As Polls Close in US Midterms, What’s the Outlook for Latinos and Latin America?

As the midterm elections conclude, what can Latin Americans and Latinos in the US expect from the newly elected House and Senate?

50 Latino Democrat candidates and 33 Latino Republican candidates contested the House of Representatives election.
November 08, 2022 | 06:20 PM

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Boston — The first polls of the US midterm elections closed late afternoon Tuesday, in an election with several candidates of Mexican and Central American descent running for seats in the House of Representatives.

According to the two parties, there are 50 Latino Democrat candidates against 33 Latino Republicans, and will make for a very complex election, according to Denilde Holzhacker, a professor of international relations at Brazil’s ESPM.

“It’s a big strain for the Biden administration, it’s not unusual for the president’s party to lose Congress” [in midterm elections], Holzhacker said in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.

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Among the main factors that may have hurt Democrats in this election for the House of Representatives are the effects of inflation coupled with energy prices and the perception of a poor economic performance, according to Holzhacker.

As for the Senate, the expectation is that it will maintain a 50/50 Republican and Democrat split, which is the scenario today, a situation that would be less problematic for President Joe Biden.

“Obama, Clinton and Bush had difficulties with Congress. In this case, the size of this difference, that is, how many Trump support groups there will be in the new congress, is what will cause obstruction of Biden’s agenda,” Holzhacker said.

“If there’s a better balance, especially in the Senate, Biden can get majorities with the GOP moderates,” she added.

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The outlook for Latinos and Latin America

For Latin America, either situation - a majority of Republicans or Democrats - would be bad, because Biden’s focus will be internal, focused on the policies of his base to strengthen the election in 2024, according to Holzhacker. She believes that the international agendas that the United States will embrace must essentially be linked to the international repercussions of the alliance with Europe in the dispute with Russia for the reconstruction of Ukraine, in addition to the US’ ongoing clash with China.

“Latin America will have to enter into these strategic definitions. The region is an important element in this dispute with China, Americans have been looking to Latin America to be able to maintain this strategic area against Chinese investments,” she said.

Other issues such as migration and cooperation in combating drug trafficking are associated with domestic disputes. But Latin America will not be a central theme of the agenda, Holzhacker said.

Latinos in the United States are very diverse, with some in Florida and Texas lining up more with Republicans because they believe the Biden administration has not brought direct economic benefits to this ethnic group, and some are closer to Democrats on the social agenda.

“They [Latinos in the US] are still very divided, and this is clear in the positions and leadership within the communities. Very similar to what we saw in 2020,″ she said.

An important element for Biden will be the climate agenda. In this, Brazil in particular will be an important partner, according to Holzhacker. “With the election of Lula, Brazil returns to a positive relationship and agenda with the US government.”