OPINION

Opinion: Xenophobia is a dangerous political weapon

BIRCH RUN, MI - AUGUST 11: People protest the appearance of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the venue where he will be delivering the keynote address at the Genesee and Saginaw Republican Party Lincoln Day Event August 11, 2015 in Birch Run, Michigan. This is Trump's first campaign event since his Republican debate last week. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

BIRCH RUN, MI - AUGUST 11: People protest the appearance of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the venue where he will be delivering the keynote address at the Genesee and Saginaw Republican Party Lincoln Day Event August 11, 2015 in Birch Run, Michigan. This is Trump's first campaign event since his Republican debate last week. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

In two different contexts and at opposite poles of the ideological spectrum, we are witnessing the irresponsible use of xenophobia in the electoral field — by Donald Trump in the United States and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. 

In the same way as Hitler and his propaganda apparatus blamed the Jews for the hyperinflation that occurred at the tragic end of the Weimar Republic, or other European countries for the restraints to Germany’s development imposed by the Versailles Treaty, now Trump and Maduro, from ideological extremes that converge and with different objectives, have resorted to the same protocol of baseness.

Trump’s hate speech mobilizes radicals and helps him in his efforts to co-opt an organization that, without noticing it, is departing from its historical roots; thus, the party of Abraham Lincoln is now transformed into a promoter of social exclusion.

- Leopoldo Martinez Nucete

In the U.S., the eccentric Trump says that all the country's problems are the fault of Mexico and China and immigrants of Hispanic origin. Based on these beliefs, he is proposing the deportation of 11 million people, destroying lives and dividing families. But he doesn’t stop there; he also suggested annulling the constitutional right to U.S. citizenship of those born on American soil to undocumented immigrant parents.

Trump is surfing on the wave of an "anti-politics" sentiment of which the Republican Party is currently victim of, after having cultivated it without measuring the risks. Trump’s hate speech mobilizes radicals and helps him in his efforts to co-opt an organization that, without noticing it, is departing from its historical roots; thus, the party of Abraham Lincoln is now transformed into a promoter of social exclusion. Truly amazing!

But this narrative is not only irresponsible; it also lacks any basis in reality. The U.S. economy is undergoing a formidable recovery and strengthening which obviously includes energy independence; and Hispanics, undocumented or otherwise, are one of the groups that contribute most to economic growth in terms of work and entrepreneurship. In fact, reliable studies have revealed that Hispanics represent 30 percent of the founders of new small and medium enterprises in the U.S. 

Official figures also show that of all ethnic groups or nationalities, Hispanics, and particularly undocumented immigrants, are the segment of society with the least propensity to commit crimes. What’s more, undocumented Hispanics represent the social group with the lowest rate of violent crime, particularly rape, which was one of those crimes mentioned by Trump in his generalization. 

So, what is Trump talking about? Very simple, he shouts lies that cause division and makes misleading proposals based on the politics of fear.

In Venezuela Nicolás Maduro is similarly occupied. Without any consideration for the rights of the thousands of people affected, he is trying to place the blame for the huge and undeniable failure of his economic policies on the frontier with Colombia, a failure which is in fact the product of 15 years of continuous errors aggravated by his presidency.

Today Venezuela is suffering ills caused by failures directly attributable to Maduro: continuous devaluation (the exchange rate system is complex and absurd, and even after the creation of the so-called SIMADI there has been no sustained effort to provide dollars through it); shortages caused by government policies which have made Venezuela importers of everything, even coffee. Oil prices have collapsed (with no appropriate provision having been made for this turn of events) while the country's daily production capacity has fallen — almost 500,000 barrels per day are committed to paying back the enormous loans received from China, without anyone knowing how these resources were spent. And all of this combines with hyperinflation and a soaring crime rate, also the result of the aforementioned errors.

Now, after various failed attempts to fabricate a scapegoat, Maduro is playing the xenophobia card. The curious thing is that, unlike Trump, who is trying to win power as an anti-politics outsider, Maduro is making his move from a presidency that is at death’s door due to a lack of both ideas and people with the capacity to reverse the collapse that is strangling Venezuela.

Furthermore, while the opinion polls currently show Trump with a lead over other Republican hopefuls and so with the possibility of winning his party’s nomination and further polarizing the national political scene, it’s hard to see Maduro having even the slightest political success from what he is doing that would have an impact on the 20 point margin he trails behind the opposition.

However, both Trump and Maduro have achieved something with their doctrine of hate; they have sowed division and made already complex problems even more difficult to solve. In fact, their solution will only be viable through broad national understandings — sufficiently inclusive to garner trust, confidence and hope.

Leopoldo Martínez Nucete is a former Venezuelan congressman currently living in Washington, DC, where he is the CEO of the Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas (@cddamericas) and the Chair of the Latino Victory Project National Committee (@LatinoVictoryUS). He tweets at @lecumberry.

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