Flagler Mask 2,” Cayobo

October 30, 2020; Miami Herald

In an interview with Univisión in late October, Jorge Ramos asked former ambassador Otto Reich, “Do you really think Joe Biden is a socialist? Is this critique even valid?” To which he responded, “I don’t think Joe Biden is a socialist, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that the Democrat candidate got there after negotiating with socialists like Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, the vice president candidate Kamala Harris, and other members of the Democrat Party who are socialists and extreme leftists.”

Otto Reich’s anti-communist stance is well known and stretches back to the Iran-Contra affair, but his lifelong obsession continued relentlessly in work as recent as a coup attempt against Chavez in Venezuela, against a leftist presidential candidate in El Salvador, and in direct support for the coup in Honduras. The son of exiles from Nazi Germany and Cuba, Otto Reich fled Cuba with his parents at age 15. He’s intimately familiar with Latin Americans’ fear of authoritarian governments, both right-wing and left-wing. His ties to Cuban Americans in Florida go deep, as he began his diplomatic career as International Representative of the State of Florida Department of Commerce.

This is not to say Reich was directly involved in manufacturing propaganda for Florida’s election, but it does explain the mood among Florida’s Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan exiles as misinformation began to flood that swing state. Back in February, when Bernie Sanders was still a primary candidate, the Democratic Party in Florida was up in arms when he praised Fidel Castro’s literacy program in an interview with 60 Minutes.

“I’m totally disgusted and insulted,” Lourdes Diaz, the president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus in Broward County, Florida, told the New York Times. “Maybe this will open people’s eyes to how super, super liberal and radical Bernie is. I’m not going to defend him anymore. I’m over it.”

The issue of US elections and socialism quickly started making headlines in Latin America, from newspapers like Mexico’s La Jornada with their headline, “AMLO, Chávez and Castro, on the US electoral board game” to Chile’s Clarín in Chile with “Donald Trump gave reassurance that he will always be against socialism in Venezuela.”

Politico covered in September the wild conspiracy theories that had been flooding Florida’s social media, including multiple accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp of QAnon Español. Although the Latinx population in the US is very diverse both politically, racially, and economically, advocates in Florida complained that they had never seen propaganda like this before.

“I’ve never seen this level of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and lies,” said Evelyn Pérez-Verdia, a Latina Democratic strategist, to Politico. “It looks as if it has to be coordinated.”

CNN Español covered a town hall led by Biden on October 5th in Miami, Florida, and pretty much ignored all interventions except accusations against Biden of being a socialist. “Do I look like a socialist? Look, I’m the guy who ran against the socialist,” said Biden.

By then, it was too late, despite the mobilization of several groups in support of the Democrat presidential candidate, including the group Venezolanos con Biden. The loss of Florida this election made it clear that it will be an uphill battle to fight against misleading propaganda for years to come.—Sofia Jarrin