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Cuban Americans show strong support for Trump

A Trump win in Miami-Dade County could be disastrous for Joe Biden, according to a University of Miami lecturer.
Donald Trump speaks to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
In October 2016, then-republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association in Miami. Photo: Associated Press

Drive by Westchester in western Miami-Dade County, a predominately Hispanic area, on any weekend and numerous cars and trucks sporting “Vote for Trump” or “Trump 2020” flags can be seen.

This is a visible sign of Cuban American support for the president. In a county that is predominately democratic, the support of the Cuban American electorate, which is traditionally Republican, could upend former Vice President Joeseph Biden’s chances at winning Florida and the presidency. 

In a recent poll of 500 likely voters by Bendixen and Amandi International, a firm led by Fernand Amandi, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami, 73 percent of Cuban Americans polled had a favorable opinion of President Donald J. Trump. 

“Biden needs to win Miami-Dade County overwhelmingly to take Florida,” said Amandi. “There are not enough votes that Biden can make up in other counties of the state to win the state if he underperforms badly in Miami-Dade.”  

Why do Cuban Americans support Trump? 

“Cubans generally like people who are forceful and aggressive and convey strength and for better or for worse, Trump does convey those things,” said Amandi.  

Many see Trump as the stereotype of the “caudillo,” or strongman, who has used his pulpit to speak out strongly against the communist regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, he said.  

“The perception is that he is an anti-communist and that he will stand up against communist regimes in a way that Obama was not perceived to have done,” said Michael Touchton, associate professor of political science. Many remember that Obama renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba and removed the wet foot-dry foot policy, which facilitated entry to the United States for Cuban refugees. 

Republicans have also successfully labeled democrats as “socialists,” which is a word that brings back memories to many Cuban exiles of Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela, said Touchton. He said the label has stuck because many associate democrats with people like Bernie Sanders, who defines himself as a democratic socialist and supports progressive causes like universal healthcare and universal free education. 

“This does not mean that progressive democrats support socialism like the Cuban government and the former USSR during the Cold War,” he said. “But for those families who lived in socialist dictatorships or who are leaving those governments now—like the Venezuelans—they see the label as a logical step.” 

Taking advantage of those sentiments, Trump has also been campaigning in Miami almost nonstop since his 2016 victory—gaining the support of Cuban exile groups such as the Brigade 2506, veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Only two weeks ago, the president invited members of the group to the White House for a special event.

The president also has imposed sanctions on the island. On Sept. 23, he announced sanctions against Cuba that prohibited visiting U.S. residents from residing at Cuban government-owned properties and importing Cuban cigars and liquor. These were added to other 2019 sanctions that limited travel to the island.

Ironically, on the same week as the latest sanctions, a report in the Spanish-language paper El Nuevo Herald revealed that Trump tried to register the Trump trademark in Cuba in 2008 in an effort to invest in real estate with hopes of building hotels and even casinos on the island.  

Trump associates continued to travel to the island as late as 2013 to find business deals even though there is an embargo against Cuba. 

Will this attempt at rapprochement with the Cuban government affect Trump in this election? 

“It is doubtful that new information about Trump will impact his supporters,” said Amandi. “Cuban Americans in Miami have embraced Trump as one of their own. There is a lot of rationalization and apologizing for behavior that for nearly anyone else would be abhorrent or a game ender.”