A popular Hispanic-owned food company faces boycott calls after its chief executive congratulated U.S. President Donald Trump.
At the White House, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said that Mr. Trump’s leadership was a blessing.
Goya Foods – sold in the United States and many Latin countries – is the largest Hispanic food company in the United States.
But now many of its loyal customers and some high profile Democrats are demanding that the company’s products be rejected.
How did it start?
Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods, attended a White House event on Thursday where President Trump signed the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, which has been described as an effort to improve access to educational and economic opportunities. .
Unanue congratulated the president at the event, saying, “We are all really blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder.”
Critics said his comments were deaf to the community that Goya Foods largely serves.
During his first election campaign, Mr. Trump described most of the Mexican immigrants as criminals. He also pursued controversial anti-immigration policies, seeking to end a policy that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth from deportation and trying to build a southern border wall.
Many users have since declared that they will no longer use the products, known as staples from authentic Latin cuisine.
The boycotters have shared alternative brands and recipes online, with the hashtags #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya on social media.
Why is this a big problem?
Some customers say they grew up with a sense of cultural attachment to the brand, but now feel disappointed by the CEO’s comments.
“Goya is a staple among people of color,” longtime supporter Autasia Ramos, the BBC, said, being popular with American and immigrant households.
Ms. Ramos said she trusted the company for affordable products that are normally hard to find, but which are key ingredients in Hispanic cuisine.
However, she added, she now felt “discouraged” by the company and planned to stop buying her products.
“I hope people choose not to support, so the CEO really feels the effect of abandoning the community that supports his business. “
Celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Democrat MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have also said they have decided to boycott the company.
Ocasio-Cortez, a New York lawmaker, tweeted that she would now learn how to make her own Adobo, a popular marinade in Hispanic cuisine, rather than buying it from Goya Foods.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said Americans should “think twice before buying their products” since their CEO praised “a president who infamously and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain” .
How did the company react?
Unanue defended himself and said he had also worked with former United States First Lady Michelle Obama on initiatives before.
“It is the suppression of speech,” he said. “I don’t apologize for saying – and especially when you are called by the President of the United States – you’re going to say ‘no, I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thanks?’ ”
“I didn’t say that to the Obamas and I didn’t say that to President Trump. “
Supporters of the company noted that at the start of this year, Goya had donated more than 300,000 lbs (136,077 kg) of food, or about 270,000 meals, to food banks and organizations to help relieve the coronavirus.
At Thursday’s event, Unanue announced that he would also donate one million boxes of Goya chickpeas and 1 million pounds of food to food banks to help families affected by the pandemic.
President’s son Donald Trump Jr condemned the reaction, tweeting “The crowd on the left wants to cancel one of the largest Hispanic businesses in America because it recognizes that the President has shown great leadership? (Not very awake) “.
Why Latin voting is so important
By Luis Fajardo, BBC Mundo, Miami
Given the history of Donald Trump’s controversial statements about Latinos, starting with his description of Mexican immigrants as “rapists”, many will have been surprised by the praise he received from Goya Foods chief Robert Unanue .
In fact, Mr. Unanue’s approval of Mr. Trump, and the subsequent condemnation of the businessman’s position by many prominent Latinos, only underscores the fact that the Hispanic community in the United States is politically far from monolithic.
Although a clear majority of Latinos in the United States tend to vote Democrats, 28% of their votes were for Trump in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
Particularly in Florida, many Cubans and Venezuelan-Americans appreciate Trump’s strong words against the left-wing governments in power in Havana and Caracas, whom they accuse of having forced their families into exile.
With elections in the battlefield states often defined by thin margins, even a small defection of the Latinos to the Republican camp could prove very valuable to the president.