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In a campaign ad currently airing on Spanish-language television in Florida, a young woman identified as “Cecilia” of Kissimmee, Fla., is shown driving around and reflecting on the things she misses about Venezuela — her grandmother, the house she grew up in, her friends — and the reasons why she and her family fled.
“Socialism, for me as a Venezuelan, was one of the keys that destroyed my country,” Cecilia says in Spanish, a pink plastic crucifix dangling from the rearview mirror in front of her. A wide shot of the outside of her car reveals “Biden-Harris” painted on one of the windows.
“It might sound wild to compare Donald Trump with Nicolás Maduro,” she continues, “but the reality is that they are very similar.” She lists some of what Trump has in common with Maduro: “His authoritarianism, his violations of freedom of speech, his fear of opposition.”
“People need to understand that what’s happening in the United States is not the same as what happened in Venezuela, but it’s very similar,” she says.
The minute-long television spot, “Son Muy Similares,” or “They’re Very Similar,” was released last week as part of a final push by the Biden-Harris campaign to counter an onslaught of disinformation from pro-Trump sources aimed at Florida’s large and diverse population of Hispanic voters — in particular, the idea that the former vice president is a socialist who wants to make the United States like Venezuela.
Trump has repeatedly promoted this idea on Twitter and at campaign rallies in Florida, calling Biden “weak on socialism” and a “proven Castro puppet.” Last month, when left-wing Colombian senator and former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro tweeted his support for Biden — an endorsement that was quickly rejected by Biden campaign officials — the Trump campaign quickly put out a Spanish-language ad using the tweet to connect the former vice president to Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Vice President Mike Pence has used similar talking points while rallying Hispanic supporters in Florida, including at an event last month at the Cuban Memorial in Miami’s Tamiami Park, where Pence criticized Biden for the Obama administration’s normalization of relations with Cuba.
In the last two weeks of the election alone, the Biden campaign has spent six figures on targeted advertising to Hispanic voters in media markets across the state, according to a campaign spokesperson. Biden’s Florida operation has been ramping up voter outreach across the state, including through a number of small, in-person events. Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have been making the local media rounds, giving interviews to popular Spanish-language TV, print and radio outlets over the past weekend alone.
Though the effort is broadly aimed at educating voters on Biden’s record and campaign proposals, much of the focus in Florida has been on convincing Spanish-speaking voters, many of them refugees from communist Cuba or socialist Venezuela, or immigrants from neighboring Colombia, that Biden won’t turn the U.S. into a version of those societies. For example, the headline for an interview published Friday with Diario Las Americas, the country’s second-oldest Spanish-language newspaper, read, “Joe Biden: Yo no soy un socialista” (“I am not a socialist”). Like the ad featuring Cecilia, videos recently posted on social media in English and Spanish by grassroots coalitions like Venezolanos con Biden or Latinos contra Trump have similarly attempted to tackle disinformation by turning the focus back to Trump.
But the socialist label is just one piece of a broader tapestry of falsehoods Biden is up against. Politico reported last month that Hispanic residents of South Florida have been inundated via WhatsApp, Facebook and even local radio airwaves with other types of pernicious propaganda about the former vice president, including baseless pedophilia claims and other racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories echoing QAnon.
Biden has maintained a substantial lead over Trump among Latino voters, who make up 17 percent of the electorate in this crucial swing state. However, according to Politico, his ability to make gains within this Democratic-leaning demographic has been hindered by a deluge of disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Hispanic Democrats at the state and federal level have spoken out against specific examples, including the claim by a local businessman who reportedly paid for 16 minutes of airtime on a local radio station to argue that a victory for Biden in November would lead to a dictatorship led by Jews and Blacks. Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami heard the program on the radio and criticized the radio station on Twitter, prompting the outlet to apologize and ban the commentator from its airwaves.
The Biden campaign has called on the Trump campaign and Florida Republicans to speak out against this toxic rhetoric.
“It’s the same sinister tactics used in Latin America by dictators, and they have no place in our country,” Kevin Munoz, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign in Florida, said in a statement, describing the paid program as “a cynical, disgusting, anti-Semitic and racist attempt to divide Hispanics along lines of race and identity and discourage their participation in the most important election of our lifetime.
“Any Republican who stays silent on these tactics is condoning them,” he said.
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