling, with covert operations targeting leadership and tactical positions, leading eventually, to a peace-accord with the Colombian government signed recently in Havana, Cuba.
The differences between the FARC and the Colombian government are deep-rooted and stem from decades of conflict, with Plan Colombia playing a significant part in shaping relations in the final chapters. The conflict has seen the displacement of upward of 5.700.000 people, with Plan Colombia no doubt contributing to the immense number. Despite all of this, and evidence of failure, Washington still “sells neoliberal unicorns” to unsuspecting governments in Latin America.
The push for free-trade agreements (Clinton’s recent opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership aside) has led to political and economic intimidation and violence against those who oppose it in Colombia. Violence has been a preferred source of anti-union sentiment. Recent hope, has not erased doubts for peace.
Old habits are hard to break, and even support from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has done little to prevent violence (the AFL-CIO endorsement of Hillary Clinton, whose policies in the region as a whole helped advance these conditions, contradicts such support).
Honduras has also felt the sting of Clinton interference. Her support for the 2009 coup in Honduras and State Department funding for the encouragement of “anti-violence ‘alliances’ between Honduran community groups and local police and security forces” has not bode well for Honduras.
Since this coup, Honduras has fallen into disrepair. The killing of human rights activists has become a normal occurrence, the most famous being the death of indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Her death, and the subsequent trial have exposed “a lack of transparency” that is a worrying prospect for other human rights activists in the country.
The upheaval in Honduras has created an issue that few people associate with Latin America: a refugee crisis. Clinton and her indifference created a power vacuum that has been filled by criminal gangs and “death squads,” taking advantage of the turmoil.
Refugees escape from horrific circumstances, only to be turned back upon reaching the United States. Some never make it that far, stuck in bureaucratic red-tape while their lives hang in the balance. It is hard to see these events happen. The lives of innocent men, women and children shaped by the inadequacies of the governments tasked with ensuring their well-being, is maddening.
The violence against those who wish to remove the stigma of oppressive government, and policies which see people displaced is appalling. With vocal opponents of infrastructural developments, such as Cáceres, legitimizes numerous Honduran “death squads.” Denials and suspending financial support mean nothing, as there is a history of meddling that disproves their effectiveness (see: CIA, Clinton emails, and Clinton support of Honduran business interests).
The Support of U.S. Business Interests Abroad
The United States does not support leftist governments in Latin America, this is clear if one looks at the history. What history also makes clear, is that political officials in the United States often have ties to corporations in countries where their business interests are possibly threatened.
State-owned corporations pose the biggest threat to these interests. The privatization of state-owned oil companies has a renewed relevancy. Clinton, and her State Department, played a role in the institution of energy reforms made by the Mexican government to PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos). Denial of U.S. involvement by the Mexican government has done nothing to remove suspicion.
State-monopolies such as PEMEX, in place since the 1930’s, are rarities in a time where privatization of industry is the norm. The propensity to privatize occurs at highs in the market that are too good to be true. Investors flock, but when the inevitable occurs, markets crash and governments are forced to pick up the pieces.
What is Left to Consider?
With a working knowledge of Hillary Clinton and her record in influencing events in Latin America, directly and indirectly, it becomes clear that what is said differs from what is actually done. It is clear that the Latinx community exists, based off Mrs. Clinton’s record, for the sole purpose of advancing her political ambitions.
It is important to consider the impact of this election for the Latinx population, not only in 2016, but beyond. Which candidate will be able to pass comprehensive immigration reform, chip away at income inequality, increase education opportunities, and increase Latinx voter turnout?
These are important questions that need to be answered before November 8th. The Latinx vote has become significant, and Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are quite aware. But to them, our community, our people, our struggles matter but once every four years. This is unacceptable. We are not just pawns to be manipulated for the sake of political theater.
Our vote matters. Our voice matters. Our people matter.
We are the change we want. We are the change we need. We must not surrender to the fears of tomorrow, for there is no use of being afraid of what is already a reality.
They are not our savior; history has proven it.
Nathaniel Santos Hernández graduated from the University of Maine in 2016 with a degree in Anthropology. He is a graduate student/research assistant at Boston University’s Latin American Studies program. Nathaniel tweets from @saint_nate12.