The Atlanic magazine referred to Ted Cruz as the “most hated man in Washington,” but his shock win in the Iowa caucuses — gaining 28 percent of the vote to Donald Trump's 24 percent — suggests he's not so unpopular with the people.
Nor is Marco Rubio, another Republican of Latin American heritage, who gained a surprisingly high 23 percent with many now believing him to be the favourite.
However, despíte their backgrounds the conservative lawmakers' have strong and hostile views toward Latin America.
Cruz is of Cuban descent and from a family that reportedly backed the Cuban Revolution — his father allegedly was a member of Fidel Castro's July 26 Movement — Cruz, like many of his Republican contemporaries, opposes the Obama administration's effort at improving relations with Cuba.
More worrisome was Cruz's support for violent right-wing protests in Venezuela in 2014 that aimed to topple the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
“President Nicolas Maduro is taking a page out of the Castro playbook to violently oppress Venezuelans who are demanding an end to his disastrous rule," said Cruz in February 2014, at the height of the protests.
Cruz seemed to take no issue with what was for all intents and purposes a coup attempt led by the right-wing opposition.
His choice of words helps promote a false narrative about the 2014 protests and he wasn't afraid to play loose with the facts, saying that "activists (had) been detained and abused, and even shot dead in the streets."
There certainly was bloodshed during the protests that ultimately left 43 dead. However, the majority of the violence came not from state security forces but the protesters who violently enforced street blockades in major cities throughout Venezuela.
Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has used Venezuelan politics as a cause célèbre. Rubio has delivered speeches on the Senate floor attacking Venezuela, calling President Nicolas Maduro a “clown” and alleging that elections are “manipulated” saying it is a “democracy in name only.” Of course, the opposition in Venezuela won parliamentary elections in December 2015, a result that President Maduro recognized immediately.
Rubio is currently the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, meaning his attitudes toward Latin America have real implications.
In fact, Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, chose to launch his campaign for president by attacking governments throughout Latin America.
He is also close with the notorious far-right former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Are Shifting Sands Eroding the Conservative Latino Vote?
These Republicans have one more thing in common beyond defending extremist views, their political base lies in the type of political view dominant in south Florida.
Many of those who left Cuba after the Fidel's revolution relocated to south Florida and went on to form the core of the conservative anti-communist political base that gave rise to personalities such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Marco Rubio, both of which represent the state of Florida in the U.S. Congress. Although Ted Cruz represents Texas, he is very much cut from the same cloth.
The Cuban Revolution triumphed nearly 60 years ago now, this conservative base is growing old and is being replaced by a younger generation.
The kind of politician nurtured by the south Florida Latino base may be a dying breed as the next generation of Latinos grows in their political consciousness. Their priorities are not the same as their parents.
As a whole the importance of the Latino community continues to grow. The Republican's candidate in 2012 failed to win much support from Latinos, garnering only 27 percent of the Latino vote.
Latinos are not a homogeneous bloc of course, but perhaps it is time that the Republican party shed its extremist views.