Entries in Hispanic (4)


Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich Pressed on Puerto Rico Statehood in South Florida

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich(MIAMI) -- Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were pressed Friday about their positions on Puerto Rican statehood at a gathering of Latino Republicans in Miami as the GOP candidates spar for Hispanic support in the final days before Florida’s Tuesday primary.

A cadre of Puerto Ricans attending the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) conference were peeved that the issue of statehood was given short shrift during Thursday night’s CNN debate in Jacksonville, which was co-sponsored by HLN. Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, appearing from here in Miami, asked the candidates Thursday night about Puerto Rico’s statehood, but the question went unanswered by all but one GOP candidate before moderator Wolf Blitzer moved on to other topics.

Cuevas-Neunder, the CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in Florida, was front and center at the conference Friday when Gingrich noted that the question was “one that unfortunately was not covered very well last night and I regret that Wolf Blitzer did not turn and ask the rest of us.”

“I have had a firm position on the right of the Puerto Rican people to have a referendum,” Gingrich said to applause. “I am not dictating the outcome of the referendum because there are several options and the Puerto Rican people have to make that decision.

“But I think they have every right and I support their right to have a referendum to decide on statehood or not and that is something which I would actively support as their right to have a referendum and then, as every other state has, to negotiate the process of accession if that’s what the people of Puerto Rico want to do,” he added.

Enter Cuevas-Neunder.

“Mr. Speaker, I am the lady of the question,” she said, standing up in the front of the audience. “Our Puerto Ricans have given more men and women to the United States Armed Forces than any other state in the union. We have 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States who are voters. We have 52 percent of our children who are in poverty. The question is very simple; You want our vote, yes or no?”

“The question is do you believe that we are able to be a state or not? Simple.”

“I just said what I believe and if you don’t like it, I am sorry we disagree,” Gingrich replied. “I believe the people of Puerto Rico should make the decision."

“What I’m telling you is if the people of Puerto Rico make the decision that they want to be a state,” Gingrich continued to applause from the crowd, “I will work actively to help them negotiate the process of accession to the United States, but the people of Puerto Rico have to decide their future. I would welcome them if they make the decision, but I will not tell them what decision they should make.”

An hour later, Romney addressed the issue in his remarks at the conference, receiving a warmer response from the crowd, including from Cuevas-Neunder, who stood and applauded the former Massachusetts governor.

“I’m looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state,” he said as the audience cheered. “Wow, we’ve got some friends here."

“I think it’s in November you’re having a referendum and I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide that they want to become a state and I can tell you that I will work with [Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno] to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood, that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico.”

That’s further than he went with Univision’s Jorge Ramos Wednesday, when he said, “my choice is to let them make their choice.”

Statehood is a controversial issue among Puerto Ricans and not all support the idea. Others believe it should become independent or remain a commonwealth. But many Puerto Rican voters in the United States back statehood, including many who live in Florida. Puerto Rican voters are the second-largest Latino voting bloc in the Sunshine State, with about 420,000 living here, heavily concentrated around the crucial I-4 corridor in central Florida. And Puerto Ricans tend to be a swing constituency, backing Obama in 2008 and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2010, meaning they could play a critical role in the state’s Jan. 31 primary and in the general election later.

In the most recent Latino Decisions poll conducted for ABC News and Univision News, Puerto Rican Republicans in Florida favor Romney over Gingrich by 22 percent to 12 percent. Gingrich fares even worse among registered Cuban-Americans here -- the state’s largest Latino group -- trailing Romney 49 percent to 17 percent.

“We have a lot of support within the Latino community,” Gingrich said at a news conference before his speech at the event. “I’m encouraged by all that’s happening.”

Gingrich was asked why he supports only the military component of the DREAM Act, not the scholastic one -- the bill would enable some children of undocumented immigrants to have a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or attend college.

“I think the American people are very prepared to allow someone to earn citizenship by serving this country,” Gingrich said. “I think it’s harder to get Americans to agree that the simple act of going to school achieves the same thing.”

Romney, for his part, touched in his remarks on the drug problems plaguing Latin America and, therefore, affecting this country, too.

