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A battle for survival; longtime activists-turned candidates like Jovana Renteria are battling with corporate Democrats for control of the party and for the survival of their communities

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OSCAR LEON: On November 6, 2018, the state of Arizona will hold its general elections. A generation of young Latina leaders are part of a progressive upswing inside the Democratic Party.

JOVANA RENTERIA: If you would have asked me a long time ago if I would have been running for this position or any elected positions, I would have said no. In the current political climate that we’re in, we have to step up and our community knows we have to. And they are totally in full support in us doing what we’ve got to do. It’s our survival, we have to do anything and everything that we could do to keep our family together. And this is part of running for the judicial system.

OSCAR LEON: Jovana Renteria is a Justice of the Peace Candidate in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked for over a decade with Puente Arizona.

JOVANNA RENTERIA: I’ve fought immigration streamline 27(g), SB 1070. Before this, I worked at domestic violence shelter for 5 years. I recently went to Tornillo to shut down the border and the camp out there that they have with children. I went to San Diego to fight the expansion of streamline.

OSCAR LEON: Along with a group of volunteers, she has covered thousands of homes, knocking on doors and talking to people even in one hundred and ten degrees as it often gets in Phoenix. Her main proposals are to work out a way to keep misdemeanor offenders out of jail, try to work with social services instead of criminalization to resolve conflicts

JOVANNA RENTERIA: We get the minimum. Here in my campaign it’s the minimum that we just have for the mailers and stuff like that. The rest is the community coming through for canvassing, bringing water, bringing food and stuff like that that is actually helping us power our canvassers that are going out every day.

OSCAR LEON: Justice of the Peace is a judicial officer, of small jurisdiction claims, civil cases, traffic violations. All justices hear every type of crime that is considered a misdemeanor, and even some justices of the peace conduct preliminary hearings on felonies.

JOVANNA RENTERIA: They do civil cases and they give all the fines there. People start accumulating fines, they start getting those warrants because they can’t afford them. Family separation starts. So, people don’t understand how important these roles in our communities are.

OSCAR LEON: Renteria sees the high number of criminal codes demanding maximum penalties as a decision to support the prison industrial complex.

JOVANNA RENTERIA: When I decided to actually run, it’s been real for me. My political campaign didn’t start when I submitted my JP application. It started a long time ago when they were criminalizing my grandfather and my tios, now my brothers. You know what I mean? And it’s not something new to me, and I know all these politicians that are directly with these corporations. And I’m here to say that it hasn’t been working, that we need that change, we need a change that’s really going to help our community. Because at the end of the day, our community is the one that’s suffering with family separation.

OSCAR LEON: Renteria thinks that the mistrust between the Latino community and the Phoenix Police Department is a detriment to the city’s safety. 

JOVANNA RENTERIA: With the political climate we have been living in under Arpaio, when they were targeting Latinos in different neighborhoods. I think that it’s going to be very hard to trust the police and stuff like that. They are trying to militarize our communities. We don’t need more police, we don’t need to be criminalized more than we already are. if they are not criminalizing us and putting us in jail, they’re shooting us in the streets.

OSCAR LEON: Renteria is one of four candidates for the Justice of the Peace post in Encanto, Phoenix, and in her own words, the one with the smaller budget. None of the other three candidates have any critical statement about Phoenix police department, nor any police accountability proposals on their websites.

JOVANNA RENTERIA: So, there’s a big disconnection that we have with our police department because of how they conduct themselves, on us not trusting them. This year, to this date that we’re currently in today, the Phoenix Police department has killed thirty-three people, our community members. None of them have gone to court, none have gone through a process where they are going to be held accountable for killing our family members. There also hasn’t been a process set forward on handling these situations and deescalating instead of just going to basically shoot, point and kill.

OSCAR LEON: Follow The Real News for more on the fight for community and human rights.

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Oscar León is an experienced international press correspondent and documentary filmmaker based in Arizona. His work has reached continental TV broadcast in many occasions on Telesur, ECTV, Ecuavisa, Radio Canada, Canal Uno and even Fox Sports Latin America and El Garaje TV; he has been a TRNN correspondent since 2010. Oscar has reported from as many as 9 countries and more than 12 cities in US; his coverage includes TV reports, special reports and TV specials, not only covering social movements, politics and economics but environmental issues, culture and sports as well. This includes the series "Reportero del Sur", "Occupy USA - El Otoño Americano", "Habia una vez en Arizona", "Motor X" all TV mini series broadcasted to all Americas and "Once upon a time in Arizona" finalist in Radio Canada's "Migration" 2010 contest.