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Florida Democrats seek to win Latinos over gun control

Annette Taddeo took to a podium overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami and described to her audience how she fled terrorism as a teenager in Colombia and now fears for the safety of her 16-year-old daughter in a American public school.

A bright blue and orange bus behind the Democratic candidate for Congress carried this message in Spanish: “A future without violence”.

“Latinos are here because of the American Dream, and it’s really hard to do that when you’re worried about the safety of your children,” said Taddeo, a state senator who challenges Republican Congresswoman María Elvira. Salazar.

Few places have disappointed Democrats in 2020 as deeply as South Florida. A shift among Latinos to the GOP contributed to several unexpected losses in home races and helped then-President Donald Trump lift Florida by more than 3 percentage points.

Democrats are campaigning differently this year as they aim to connect party priorities to the personal experiences of a group that often feels overlooked in national politics.

The effort comes at an unstable time for Latinos in Florida. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis brought national attention to immigration after he arranged to airlift a group of Venezuelans from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as part of a government-funded relocation program. state for migrants who are illegally in the country.

While some Democratic-affiliated Venezuelans and Latinos condemned it as a “cruel stunt,” some exiles applauded DeSantis’ actions. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American, apparently wrote a column in Spanish for a conservative online platform. siding with DeSantis by raising concerns that migrants entering the United States from Mexico could be criminals freed by Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

Gun violence, meanwhile, is a particularly potent problem in Florida, where two of the deadliest mass shootings in recent years have taken place. Spanish-language media gave extensive coverage to both the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a predominantly Hispanic region, and the 2018 penalty trial of the shooter who attacked a high school in Parkland, Florida.

In an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in June, 35% of Latinos named gun issues in an open-ended question allowing people to identify up to five issues on which the government will work next year. This against 18% at the end of 2021 and 10% in 2020.

“This topic has risen to prominence in the consciousness of the Latino community,” said Stephen Nuño-Perez, a polling analyst with BSP Research who researches Latino voter concerns for the Education Fund of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed (NALEO).

A gun control group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 shooting in Tucson that killed six people and injured more than a dozen, chose Florida for a state-specific initiative and selected a list of candidates to support.

The Giffords’ political committee has given $15,500 to more than three dozen Latino candidates across the country, and the group has invested $1 million in Florida so far this cycle.

In Texas, ads and billboards attacked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, using remarks he made during one of the news conferences after the Robb Elementary School shooting in his state, when he said it ‘could have been worse’ while initially praising the law. law enforcement response to the shooting. Later it was revealed that nearly 400 law enforcement officers at the scene waited outside for more than an hour before the 18-year-old gunman was shot in a classroom.

“It’s a kitchen table problem,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control group.

“We think we have a real opportunity, especially in Florida, where there have been so many tragic and high-profile acts of gun violence, where there’s such an epidemic of gun violence, to really change the votes.”

Gun violence is killing a growing number of children in the United States, with 1,562 deaths among those 17 or younger in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive website, which tracks shootings of more than 7,500 law enforcement personnel. , media, government and commercial sources.

Even though Latin American countries have strict gun restrictions, gun death rates are high due to gang violence, which is fueled by illegal gun trafficking.

For some Cubans, however, gun control is irrelevant.

Isabel Caballero, a 96-year-old Cuban, said she would not support any gun restrictions. In the years following the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista by Fidel Castro and his rebels in 1959, Cubans were encouraged to register guns and later authorities used a list to go door to door encouraging people to hand over the guns.

“‘Firearms, what for?’ That’s what he was saying. People turned them over and then the only people who had guns were them,” Caballero said of Castro and his allies. “Lesson? Don’t let them go.

But other Cubans who arrived later in Miami said they were more willing to support change, saying they thought it was not right for children to be scared in school.

“You can find guns everywhere, anywhere. You have $400 and you can get it. It shouldn’t be like this,” said Amauris Puebla, who came from Cuba in 1994.

Puebla was playing a game at Domino Park one recent morning in Little Havana when Taddeo and Rep. Val Demings, the Democrat challenging Rubio for the Senate, pulled up on the gun security bus.

Demings asked her if she could play. She won.


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