“I am not a socialist” - Itemp

Amid utter chaos, the United States of America looks like a yearning, exhausted nation going through an apocalyptical pandemic and its aftereffects. Add to this the upcoming election for president. In the aftermath of November 3, 2020, Joe Biden, the challenger of US President Donald Trump, promises to be a leader for all Americans, including those at odds with him.

His promise sounds like a hackneyed phrase, but it is not, considering the domestic agenda – pandemics, high unemployment rates, racial strife, polarization… In this exclusive interview with Diario de las Américas, the only one granted to a Hispanic newspaper based in Florida, an upfront Joe Biden (Pennsylvania, 1942) removes the tag attached to it by Trump’s followers – “Let me put it clearly – I am not a socialist.”

The ITEMP Project reproduces this interview in the framework of the partnership with Diario Las Américas. The copyright belongs to this newspaper and ITEMP is publishing the story, in its entirety, according to its original version.

The seasoned candidate for the Democratic Party, twice Vice President during Barack Obama’s administration (2009-2017) and with half a century of political career, addressed in this interview the challenges to be faced in the event of becoming the new occupant of the White House, with the containment of Coronavirus among his top priorities. In this way, Biden volunteers to “turn division into unity and get together.”

His plans concerning the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela, the status of immigration from both countries, the challenges posed by the Russian and Chinese deployment in Latin America, and also the need to assist the Western Hemisphere in coping with the sequels of the pandemic, were among the various topics covered in this exclusive interview.

“As President, my policy towards Cuba shall be governed by two principles. Firstly, Americans, particularly Cuban-Americans, will be the best ambassadors of freedom in Cuba. Secondly, I will empower the Cuban people to define their own future, which is of the essence in the US national security interest,” he said.

Mr. Biden, how will you manage to strike a balance inside the Democratic Party with some hardcore followers regarded as the extreme leftwing? What do you need to bridge the gap?

Let me put it clearly – I am not a socialist. And an ample and united coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independent people has joined me and my vision for the country future. Trump has resorted to lies, misinformation, and he welcomes foreign meddling in our election, all to divert attention away from his failures as a President.

My promise is to become a president for all Americans, not only for those who agree with me and voted me. And unlike the occupant of the White House today, I will govern with justice, transparency and democratically. I will confront the authoritarian one, dictators and autocrats, either in the leftwing or in the rightwing, as I have done throughout my career.

A record number of 32 million Hispanics is estimated to cast their ballots in the presidential election of 2020. Why should first-time voters of Hispanic origin vote Joe Biden?

This is my commitment to Hispanic voters in all this nation – I will never stop struggling for you and for a country where everybody, no matter where we come from or the problems we face, will have a fair opportunity of success. You deserve something better than the treatment received from the current President over the past four years.

As your President, I will work very hard to come closer to the vision of the United States as set forth in our Founding Documents – all men and women are created equal – and I will accomplish my comprehensive agenda for the Hispanic community.

–How will you implement this?

This begins with the implementation of a real strategy nationwide to restrain this virus, which has disproportionately affected the Hispanic community. I will ensure to take our economy out of this recession by better rebuilding and creating millions of new jobs in the future. I will lobby for all Hispanic small businesses to get the credits and the capital needed to grow. I will make sure that Puerto Ricans will never more be treated as second-class citizens, and I will ensure that the island will have available all the necessary resources, not only to recover, but also to thrive.

Rather than requesting the Supreme Court to abrogate the Affordable Care Act, removing in this way coverage for more than 4.3 million Hispanics, I will protect and build around Obamacare, for you to be able to hold a private insurance policy or make a public choice similar to Medicare. And I will increase subsidies to reduce your premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Also, I will reduce the cost of prescription drugs by 60 percent. And, in contrast with President Trump, who has been deporting thousands of Cubans and Venezuelans back to their countries of origin, in a dictatorship at this current time, I will restore our values as a nation of immigrants. I will protect the dreamers and the recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and I will grant TPS onto Venezuelans.

Above all, I will take the lead with my values, my faith and a fundamental understanding of something that Donald Trump has never understood –We are stronger, we are richer, and we are better thanks to our diversity.

Biden Jr. slammed President Trump for trade policies that have “cost farmers and manufacturing so badly.” (Pixabay)

Is the issue of white supremacy a business of President Trump, a business of the Republicans, or a business of the nation as a whole? How do you expect to heal that wound? How do you intend to deal with white supremacist groups in the United States?

A President’s words are important, and President Trump, with his words and actions, has repeatedly rekindled the flames of division and he has emboldened white supremacists and their activities in the United States to his own benefit and (for the sake) of his personal political agenda. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has designated white supremacists as the most serious domestic terrorist threat faced by this country.

However, President Trump has embraced conspiracy theories and many a time he has refused to condemn white supremacists. His actions just deepen polarization and distrust, and that is damaging our country. Trump finds a political opportunity by sowing division at a time when we need a leadership able to forge the necessary consensus to tackle the multiple crises we face as a country.

– How do you expect to heal that wound?

-Uniting the country will not be easy. Our divisions today are longstanding. Economic and racial inequalities have determined us for generations.

But I pledge my word – If I am elected President, I will combine this nation’s ingenuity and good will in order to turn division into unity and get together. I believe that the United States is ready, and I say it with the words of my late friend, the great John Lewis, to “lay down the heavy burden of hate” and, by working hard, eradicate systemic racism.

The stance taken by the White House with regard to Venezuela and Cuba has a significant political influence in Florida. What is your stance with regard to Cuba and Venezuela?

While I lobbied for the release of political prisoners in Cuba as the US Vice President, President Trump was registering his trademark to do business with the authoritarian Cuba, outwitting sanctions.

