MIAMI – The largest Democratic super PAC 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 in 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 were launched Monday on social media platforms 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, were published on Facebook, Twitter and Google. It's a campaign that Priorities USA Hispanic media director Daniela Martins said was "organic" and not funded by the political action committee in its initial phase.
"They're self-produced. It's people who really just want to share," Martins said. She explained that 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," Martins said.
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 used religion as a wedge issue 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.