I Vote with ‘My Native Nicaragua on My Shoulders’

Gema María Duarte, a native of Nicaragua, currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs. (Courtesy of Gema María Duarte)

By Gema María Duarte

September 30, 2020

Gema María Duarte sees many of the same authoritarian characteristics in Donald Trump that she sees in Daniel Ortega, Nicolas Maduro and the Castros.

I cry every time I say this: When I vote, I have the entire country of my native Nicaragua on my shoulders.

The responsibility is heavy. Nicaragua is not free. And I’m starting to fear that America soon won’t be either. 

I voted for the first time when I was 27, but had covered American elections for news agencies since I was 19. 

As a newly minted US citizen in 2008, I didn’t take voting lightly. Since then, I have voted for what I feel is right for my community, state and country—that includes fellow citizens and undocumented immigrants, two groups with which I identify. 

I don’t vote only for what’s best for me—but for our world. I’ve been called both a closeted Republican and a tree-hugging liberal.

I’m voting for those in socialist countries ruled by “leaders” who either refuse to give up power—Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, and the Castros in Cuba, to name a few—or whose influence grips their nations for years.

I didn’t grow up in a typical American household. Each day, we carried our own version of American pride, forever grateful for America’s opportunities and freedoms. My parents taught me and my siblings to value and respect democracy, all the while not forgetting our Nicaraguan roots and the reasons we fled the war-torn Central American country following the Sandinistas’ socialist revolution. 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, I noticed Donald Trump’s authoritarian traits—many of which I have already seen in Ortega, Maduro, and the Castros.

RELATED: Trump Denounces Cuban Government But He Applied to Register His Trademark in Cuba in 2008

Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Cubans fled from those authoritarian chains, yet a lot of those same oppressed immigrants support Trump. They’re usually single-issue voters. Efforts by those running fear-mongering campaigns targeting that demographic are working. Many, who have limited technology knowledge, use social media to share memes and posts claiming that the Biden-Harris ticket will guarantee a socialist America. 

They are blinded by the empty Trump promises of fighting the likes of Maduro and Ortega, when in reality they have the real threat in front of them: Trump.

Trump places loyalty to himself above anything else; loyalty to him trumps the Constitution. He undermined the electorate by inviting foreign governments to mingle in our elections. He’s the only president in modern memory who has announced that he might not accept the election results if he loses—a move out of Maduro’s playbook. Trump has even floated the idea of running for a third term, following in Ortega’s footsteps.

RELATED: Cubans and Venezuelans Are ‘Worse Off’ Under Trump, Biden Says

I strongly believe Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement emboldened governments like Brazil to destroy the Amazon—home to indigenous families—for development. Trump doesn’t care about global warming; he’s about development, too. Similarly, Ortega is allowing China to develop virgin lands, leaving hundreds homeless.

Trump denigrates scientists’ efforts to save lives by downplaying the threat of the novel coronavirus, which has disproportionately affected Black and brown Americans. Ortega fired doctors for publicly announcing the truth of COVID-19.

Nicaraguan Americans are outraged by Ortega’s lack of acknowledgement of COVID-19 while Nicaraguans die. Yet Nicaraguan Americans are not critical of Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic—even though many are terrified of leaving their homes.

Look, I’m not ignorant to the facts happening at home in the US. But in my daily life, I’m living with the frustration and disappointment of those in my circle supporting Trump. 

I’m voting for those who deserve dignity and have been denied it for so long. So when I cast my vote on Nov. 3, the hands of all those who died for being gay or transgender in the hands of supposed Christians will also be hitting that “Vote” button, as well as those with Black or brown skin who were killed by racists. 

Some might say this is the liberal agenda. For me, it’s not. I’m voting for the human rights agenda. I’m voting for Democracy, which can only survive when she’s voted in. She’s at risk. Let’s save her.


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