BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – When far-right economist Javier Miley was sworn in as Argentina’s new president last month, his supporters took to the streets of the capital, Buenos Aires, wearing national flags and Messi soccer jerseys.
Scattered among the sea of pale blue and white was a handful of Venezuelan flags — a recurring sight at Milei’s campaign meetings.
Holding one of them was Laura Ruiz. Ruiz enthusiastically waved his flag as Miley left the presidential palace to speak. Her hope, she said, is for Milei to see the flag and know that Venezuelans support her.
The 36-year-old immigrant has yet to register to vote in October’s election, but he says he has become “indirectly” involved in the political process, speaking out against Milei and the leftists in his circle.
It’s an increasingly common story in Argentina and throughout the Americas. Suffering from economic collapse, widespread corruption and crackdowns on civil liberties linked to the socialist leadership in their homeland, many of the millions of Venezuelans have thrown their support behind right-wing movements on the continent. The diaspora’s activism comes amid warnings from right-wing forces about the risk of the spread of Venezuela-style socialism.
Ariel Goldstein, a political scientist at the University of Buenos Aires, said: “Venezuela represents something like the nightmare of communism… The right wing in the region found in Venezuela a clear image that symbolizes the failure of this system.”
Throughout his campaign, Miley has worn chains at rallies to emphasize his support for cutting government spending. In his first speech as presidenthe said failure to follow through on these austerity plans would send the country into “a downward spiral that will bring us the darkness of Chavez and Maduro’s Venezuela.” Refers to Hugo Chávez, who was president from 1998 to 2013, and his chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro. Two other right-wing figures to whom Miley is often compared — Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro — have tried to mobilize voters with similar rhetoric.
Experts say there is a receptive audience for such discourse among the growing Venezuelan diaspora in the region. In recent years, More than 7.5 million people Leaving Venezuela, they started the worst migration crisis in modern Latin American history.
Many begin new lives with strong opposition to left-wing movements or candidates, attributing it to the dysfunction they need to leave behind.
in the United States, o dynamic has hStrengthening Latino support for Republicans in Florida, contributes right-wing shift in recent elections in the swing position for a long time. Similar changes may be at work across the continent, which has a high concentration of recent Venezuelan migrants.
A few weeks before Milei won in Argentina, he picked up his next win in Ecuador with regional right-hander Daniel Noboa. He was too Supported by the Venezuelan diaspora support.
“The conditions that force you to leave Venezuela make you see everything in black and white,” said Eugenio Martínez, a Venezuelan political analyst based in Florida. “But the politics of host countries is not black and white.”
Active on social media – even if they can’t vote
Originally from the port city of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Elisabet Hernández currently lives in Córdoba, Argentina. He said Argentina was worried about high inflation and supply shortages under the last, leftist administration, which brought back memories of daily life in Venezuela.
“I was very depressed,” Hernández said.
During Argentina’s presidential campaign last year, Hernández’s TikTok account, titled “atrapada en socialismo,” or “trapped in socialism,” garnered tens of thousands of views. In his videos, he said he “came from the future” to warn Argentines about the ultimate consequences of socialism, and urged viewers to support Mile. He also distributed pro-Milei flyers in city parks.
“Many people have written to me to say that hearing about my experience has been eye-opening,” she said.
According to Martínez, the Venezuelan diaspora is more politically active than other immigrant communities. After all, the group has formed the opinion that the root of the country’s problems lies mainly in the mismanagement of the ruling regime. Many were expelled due to political persecution.
“The Venezuelan diaspora is extremely politically active, both around what’s happening in Venezuela and in the local politics of where they are now,” Martinez said.
As relative newcomers to their countries of residence, most Venezuelan migrants are unlikely to become citizens, meaning they cannot yet vote. But many have found powerful platforms in social media to share their thoughts.
In Argentina, the right-wing social media ecosystem has proven crucial in helping Miley rise from the fringes — esp among young voters – appears regularly writings Venezuelans warned against voting left.
Jose Mago, a 33-year-old Venezuelan immigrant living in Buenos Aires, started his TikTok account thinking he would use it as a travel blog. But after several videos were released empowering Miley and criticizing the left, she says she decided to dedicate her account to politics.
Edilbert Mendoza, 21, is a medical student who immigrated to Argentina from Venezuela four years ago. It’s days before the election Uploaded a video on TikTok from the Milei rally where he urged Argentines to “vote the right way”.
“The Cubans warned us and 1705690561 We are warning you,” he continued. The clip has garnered millions of views and was shared by Miley herself on the Internet.
“We’ve been very effective here,” Mendoza said in an interview.
The abundance of stories like those of Mendoza and Mago does not mean that the Venezuelan diaspora is monolithic. But more liberal-leaning Venezuelans are more cautious when it comes to politics in the Venezuelan enclaves.
Adelys Ferro is a member of the group Biden v. Venezolano and a resident of Weston, Miami – named Westonzuela for its large Venezuelan community. In the run-up to the 2020 election, it became difficult for him to wear a Biden shirt to the supermarket. social stigma others have also reported.
“I wouldn’t say there’s more respect now,” Ferro said of the dynamic within South Florida’s Venezuelan community.
Still, Ferro is more hopeful about the Democratic message in 2024 because “Biden has been in office for three years and there’s no socialism.”
The position on Maduro is a political litmus test
in response to unprecedented level of migration In some countries in the hemisphere, right-wing figures have made anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalism a key part of connecting with voters.
At a campaign rally in December, former President Donald Trump echoed white racist rhetoric when he said immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.” Concern over immigration in Chile and outright xenophobia He helped against the Venezuelans influence on the far right is rising. Immigration could also play a role In the presidential elections scheduled to be held in Mexico at the end of this year.
But could a nativist stance or policies that limit immigration prevent a group of migrants like the Venezuelan diaspora from supporting right-wing politicians? Experts say it is impossible. That’s one of the lessons learned from Florida’s recent electoral swing. where Gov. Ron DeSantis wins again–Election in 2022 with 58% Latino vote despite sending two planes of mostly Venezuelan asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in what critics decried as a political stunt.
“It seems that the Venezuelan migrant cares more about politicians who criticize the Venezuelan government and Maduro than about their immigration policies,” Martinez said.
Florida is also emblematic of the political influence that long-established diasporas can have, especially on foreign policy. For decades, Cuban American voters and lawmakers have successfully influenced Congress and various presidential administrations to take a hard line on US-Cuba relations. Achieving a similar level of organization could help the Venezuelan diaspora diplomatically isolate the current Chavista regime.
The situation in Argentina is still dire. The country ended 2023 by one year inflation has exceeded 200%, and Milei warned that the economic picture will get worse before it gets better. However, the new president has already implemented some parts of his agenda. reduces the role of the state. He also severed diplomatic ties with Caracas.
Venezuelan immigrants are encouraged. Some even put off plans to leave the US to try their luck on Hernandez’s TikTok account.