- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- Voter Intimidation by the Employer in Latin America
Around the months of the late summer to the winter of 2015, I was living in the capital of Argentina: Buenos Aires.
During that time, I mostly hung out with Colombians and Brazilians oddly (and a few Americans) because I found it harder to make local friends with Argentines.
At least compared to other countries I've been to, I found Argentine folks to be harder to make friends with.
Regardless, there were a small handful of Argentine folks that I got to know well.
Half of them being gals I went on dates with and the other half being normal dudes I met through whatever occasion (friends of friends, house parties, etc).
One of the gals though that I hung out with from time to time was a chick named Tami that you can read more about here.
She was someone who wanted to have a career in making pastries (cakes, cookies, etc) and I remember her having some difficulty actually at the local bakery that she was working at.
One day out of the blue, we're going to a place in Buenos Aires called Jardín Japonés or the Japanese Garden.
You can see the entrance to it here in this photo I took.
Outside of hooking up, we often went to check out various points in the city (she ended up being an alright guide to places I should check out).
While walking around together, she began complaining about this issue that she has at her bakery where supposedly the employer casually asked her "who will she be voting for in the election?"
At the time, Argentina was actually having a huge election play for both the Presidency and the Congress.
There were two main candidates for the Presidential election: A conservative named Macri and a liberal named Scioli.
Ultimately, Macri won the election narrowly as you can see here.
Now, in hindsight, I don't remember who Tami told me that she was going to vote for.
Quite frankly, I'm not sure if I even asked as I probably wouldn't have cared.
Though, if I had to guess, Tami probably voted for Macri because she gave off a vibe to her that seemed more conservative in views.
But I could be wrong! Who knows really and it doesn't even matter who she voted for in my opinion.
Though that's just my opinion.
It didn't matter to me but it did matter to the employer she was working for.
While looking back at Tami as someone who seemed more conservative, I could be wrong and maybe she was going to vote for Scioli.
Because she had issue with the employer asking her "who is she going to vote for?" and Tami told the employer that "her vote is private."
To which, according to Tami (I wasn't there obviously), she was told that, if Scioli wins, the business might have to fire some people.
Now, to be fair, I'm not sure what issue this individual bakery employer had with Scioli.
Maybe it was due to differences on social issues or, if I had to guess, maybe the employer felt that Scioli would be "bad for business" and make their business less profitable.
I doubt Tami asked why but you don't need to ask why after a long enough time in Latin America.
Over the years here, you learn about various forms of voter intimidation that happen every so often.
Be it candidates buying votes like you can see here.
Or political candidates running for office being murdered like you can see here.
Occasionally, I have even heard of social services being cut off to people if they don't vote a certain way in Latin America.
So, as you can tell by now, there are various forms of voter intimidation or poor electoral influence that call into question the legitimacy of elections down here from time to time.
One of those issues that we began with has to do with voter intimidation by the employer you work for.
In order to achieve that, one of the more common ways to intimidate your employee is to first ask them who they will be voting for.
If they give the wrong answer like say a vote for Scioli, then I'd assume your job is at risk even if Scioli doesn't win.
But, even if you don't confess who you'll be voting for, the employer might still say something to the effect of "if x candidate wins, then I'm going to fire ALL of you and move out of the country with my money!"
Usually based on the idea that x candidate winning means higher taxes, more regulation, perhaps worse inflation and all around a worse business climate for making profits.
If said employer actually fires all his employees though and leaves the country is another thing in question.
It sounds oddly familiar to folks back home in the US threatening to leave for Canada, Mexico or Costa Rica (or wherever else) if the opposite candidate wins be it Biden or Trump.
Something I wrote more about here.
Of course, the difference here is that I've never heard of said people using such discourse to intimidate their employees into voting for a certain candidate.
But, as a more interesting question, I guess one could ask if said employers ever take it beyond just basic questioning and threats of firing the employees?
Would said employer ever know who you voted for?
That's a question I've always wondered but was never quite sure about.
Let's dive into another example that comes to mind.
Voting for the Maid
Not too long after I finished my time in Argentina, I moved to Colombia for some odd months.
In my time there, I sometimes hung out with other foreigners but mostly hung out with Colombians as I found Colombians to be much easier to make friends with than Argentine folks.
