I fled from a dictator in Venezuela, only to witness the rise of another one here in the United States.
I moved to the U.S. in 2011 after a dictator forced me to leave my country, my family, my friends, and my whole life. In Venezuela, I fought, marched, protested and voted, but the dictator won the fight.
Coming from Venezuela, I recognize a populist demagogue promising anything at the expense of a country’s own people. I will never forget Trump’s first campaign speech, it rang an alarm. I saw a man dividing the American people for the sake of his own rise. There is a phrase that summarizes it “Divide y vencerás” (divide and conquer).
When I see a government try to remove judges, destroy democratic institutions, call the media fake news when they expose corruption, a leader trying to punish his political rivals, I remember what I left behind in Venezuela and I see it in the United States with President Trump’s disregard for the rule of law.
Not only did I escape from socialism, I, too, am a victim of a corrupt and cruel regime, and won’t accept the GOP trying to hide Trump’s corruption and failures by distorting what Democrats are doing to help us all. It is outrageous to watch the Republican Party cover their “único líder” (only leader) with excuses for him and leave our democracy in peril.
I remember watching Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez harass people who dissented from his views, calling us “fascists” and “piti yankees.” (little yankees). Now I see Trump and the Republicans call Democrats “socialists” because we defend voting rights; we want to expand access to health care; and, we are making sure that the president is not above the law — as Venezuela’s current president Nicolás Maduro thinks he is.
I will never forget standing in front of our TV in Caracas in 2007, watching in tears the last minutes that Radio Caracas Television — one of the most popular TV channels in Venezuela —was on air before it was shut down by Chávez. He had decided to silence them when months earlier they had exposed the high levels of corruption and the crisis in Venezuela. When a dictator doesn’t like the truth being exposed, they call the media “fake news” and they censor it. If Trump had the power to do the same, you could bet he would shut down CNN and the New York Times.
Never would I have thought that I would come to the land of the free and see the same nightmare start to play out again. I know very well that with Trump, the United States’ fate may follow that of Venezuela.
I was recently asked how I, as an Hispanic, could be supporting Democrats. The answer is simple. I believe in democracy and democratic values. No matter where I am, no matter how far I am from Venezuela, I will always defend freedom and liberty. I lost democracy once and I am not going to lose it again.
Luisana Pérez Fernández came to the United States from Venezuela in 2011. She is the Hispanic Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party.