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National Hispanic Leader Criticizes Bush


July 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The head of a major Hispanic advocacy group criticized the Bush administration Tuesday, saying it has neglected issues important to the nation's largest minority group. ? 

"He came into office raising a lot of expectations, with a lot of promises," Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, said in a teleconference with reporters. "Since then, it seems as though the ultra right wing has taken over. He hasn't respected our vote."

Yzaguirre said there is a gap between "the enormous amount of money spent by President Bush to get our vote, to do some very sophisticated ads, to do the photo ops," and actual policies he has enacted that are meaningful to Hispanics.

While Democrats have also received Hispanic votes without delivering much change, "we can't hold them accountable for things they can't do because they're not in the majority in either House, nor do they control the White House," Yzaguirre said.

At NCLR's annual conference last week, Yzaguirre said the tax cuts backed by the president were tilted toward the wealthy, excluding millions of Hispanic families. He also faulted the president for not providing enough funding for education and failing to come up with solutions for large numbers of Hispanics without health insurance, Yzaguirre said.

"The actual acts of this administration ... indicate this is not a compassionate administration," Yzaguirre said Tuesday.

However, Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Bush has showed his commitment to Hispanics with tax cuts that benefit Latino small business owners, and a homeownership program that helps minorities.

"The president has a record that speaks for itself when it comes to the Latino community," Castillo said. "Because of the president's leadership, more Latinos are looking at the Republican party."

Democrat Al Gore got 62 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, while Bush got 35 percent. But Yzaguirre said the Hispanic vote is up for grabs in 2004.

"We're going to hold both parties accountable," he said. "We don't want it to be a competition of verbal tirades, or photo ops, or more symbolism. We want it to be a competition of deeds and responses to our issues, and actual accomplishments."

Yzaguirre is not the only leader of a major minority advocacy group to express dissatisfaction with the Bush administration or political candidates.

At last week's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual convention, Chairman Julian Bond vowed "to uproot" Bush in 2004. But three Democratic presidential hopefuls also drew attacks for skipping a candidates' forum. They later appeared before the gathering and apologized.

NCLR regularly invites the president and key Cabinet members to its annual conference, but this was the first time in 15 years that no one from an administration attended, said Cecilia Munoz, NCLR's vice president for policy.

Sen. John Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the NCLR conference. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson was the top Republican to speak at the meeting held in Austin, Texas.

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