California Attorney General Xavier Becerra referenced gun control, environmental regulation, and the FBI probe into Russian election meddling during the Spanish-language Democratic response to the State of the Union response on Tuesday, but he failed to mention the single biggest crisis currently affecting Latin Americans: the collapse of socialist Venezuela.
Venezuela is currently facing a profound humanitarian crisis, the product of two decades of socialist rule. The nation’s legislature invoked constitutional provisions to replace dictator Nicolás Maduro with the head of the National Assembly, current interim President Juan Guaidó, in late January, but Maduro has refused to step down.
Maintaining control of the military, Maduro ordered a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents that has killed dozens and seen the country’s political prisoner population skyrocket to nearly one thousand, according to the United Nations.
During his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump expressed support of Guaidó and for the Venezuelan people.
“We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair,” Trump said.
Becerra, in his speech — intended to address America’s Spanish-speaking community, in which the Venezuelan diaspora is among the fastest growing populations — did not mention Venezuela or America’s growing Venezuelan refugee community. The absence of any mention of the topic is particularly notable given the scale of support Venezuela’s pro-democracy movement has received from many of Latin America’s most prominent celebrities and the near-total support for Guaidó from Latin American governments.
Instead of discussing Venezuela, Becerra focused on illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America and Democratic Party talking points on alleged Russian collusion with the Trump administration, Obamacare, and claims the Republican Party blocks Latinos from voting.
Becerra framed his speech around the experience his parents had of immigrating from Mexico to the United States.
“They still remember the days when they could not pass by the doors of restaurants due to signs that read ‘dogs and Mexicans not allowed,'” he stated. He went on to say, “if the state of our union can be characterized as ‘strong,’ it is because people like my parents and yours – citizens or migrants – built this country.”
Becerra decried the southern border wall project as “extravagant” and the current state of America as one of “disorder, tension, hostility.”
“How can one explain that our country lives under an intense investigation over Russian interference in our 2016 presidential elections and over the role President Trump played in them?” Becerra asked. He did not mention Russia’s interference in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, where it has become the most prominent nation still supporting Maduro as legitimate.
Becerra told his audience that “they [Republicans] built a wall between you and the voting booth,” adding only by way of explanation, “They failed! In the November elections, Latinos, especially the young, went out to vote in historic numbers.”
Becerra also asked Latinos to continue voting for sensible gun laws and “laws that protect the water we drink and the air we breathe.” He concluded with a promise: “Be it with marches in the streets, or marches to the voting booths, with struggles in court or through Congress, we will do what is necessary to secure a strong and vibrant Union.”