Interview
"The United States is tending to the populist agenda of many Latin America governments"
Argentinian Claudia Mariaca was a councilwoman and vice mayor of Doral. She rejects extreme polarization and is excited about a Hispanic president.

Claudia Mariaca was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She studied economics in Boston and turned to politics in Miami, where she lives with his husband and children. Not aligned with either of the two big parties, she was a councilwoman and vice mayor for six years. A few months ago, she was about to govern Doral, one of the most important cities in Miami-Dade County. Doral has an overwhelming majority of Latinos.

Mariaca is used to getting involved and raising her voice. She does it both in her neighborhood and at her children's school. That is how she made her way into municipal politics. On a national scale, she rejects the polarization and what she perceives as a populist drift in the United States. She is excited about the possibility that a Latino (or better yet, a Latina) will ever be elected president.Do you think Latinos should get involved and get more political representation?

The Latino vote is one of the most important and influential, depending on where you live. Here it could be almost 100% in some areas of Miami-Dade County, in South Florida, in places like Texas and California. Whatever you do on a daily basis in the United States, different roles can be taken. From ignorance, you can ignore politics and say you don't care. Or be a more informed person and understand that politics affects us all. And everyday it affects us more.

"Los republicanos seducen a los latinos porque hablan el lenguaje del sue√Īo americano"

Why is politics increasingly impacting everyday life?

The decisions that are being made in Florida, in Tallahassee, for example, affect what our children are taught in public schools. Unlike Argentina, or other countries, in the United States voting is not compulsory.

Do you consider it something negative?

In a way it is good, because the person who is going to vote really wants to. He or she has that inclination, that decision. But it is bad because there are many people who do not take the time, they do not care or simply do not register, perhaps because they do not understand the registration process. Voting and participating is key to change things.

"The United States is tending to the populist agenda of many Latin America governments"

What was your gateway to politics in Miami?I have always been interested in helping, getting involved, trying to drive change. Shortly after entering a public school in Doral with my daughter, as they noticed I was active and participated a lot, they told me: "Hey, we have a position in the association of parents, students and teachers." I entered the board as a volunteer. A few years later I was elected president of that group and also director of the association of my condominium. Little by little I got involved. I read the agendas, I distinguished what seemed to be wrong. In this country you have plenty of rights to express yourself freely in front of elected. And I took that opportunity to point out what I didn't like. 

The Latino vote is one of the most important and influential, depending where you live. Here it could be almost 100% in some areas of the Miami-Dade County, in South Florida.

What policies did you disagree with?

Certain building permits were greatly affecting the zoning of the city. There was a lot of new construction. There were also unjustified expenses, such as the Miss Universe Program. Nobody cared, and yet hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money were spent. Many people thanked me. That grew until I became an activist in my city.

Hence your jump to being a councilwoman.

They asked me if I wanted to run, and for 6 years I served as councilwoman and vice mayor. In Doral there is the mayor and four councilors, one of whom is vice on a rotating basis. And everything is approved by majority.

What is your assessment of that experience?

It was great working directly with the community, serve people in their daily life. Because neither Trump, nor Obama are going to fix the traffic lights, the streets, or the park where you go with your children. In addition to the local representatives, you find them in the supermarket.

"La gente de mi generaci√≥n es m√°s consciente de las barreras que existen para cumplir el sue√Īo americano"

At the level of municipal politics, is there an identification with Democrats or Republicans?

The vote you take locally is not partisan. Cause if you are going to pave the street, it does not matter whether you are red or blue, Democrat or Republican. However, it is something that has changed lately.

Did local politics become partisan?

Everything is partisan now! And when I ay everything, I mean everything. The book that children read in public schools, whether you get the vaccine or not. Everything is partisan! And the truth is that what is happening is very sad,

"The United States is tending to the populist agenda of many Latin America governments"

Has polarization become naturalized?

It is an extreme polarization. Most of the people, those from the center - and I include myself in that group, we do not have representation at this time. Because you sell yourself to an extremist party - both are- or you do not have any chance. We tend to what was being done in so many Latin American governments that have ended as they did. People do not to see it, and it is very frustrating.

Everything is partisan now! And when I say everything, I mean it. The book that children read in public schools, whether you take the vaccine or not. Everything is partisan! And the truth is that what is happening is very sad.

