Guest Viewpoints

Bob Menendez: I Know an Authoritarian when I See One

September 17, 2020
By Bob Menendez

We are living in a time unlike any other in modern history. After four years of a president who peddles in fear, stokes violence, pits communities against one another and ignores the needs of the American people – even in the midst of a global pandemic – our nation is desperate for change.

As the highest-ranking Latino in the U.S. Congress, I am intimately familiar with the impact that Donald Trump’s negligence and complete abdication of leadership has had on Hispanic families. From his failure to respond to a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately impacted and killed Latinos, to separating children from their parents, deporting Cubans and Venezuelans, threatening Dreamers and TPS holders with deportation, deliberately withholding relief funds from our fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and denying asylum to people fleeing tyrants, Donald Trump’s heartless policies reveal his true intentions.

Trump has used the power of his office to tear our nation apart. His lies and his failures have quite literally cost Latinos their lives and livelihoods. We need real leadership.

In my 28 years in Congress, I have fought for democracy, freedom and human rights and against dictatorships around the globe—from China, to Cuba’s communist regime, to Maduro's socialist catastrophe. My family has lived under dictators in Cuba. I know an authoritarian when I see one.

When the President of the United States calls the free press the enemy of the people, I hear the words of dictators.

When the President sends in troops to silence peaceful protestors, as he did outside the White House for a photo op, I see the Castros who routinely use state forces against political dissidents.

When the President does not respect the decisions of the courts and refuses to let Dreamers apply for deportation protections—that is what an authoritarian does.

When Donald Trump believes he is above the law and will do anything to win an election even accepting foreign help or encouraging supporters to illegally vote twice, I see a power-hungry Maduro ignoring the will of the people.

I never imagined that the United States would have to confront our very own Caudillo in the making, not after the misery and devastation so many of us have seen inflicted by anti-democratic and failed leaders from Caracas to Havana to Managua.

Yet, we have watched in horror as President Trump sold out our values to cozy up to North Korea’s dictator and weakened our national security by allowing Putin to put a bounty on the heads of our soldiers. He has waged a campaign of fear-mongering, trying to paint immigrants as rapists and criminals, a free press as the enemy of the people, and Democrats as socialists.

Not since the McCarthy era of the 1950s has a Republican politician made such a shameless attempt to paint his political opponents as socialists. But Donald Trump is the one you have to fear, and Joe Biden is no socialist.

For more than two decades, I’ve known Joe Biden as an American leader who stands up for democracy, fights for human rights, and knows that the United States is safer when people around the world live in freedom.

I’ve worked with Joe for years. I know his heart and passion for public service. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, he personally came to New Jersey to help address the devastation that ravaged my home state and delivered more than rolls of paper towels. Throughout his career, he’s demonstrated a capacity to lead with empathy and care for working people. These are characteristics lacking in our current leadership.

Joe Biden knows the Hispanic community, and we know him. We can count on him to do everything necessary to defeat COVID-19 and build our country back to a place where immigrants are welcomed instead of turned away, where our seniors are prioritized instead of denied their hard-earned social security, and where parents can rest easier knowing that their children are safe and getting a quality education. And while Trump refused to support my bill to grant temporary protective status to an estimated 200,000 Venezuelans, with Joe, we can have a president committed to extending TPS to Venezuelan exiles.

Joe understands the importance of Hispanic small business owners as community leaders, entrepreneurs and job creators, and has a plan to help struggling Latino families. In August, Biden’s campaign launched Nuestros Negocios, Nuestro Futuro, a national program created to empower Hispanic small business owners and provide them with an equal opportunity to succeed.

And unlike Trump, Biden backs up his words with action and results. The Obama-Biden economic recovery programs helped cut Latino unemployment by more than half from 2009 to 2016. And Joe led the administration’s Central America strategy that invested $750 million in assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

That’s why I’m proud to endorse Joe Biden for president and Kamala Harris for vice president. They know what it will take to move us forward, what it will take to lift our community up, and they have the experience to make it happen.

We need change, but it cannot happen without you. Here in Florida, every registered voter has the right to vote safely by mail, during early voting, or on Election Day. In 2016, the vote margin in Florida was just over one percent. Every ballot will count, so make a plan to cast yours for Biden-Harris and their vision for an America that works for us all.

Bob Menendez is a Cuban-American, New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the highest-ranking Latino in Congress.

The article was originally published in www.univision.com


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