MIAMI — The largest Democratic super PAC in the U.S. is launching a new series of attack ads starring a group of Florida Latinos who’ve fled oppressive governments in their home countries, featuring footage of President Donald Trump alongside images of Fidel Castro, Nicolás Maduro and Augusto Pinochet.

Priorities USA, which teased this recent slate of ads last November, is using anti-Trump testimonials from one Cuban and three Venezuelan immigrants to compare Trump’s rhetoric to that of a Latin American “caudillo,” or an authoritarian dictator. The digital commercials will begin to publish on social media platforms on Monday with the hashtag “#CaudilloDay,” a nod to the Presidents Day holiday.

“What is a caudillo? An authoritarian. A demagogue. A dictator,” the campaign’s introduction ad says in bold white letters on a black backdrop while suspenseful music plays in the background. “Donald Trump does not act like a president. He acts like a caudillo. (It’s not a compliment).”

The first-person commercials, which are largely videos shot in selfie-mode, will be published on Facebook, Twitter and Google. It’s a campaign that Priorities USA Hispanic media director Daniela Martins said was “organic” and is not funded by the political action committee in its current initial phase.

“They’re self-produced. It’s people who really just want to share,” Martins told the Miami Herald. She explained the format for this campaign is different from many of the progressive PAC’s high-quality ads, which are based on issues drawn from polls and surveys in key battleground states like Florida.

“We’ve started to collect these stories because it’s the opposite process … it’s something we’re hearing grow stronger from people on the ground,” said Martins.


Among those featured in the other ads are Jose Gamboa, a Venezuelan activist based in Seminole County, and Virgil Suarez, a Cuban professor from Tallahassee who fled the island in the 1970s.

“Hugo Chávez did not behave like a president, nor does Donald Trump behave like a president of one of the greatest world powers,” said Virginia Brown, a Venezuelan educator who lives in Orlando, in one of the ads.

Rather than highlighting issues like health care and education, the testimonials are focused solely on the rhetoric from authoritarian leaders in Latin America, a discourse that Republicans in Florida have used as a way to frame policies proposed by Democratic candidates as “socialist.”

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has also used religion as wedge issues to drive support among Latino voters in Florida. And surrogates throughout the state frequently appeal to voters from countries with oppressive governments like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Political ads targeting Latino voters in Florida have gained traction this year among progressive groups, as several Hispanic Democrats have warned that candidates who don’t address traumatic experiences from Latin Americans fleeing oppressive regimes do so at their own peril.

“Latinos need to open their eyes and not leave their votes up to empty promises,” said Evelyn Perez-Verdía, Hispanic communications director of Forward Florida, the voter outreach organization founded by former gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. “To me, it’s an insult to my intelligence, and it’s an insult to the intelligence of all Latinos.”

In early February, Forward Florida launched three Spanish radio ads in a campaign called “Exige Respeto,” or “Demand Respect.” One of the ads was read by a Venezuelan Democrat. Perez-Verdía said their campaign was mirrored on the 1980s slogan of “Vote to be respected,” which was widely used as a way to advance Cuban representation in South Florida.

“In my home country of Bolivia, we heard the same floating of ideas for a third term so that the president could ‘maintain the progress,’ and then we ended up with 14 years of Evo Morales,” Martins said. “Latinos like me have seen this movie before. We’re trying to warn you that we know how it ends.”


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