Is the policy of the United States "Latin Americanized" in the worst sense?

Yes. The politicians' agenda that works today is a very populist agenda.

What do you mean by a populist agenda?

I am talking about the agenda according to which they say yes to what you want, then they turn and say yes to the other. It is not even a correct representation of what a Republican or a Democrat is. It is an agenda that does not represent what those parties were originally. The system still works, but if we as voters do not do our job, we lose the country.

The arrival of Barack Obama was a great achievement on the racial front. We have had more and more elected officials of Latino origin who have proven what things can be done the right way. Little by little, one day we will succeed.

What do you think of Governor Ron DeSantis' education policy, including the crusade against sex education?

Something that really bothers me is hypocrisy. And it is very hypocritical that they sit in Tallahassee and tell you that as a mother or father you have the right to choose, but at the same time they vote to take away that same right. You cannot say the father or the mother to whom you are giving the power to choose the book and the class that, at the same time, he or she cannot take the boy to a Drag Queen show because they put you in jail. Either you trust me as a mother to make a decision with my son or not.

Did you experience any persecution of parents or teachers?

I have experienced it with my children's friends, with teachers who are told that they cannot talk about certain things because otherwise they will be kicked out. How are you going to help them?

Do you think DeSantis' policy is a witch hunt?

Absolutely. He has to stop poking his nose into local situations. Let DeSantis worry more about we living in a State where buying your own home is becoming more difficult. Where people are graduating and cannot find a job. They pay very little. Let him worry about it, instead of poking his nose into sexual orientation or fighting with Disney. Stop wasting our money on nonsense to be in the news!

Why do you think DeSantis chooses that agenda?

Politics has become a show. If they do not talk about you - good or bad, you don't get anywhere. It started with Trump. It is worth the insult, saying any ridiculous thing, doing barbarities and not setting an example. We have lost the compass. And a division by States is made. "Are you liberal? Go to California or New York. Are you conservative? Go to Florida." We are reclusive until we are the Separated States of America, depending on how you think.

"La base republicana tiene mucha rabia contra las élites y Trump sigue siendo el que mejor la representa"

Is there a presidential candidate you are excited about?

It is very difficult. When DeSantis started, I thought we were going to have a centrist governor. But he became a fanatic. I think he is a very dangerous person.

It is funny that in a country of progress like the United States we have not had a female president, as many Latin American countries had.

How do you see Donald Trump?

Trump has his supporters, no matter what he does, no matter the legal cases against him. And Biden would have to say: "Well, I've come this far, thank you very much." I do not completely dislike him, but what I want is someone from the center. I want a person who thinks about the welfare of all the States and all the people.

Do you perceive the possibility of a president of Latino origin?

I think it is possible, that we can get closer. It is funny that in a country of progress like the United States, we have not had a female president, as many Latin American countries had. The arrival of Barack Obama was a great achievement on the racial front. We have had more and more elected officials of Latino origin who have proven that things can be done the right way. Little by little, one day we will succeed.

What do you think of the mayor Francis Su√°rez, who ran for the presidency?

I know him well. Francis seems to be a person from the center. But he has a long and bumpy road ahead against Trump and DeSantis, all Republicans from Florida.

Mariaca, in one of her meetings with former Argentine president Mauricio Macri.
There will be presidential elections in Argentina soon. How do you see the electoral scenario from the distance?

People need to understand what a precise change is. When you have so many years, decades of mistreatment of a country, you cannot fix it in 4 years. So, if you have a new government to which you give an opportunity for change and improvement, you have to really give it that opportunity. We have created a country in which some prefer to live with the bare minimum as long as it is given for free. With that culture it is very difficult to move forward. It is necessary to do a general cleaning, that they do not continue robbing us, as all the people of our lady Cristina Kirchner have done. Do we have to suffer? Yes. But it will be for a better future.

Does Javier Milei give you any hope, or do you prefer Patricia Bullrich?

I think Patricia is clearer. I am concerned about Milei, politics is not as easy as he thinks. You can have ideas, but you must have substance. You cannot just throw it away. Some things do work when they are done in a correct way. You also have to have that concept, without becoming radicalized. The leader can be A, B or C, but let's have a structure because otherwise it is more of a cult than a political system.

Translator: Bibiana Ruiz.

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