The first time I hear the derogatory term “gusano” (worm) to refer to Cuban Americans is in 1975 during my freshman year at Amherst College. It is created by the Castro regime as a propaganda tool; refers to (and is solely meant to) discredit the entire group of Cubans living outside of the island; created to discourage collaboration and communication between Cubans on the island and off the island and created in order to make two sides of an ethnic group become enemies, instead of family, based on their geography. I never live in fear of being in the United States during my 58 years but I am concerned now. I feel the country is exploding with the Donald Trump juggernaut imperiously headed for the Super Tuesday Primaries while Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz continue to destroy each other (plus US as Latinos in the United States.) And there is nowhere to run to or nowhere to hide while the specter of political assassinations weigh heavily on my mind. A new civil war is on the horizon should this occur and I am at an age where people like me will be the first to be either put in an internment camp or liquidated.
At the recent gathering in Nevada of Democratic Hispanic leaders, ahead of the GOP debate in Las Vegas, photos of Cruz and Rubio were plastered alongside Trump’s picture, as all three were criticized as anti-Latino. A press release noted, “While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous.”
Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, has called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates are turning their backs on the Latino community. Partisan politics aside, the question remains: Are Cruz and Rubio ‘traitors’ to Latinos or do they just have different views?
Latino USA asked several noted Latino politics observers. Here is what they told them:
Esther Cepeda, Nationally syndicated columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group “It’s true that all’s fair in love, war and politics so from a tactical perspective trashing Latino politicians on policy makes sense. However, in a time when so many others are demonizing Hispanics, it’s disconcerting to see our own ripped apart on the basis of their fealty to an amorphous idea of what Latino identity should be. Cruz and Rubio’s politics and policies are fair game, criticize away. But it denigrates all Latinos when some of us decide to become arbiters of what is or is not “truly” Latino. We spend a lot of time telling people outside the Hispanic community to understand that we are not monolithic – we should follow our own advice.”
Stephen A. Nuño, NBCNews.com contributor and Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Northern Arizona University “The truth is that Latinos have great potential to contribute to all sides of the political ledger if only those in the GOP would see the greater long-term opportunity in expanding the party message rather than consolidating it with white voters. I think Latino organizations, both conservative and liberal, are right to challenge Cruz and Rubio on their policies, but to suggest that one’s loyalty to identity rest on certain leaders’ assertion of a political test, and to cast accusations of ‘traitor’ should they not pass that test, is no less fascist and dogmatic as the Trump crowd.
Pilar Marrero, Senior Political Reporter, La Opinión “Even before all of this activism and partisan campaigning started pointing fingers at Cruz and Rubio, we wrote a couple of stories about the inconsistencies between these two politicians life stories or family stories and their positions on immigration and other issues of interest to most of the Latino voters in this country. We should hold politicians accountable, and not just the Republicans, the Democrats too. All of them. But if these two are going to be a “threat” to democrats by peeling off latino voters, they have a lot of work to do. I am not convinced either of them is a threat at this time. First, there´s an issue of the Republican brand, which is seriously damaged among Latinos and getting worse thanks to continuous demagoguery on immigration and race. Then, there´s the fact that most Latino immigrants in this country are Mexican and these two are Cuban. And Mexicans know that Cubans, even today, still have a privileged immigration status that basically offers legal residency and public assistance as soon as they set foot in the country or come to the border to request refuge status.”
Albert Morales, Director of Latino Engagement, Democratic National Committee “Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both using extreme rhetoric and backward-looking policies that would be harmful to every American, including Hispanics, by dragging us back to the economic policies that were in place on the way to losing 8 million jobs, to seeing foreclosure signs paper streets all across America, and when hard working and middle class Americans of all backgrounds had to choose between bankruptcy and getting the health care they needed. That both of these candidates are the children of economic and political refugees from Cuba only makes the tone of their campaigns and their tax-cuts for the wealthy economic policies that much more offensive.”
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