Trump’s policy towards Cuba is cheap, shallow entertainment. His administration has been deporting thousands of Cubans to a dictatorship and the regime’s repression has just increased under his supervision. Almost 10,000 Cubans are wasting away in tent camps along the border with Mexico due to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. And he is separating Cuban families by means of restrictions on family visits and remittances.

– What will be the principles of that relationship with the island?

-As President, my policy towards Cuba shall be governed by two principles. Firstly, Americans, particularly Cuban-Americans, will be the best ambassadors of freedom in Cuba. Secondly, I will empower the Cuban people to define their own future, which is of the essence in the US national security interest. I will reverse Trump’s failed policies. Same as I did as Vice President, I will demand the release of political prisoners and will make human rights the key centerpiece in our diplomatic commitment. Also, I will reopen the ways to legal, safe migration from the island, including the Cuban Refugee Program, as soon as possible. Those people have been waiting on their turn and it is not right for us to have left this program on standby for so long.

– The situation in Venezuela is complicated like in Cuba, both regimes feed off of each other…

-Nor has Trump any trustworthiness with the issue of the fight for democracy and human rights in Venezuela, particularly when he has done so much to undermine our own democracy here, at home, and to the extent that he has embraced autocrats around the world. During the Trump administration, Nicolás Maduro has tightened his grip on power. The Venezuelan people are going through one of the most serious crises in the world, which is increasingly worsening, and there are not prospects of free, fair elections. On top of it all, Trump has refused to extend the TPS for Venezuelans in the United States and rejects Venezuelan asylum seekers, without taking into account the oppression from which they are fleeing.

For long time, I have condemned corruption and the abuses of Maduro’s dictatorship. When I was Vice President, I led the effort of imposing the first wave of sanctions on Maduro’s regime. As President, I will jump in defense of the Venezuelan people and democracy by granting TPS onto Venezuelans that are already in the United States, and I will assure asylum seekers that they will have the fair legal hearing they are entitled to. I will energize the international community to tackle the humanitarian crisis; I will pressurize the regime and his facilitators with coordinated actions against all those involved in corruption and human rights abuses; I will put pressure for free and fair elections, and I will help with Venezuela’s recovery in the long run.

Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President)

– China’s and Russia’s interference in Latin America has increased in the last decade, allowing both countries to cut more deals and sometimes bail authoritarian regimes. How would you deal with such a reality in Latin America, considering that democracy is not necessarily a principle for Beijing and Moscow, and they are not ready to pull out from the region?

-Russia and China may equal by no means our extraordinary ties and common history with the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. But I feel that we also must work on restating our position in Latin America and the Caribbean, a position that has dwindled because of President Trump. Trump has debilitated our democratic institutions; he has indulged dictators; he has abandoned or intimidated our democratic allies, and he has severely ill-treated the migrant population in the United States. As President, I will repair the damage caused to our partnerships and good standing, and I will restore the position of the United States in the world.

A President’s words are important, and President Trump, with his words and actions, has repeatedly rekindled the flames of division

Joe Biden

I will always advocate democracy and human rights, and I will confront dictators. I will work in close cooperation with our key partners in the region to work on an agenda able to foster inclusive economic growth and address shared challenges, such as climate change and pandemics.

-If you are elected President, how will you lead the United States after the pandemics? What will be your approach and mission?

-When President Obama and I were elected, we inherited the worst recession in history, more akin to the recession during the Great Depression. I led the turnaround; I prevented another Great Depression, and I sparked the longest burst of labor growth in our nation’s history. I am prepared to do it again.

Firstly, we need to curb the pandemic. The outcome during the Trump administration is a death toll of 225,000 in the United States and over 8.7 million people infected. Latin America and the Caribbean have become the new epicenters of the virus and, however, Trump just has given up. He waved a white flag to surrender.

I have a plan to put this pandemic under control by trusting in science and relying on experts. Testing, tracking, and delivering a vaccine in a safe, equitable manner, and ensuring that our schools and businesses will have the necessary resources for safe reopening. A negligent stance of wait and see is not all a strategy. We have a very long common history and too many friendship and family ties in the region so as to turn our back on Latin America, as Trump has done.

My administration will support the Western Hemisphere to coordinate a common response to the Coronavirus. Together, we will confront the pandemic. Because we, the Americans, know that as long as our neighbors are not safe, we will not be safe either.

Also, we need to rebuild in a better way. I will rebuild the US infrastructure –new ways, bridges, roads, ports, airports– and I will invest in our clean-energy future. All that will help create millions of new, well-paid jobs. We will tackle climate change, which is already having an impact on Hispanics in form of hurricanes, heat waves and extreme flooding.

We will enlarge the Affordable Care Act by widening the coverage up and reducing health care related costs. And we will look after our elderly by confronting the abuse of authority of prescription drug companies, by protecting Medicare and preserving and expanding Social Security. And a fundamental step in my agenda for better rebuilding is to promote racial equality at all time to break such a cycle where, in good times, Hispanic communities are lagged behind, and, in bad times, they are most affected and take longer to recover.

Hispanics belong to all round tables engaged in making decisions that will affect our future, and in a Biden-Harris administration, they will form part of that.

Carlos Tagliafico and Iliana Lavastida contributed to this interview in Diario Las Américas

Translation: Conchita Delgado


The ITEMP Project reproduces this interview in the framework of the partnership with Diario Las Américas. The copyright corresponds to this newspaper and ITEMP complies with the publication of the full version in its original version. The interview was conducted by Frank López Ballesteros, editor of the ITEMP Project and a regular contributor to Diario Las Américas