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EFE News Service

Hispanic Presence Rising At U.S. Presidential Inaugurations

20 January 2005
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved. 

Washington, Jan 20 (EFE).- The Hispanic presence at presidential inaugurations has grown over the past couple decades, especially since political competition for that constituency has heated up, and Thursday's ceremonies in Washington included an array of Latinos.

"The cream of Hispanic society in the United States is represented," said the president of the immigrant-aid organization Unidad Hondureña, Jose Lagos, one of the special invitees to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.

Other leaders of Latino groups in the country said they were very satisfied with the fact that the inauguration week's organizers had taken into account the "ever-increasing Hispanic community" in preparing their lists of invited guests.

A large number of entities and organizations representing Hispanics have been present at all the social and civic activities held this week.

Some guests' invitations included special box seats at Thursday's swearing-in ceremony on the western steps of the U.S. capital.

Preferred seating was assigned to government officials including Bush's White House legal counsel, Mexican-American Alberto Gonzales, whom the president has nominated for the post of attorney general and whose confirmation by the Senate is pending.

Also among the attendees at the inaugural ceremony were representatives from Puerto Rico, including newly elected Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila, and from the country's Cuban, Mexican and Central American communities, as well as leaders of South American and Caribbean organizations in the United States.

Also among the many Hispanic delegations attending the ceremony were groups of Hispanic students from all educational levels, as well as Latino leaders who have stood out for their community service in all 50 states.

There are more than 40 million Hispanics in the United States, of whom about nine million are registered to vote.

Bush received a larger percentage of the Hispanic vote in the November election than he did in 2000, according to voter surveys released shortly after the balloting.

The percentage of Hispanic men who backed Bush rose to 46 percent in 2004, up from 34 percent in 2000, according to an analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

During the same time, however, the president's support among Hispanic women held steady, increasing just 1 percent from 35 percent to 36 percent, a difference within the survey's margin of error.

The analysis found that 41 percent of Hispanics overall voted for Bush. Other surveys have placed the percentage at anywhere from 33 percent to 46 percent.

For organizations such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), "there is no doubt" of the importance of the Hispanic presence within the U.S. government, and the administration is making great efforts to increase their role.

"As Hispanics, we feel proud to be taken into account at the swearing-in ceremony for President Bush," said Lagos, expressing a sentiment echoed by other Latino leaders, many of them invited to the festivities by the Republican Party.

The activities at the Capitol this week, particularly on Thursday, have unfolded amid heavy security measures which included the Inauguration Day closure to commercial aviation of Washington's air space.

Some demonstrators were in evidence during the ceremonies, although they were kept far away from the festivities by hundreds of police and security personnel.

Meanwhile, a short distance from the inaugural ceremony, Cuban-American Adan Delgado said that the event's $40 million price tag, not including security costs, should have been used to buy bullet-proof vests for U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq and to armor their vehicles.

"What I experienced in Iraq fills me with guilt and remorse, and that's why I'm criticizing the war," he said later in an interview.

Near him in a Washington park lay hundreds of fake coffins covered with U.S. flags representing the country's military dead in that conflict.

But despite the demonstrators and the reminders that the country is currently at war, most of those attending the country's 55th presidential inauguration and its connected activities on this bright but chilly day allowed themselves to be caught up in the pomp and ceremony of the event.

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