MIAMI – “Speaking Spanish at campaign stops, advertising in the Spanish media … it’s not enough,” complained Raul Yzaguierre, president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), on July 24, at the annual conference of that organization being held at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Yzaguierre said that both of the main parties, Democrats and Republicans, have to deal with the issues that are of concern to the Latino community. A report made public the same day said that polls indicate that Latino voters put education, the economy, health care, immigration, civil rights and questions of foreign policies at the top of their lists.

Both parties have been trying to win the Latino vote lately. The report says that “Republicans and Democrats are eager to capture” the Hispanic vote. “This new attention seems to indicate that the political parties and the candidates have recently ‘discovered’ the existence of the Hispanic community.”

In the 2000 presidential elections, 5.7 million Hispanics went to the polls to cast their ballots, many more than were expected. The NCLR report, titled “Mobilizing the Latino Vote,” estimates that for the 2004 elections that number will increase by almost two million voters. In 2000 almost 80 percent of registered Latinos went to vote. Despite this high percentage of registered Latinos voting, only 40 percent of all eligible Hispanics voted.

The report showed that Latinos favor the Democrats, thinking that they deal better with the general issues over the Republicans. The main Latino ethnic group favoring the Republicans are the Cuban Americans, especially in Florida. However, this can change, according to the report, because the population of other Latinos is growing at a faster rate in Florida than the Cuban Americans.

According to the NCLR, Latinos have a concensus on many issues, no matter what their nationality or where they came from. Bilingual education, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and ridding Vieques, Puerto Rico, of the U.S. Navy are some of the issues where Latinos demonstrate overwhelming support.

The NCLR is the largest constituency-based Latino organization in the U.S. and according to its Mission Statement was organized to “reduce poverty and discrimination, and improve life opportunities for Hispanic Americans.”

The author can be reached at jacruz@attbi.com

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