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Political Opportunity…Hispanic Groups Launch Voter Registration Drives

Political Opportunity: A Call For Hispanic Involvement

Letters to the Editor

January 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

In the Sentinel's Jan. 1 "Goals" section, you listed five ways to reach and achieve Central Florida's potential: "Work together," "Focused growth," "Broaden the economy," "Rx for better care," and "Reading by nine." All five goals were well defined and are very attainable.

My comments and advice are for Hispanics, my immediate community.

Although most of the time we are lumped together by the media and everyone else, we are different. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Colombians, etc., do not think or act alike. We may have a few things in common, but next to the Spanish language, they are small by comparison. Although we are fast becoming the "majority of the minority," we are not following or practicing any of the goals you described. We should start doing so immediately.

We should start by becoming more active in our entire community matters. Go to "town meetings" whenever possible. Do not be afraid to state your position. My fellow Puerto Ricans are the leaders of apathy. Most discuss and get involved in Puerto Rico's politics but refuse or do not want to do so in local politics.

We live and work here (I'm retired). For the betterment of Central Florida, we should get involved. We must realize that this is the community that we have to help so that it can help us.

Being U.S. citizens since birth, we Puerto Ricans should become leaders of the movement to unite all Hispanics. We should help one another. Hispanics have the potential to become a powerhouse in politics and other ventures. We should start by registering to vote and then exercising that right.

Regardless of party preference, we all should register to vote and then vote.

Politicians everywhere look for and understand one thing: the voting record of a group.

I hope that the beginning of next year will find Hispanics as the leading voting group in Central Florida.

Pedro A. Cortes

Hispanic Groups Launch Voter Registration Drives

By Sonia Osorio

January 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Miami, Jan 23 (EFE).-Latino activists are intensifying their campaign to register Hispanic U.S. citizens to vote, knowing that this bloc has the potential to wield greater clout than ever before.

In the 2000 election, 5.9 million Hispanics voted, representing 5 percent of voters nationwide, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a small number relative to the country's large Latino population.

If Hispanics registered to vote in the same proportions as they did in 2000, some 8 million Latinos would be eligible and around 6.2 million would turn out at the polls, according to Pew, a non-partisan research organization.

Many Hispanic groups have launched campaigns to raise awareness about voting and increase voter registration among Latinos.

Rhadames Peguero, president of the League of Latin American Voters, told EFE "the different groups that make up the organization will step up the campaign to raise awareness among Spanish speakers about the importance of voting."

There are more than 3 million Hispanics who are currently eligible to vote but have failed to register, the League of Latin American Voters reported.

According to the 2000 census, 38.8 million Hispanics live in the United States, although most of them are not citizens.

Since Hispanics became the country's largest ethnic minority, politicians have been vying for their votes, tackling immigration issues and other matters linked to the Latino community.

Many politicians - most notably President George W. Bush - have taken to sprinkling their speeches with Spanish phrases.

"Politicians are trying to attract our vote, and we run the risk of being used. That's why we have to be more responsible," said Peguero, also head of the National Dominican-American Foundation.

"Although we Hispanics think we're very attractive due to the percentage of the population we represent, if we don't vote, we really don't count," he said, echoing the campaign's motto, which translates into "When We Vote, We Count."

Jose Lagos, director of the League of Latin American Voters, said his organization is conducting voter registration drives at the headquarters of the groups that make up the coalition, festivals, sporting events, and via mail and Internet.

"We are very concerned about the number of people who have not registered to vote yet - in Florida, for example, more than 350,000 Hispanics have not done so - and about the lack of awareness of key dates in the elections," he said.

Lagos noted that many Latinos are unaware that they must register by Oct. 1 to be able to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election.

This is why his group's campaign not only emphasizes the need to participate in politics, but also explains the workings of the U.S. elections system.

The League of Latin American Voters is a non-partisan organization made up of the Nicaraguan Brotherhood, the Peruvian-American Coalition, the Brotherhood of the Americas, the Colombian-American Service Association, the Chilean USA Foundation, the Venezuelan Foundation and the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce.

Puerto Rico Gov. Sila M. Calderon launched a campaign two years ago to encourage Puerto Ricans living in the continental U.S. to vote under the motto "Let Nothing Hold Us Back!"

More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have registered to vote since the beginning of the campaign, a figure expected to rise to 300,000 nationwide in the course of this year.

Manuel Benitez, representative of Calderon's office in the mainland, said "nearly 90 percent of the Puerto Ricans on the island turn out to vote, but once they come here, they don't do it, that's why (we launched) the campaign to encourage them to vote."

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