While there though, I came across a British gal who was a tiny bit older than me by about a decade and had lived in Colombia for many odd years.
Let's call her Megan.
Though I was living in Barranquilla by the coast, she was living in some random town in the interior of the country.
I forgot where exactly she was living in but we met casually in Pereira as I was there briefly to do some hiking.
We simply met along the hiking path and made small talk along the way.
In the months after, we stayed in touch some more but haven't talked in a little bit now.
At any rate, she was telling me about her stories in Colombia and one of them involved a rather aggressive neighbor that treated their "empleadas" quite badly in her opinion.
They had some house servants that did work for them.
And Megan herself, from what I remember, was a pretty opinonated gal who tended to lean a bit to the left.
While living in her small town, I can only assume that somehow politics came to the discussion based on the stories she told me.
Where the neighbor was maybe curious about her politics or she at least volunteered that information freely and gave her opinion on whatever.
Suffice to say, that created some issues where the neighbor family REALLY didn't like Megan.
From what she told me, they even told their house servants that "Megan doesn't want you to have a job."
Which, to be fair, Megan might've been guilty of that one: she didn't approve of how it's common for some Latin Americans to have maids, house servants, etc.
But, in light of that, the same house servants or maids were seemingly always rude with her afterwards whenever an interaction took place ("oh, it's that BITCH again who wants me to be out of a job").
It's almost like they had the house servants be "Team Anti-Megan."
And, being that Megan doesn't hide her opinions, I can only guess that her thoughts on who should be President of Colombia came out too.
With that alone, there would've been tension similar to what Tami had.
At any rate, according to Megan, she even saw them verifying who their house maid (and other servants) voted for during some election in the years before I showed up (whichever one it was, I don't remember if she clarified that).
In short, one could easily see how some voter intimidation came out from this one.
Be it the usual "you won't have a job if the wrong candidate wins because they want to tax us more" to "let us actually see who you voted for so you can keep your job."
Which, to be fair, I'm not sure how they were able to verify who the servants voted for. I wasn't there and didn't clarify that with Megan at the time.
In the US, I don't remember ever being able to take any documents with me outside of the voting booth showing who I voted for on the few occasions I have voted.
In Colombia, I have never voted for anyone in that country (or anywhere in Latin America) so I'm not sure if it is similar.
Or maybe the employer can walk in with the maid or vote for them?
But, regardless of how that was achieved, there MIGHT be some truth to that form of voter intimidation by an employer.
Given that Colombia has been going through a Presidential election for 2022 as you can see here, the topic has come up again on social media and it was what reminded me of this form of voter intimidation.
Social Media Complaints
Similar to Tami and Megan, these are only going to be stories or complaints that I can't verify because I wasn't there.
But it's something to ponder anyhow.
Here's the tweet I saw that made me remember this small detail to life in Latin America.
In which, if I understand it right, it basically says that this dude was having lunch in a restaurant in the north of Bogota overhearing a conversation between a mother and her daughter about how their employee (maid?) is going to vote for and deciding to fire her because of it.
And, for those who want more, here are some other stories of folks giving similar stories of this happening also.
At any rate, that's all I got for you on this topic.
I've never worked for any company in Latin America so I've never had this experience personally and one would doubt I would anyway given I'm not legally allowed to vote anyhow.
So it's all just stories I've either heard about personally (but wasn't there) or read online.
Take it for what it is.
Of course, if any of this is true, one could also ask to what extent does this behavior change the course of elections down here?
To which I have no idea and I couldn't find any data looking into the topic online.
One other thing to mention is that, from my understanding, a lot of the psychology to justify this behavior comes from the ideas of "I gave you a job, you should be grateful I hired you. Now vote for who I say" and also "if this person believes I should pay more taxes, they aren't on my side and shouldn't be hired by me."
And perhaps there are other motivations on the employer's end like disagreements on social issues or whatever else.
But, above all, I think it represents truly the mindset of "I hire you, I own you. Do what I say."
Perhaps really just another example of classism in Latin America.
And, to be fair, it might be unjust to say "in Latin America" because every country is different and I truly don't know how common this is in any other Latin America (let alone in the ones described in this article despite hearing or reading examples of such behavior).
So we'll leave it at that.
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