Latin America Policy Missing From Miami Democratic Presidential Debate

Jun 28, 2019

The 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls debated this week about everything from healthcare to higher education to gun violence.

Notably missing from both nights — Latin America policy. Four hours of debate in Miami — the gateway to the Americas — and not a mention of Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua (what the Trump administration has called the "troika of tyranny").

Another issue relevant to South Florida — climate change — got about seven minutes of debate time on Wednesday. It was even less focused the following night.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson spoke with a panel of journalists: Sergio Bustos, opinion editor with the Sun Sentinel; Rick Christie, editorial page editor with The Palm Beach Post; and Helena Poleo, a journalist with El Nuevo País. They considered if any of the candidates stood out on these issues.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

SERGIO BUSTOS: The first night, Julian Castro really made a name for himself. His "adios to Trump" line was memorable, scoring on social media and the like. He really actually put away Beto O'Rourke on immigration. I think they got a little too deep in the weeds in talking about federal immigration law, in terms of detention.

HELENA POLEO: To be honest, I don't think anybody really stood out. The message was "Trump is bad." And unfortunately that is not the only thing we need to talk about. We need to talk about how to address issues in the countries where all these immigrants are coming from. Relations with those countries because they're coming for a specific reason.

[The debate] was all happening when we had just seen this horrifying photo of this father and his two-year-old daughter dead in the water trying to cross. They're coming not because they just want to have McDonald's. They're coming because they have no more hope in their countries. That ties into this whole, "We didn't mention Latin America.' So just to say Trump policies are bad, mine are good, is not enough.

RICK CHRISTIE: I did hear some folks actually try to get to the point that something needed to be done to help out down in Central America, but it kept getting drowned out, because most of the passion, of course, was around what was happening with the child detention centers. It was really hard to discern what anybody's policies may be.

One of the biggest question I guess that I had coming after both nights in terms of immigration was whether or not candidates ended up hurting themselves. Or or at least they are going to have to explain a bit more going forward, whether or not they are for open borders.