“One of the things I will do in my first 100 days of my presidency is form a hemispheric task force, bringing nations together that are willing to become part of this to look at these issues,” Romney said. “There are a number of places that drugs are now being brought from. Puerto Rico is one of those now that is being used. Given the fact that there is more difficulty getting through the Mexico border, people are looking at Puerto Rico as a place to bring drugs into the United States and from there into Florida. We need to be far more vigilant in looking at the cross border implications of crime."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Holds Closed-Door Meeting to Build Support for Immigration Reform

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama was scheduled to meet with a number of Hispanic actors and journalists Thursday afternoon in another behind-the-scenes effort to enlist support and build momentum for his vision of immigration reform.

Attendees are expected to include journalists and entertainers such as:

  • Jose Diaz-Balart, anchor of both the news program Noticiero Telemundo and Sunday public affairs show Enfoque;
  • Barbara Bermudo, host of Univision’s Primer Impacto;
  • Rosario Dawson, star of films such as Men in Black II, 25th Hour, and Unstoppable;
  • Emilio Estefan, musician and producer and former member of Miami Sound Machine;
  • Lily Estefan, host of Univision’s El Gordo y la Flaca;
  • America Ferrera, star of ABC’s former show Ugly Betty;
  • Don Francisco (born Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld), host of variety shows Sábado Gigante and Don Francisco Presenta;
  • Vanessa Hauc, a journalist from Noticiero Telemundo;
  • Maria Teresa Kumar, an MSNBC contributor and executive director of Voto Latino;
  • Eva Longoria of ABC’s Desperate Housewives; and
  • Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of Noticiero Univision

“The president wants a constructive and civil debate on the need to fix the broken immigration system so that it meets America’s economic and security needs for the 21st century,” a White House official said in a statement. “To do that we need to elevate the debate, and folks like these and those who met with him last week can play an important part in bringing this debate around the country, rising above the politics and false debates that too often dominate when the issue comes up, and really address why it matters economically and for other reasons in a constructive way. “

The official said Thursday’s meeting was to be similar to the one the president held behind closed doors last week with a bipartisan group of individuals from the faith, law enforcement, and business communities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sharron Angle Denounces 'Don't Vote' Ad; Backer Linked to the GOP

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle's campaign Wednesday denounced efforts being pushed by a controversial ad urging Hispanic voters in Nevada not to vote -- but Democrats replied that isn't sufficient. The ad caused national uproar after reports linked its sponsor to Republicans.

"No ad should ever discourage voters from voting or expressing their opinions at the ballot box," Angle's spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement to ABC News.

Angle said in a radio interview Wednesday that not encouraging voters to come out would be "exactly the wrong thing to do in this election."

Sen. Harry Reid's campaign had blasted Angle's silence on the issue as "reprehensible" and the Senate majority leader accused her of "trying to keep people from voting."

The "Don't Vote" ad, made by a little-known group called Latinos for Reform, encourages Hispanics stay away from the polls as a way to send a message to Democrats.

Robert de Posada, the group's head, says the ad doesn't specifically target Democrats, but no Republican lawmakers are shown in either the English or the Spanish-language ads.

De Posada served as the Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic affairs from 1989-1993, according to his resume. According to campaign records, De Posada also has a long history of contributing money to Republicans.

The Hispanic vote is crucial to Reid's campaign. Hispanics make up more than a quarter of Nevada's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and comprise 14 percent of all eligible voters in Nevada this year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Study: Latino Voters Staunchly Pro-Democrat but Highly Apathetic

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Latino voters, the nation's fastest growing ethnic group with strong Democratic allegiances, appear significantly less motivated than other voters to participate in the upcoming elections, a new Pew Hispanic Center survey shows.

One-third of Latino registered voters have given the election "quite a lot of thought," compared with half of all U.S. registered voters, according to the study, which was released Tuesday. On intent to vote, half of Latinos said they will cast ballots in November while 70 percent of all U.S. registered voters said the same.

Political apathy among Latinos has emerged as a key concern for Democrats weeks before the midterm elections because two-thirds of registered voters favor Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans.

The Latino vote could play an influential role in California, Texas, Florida and New York; states where the majority of the country's registered Latino voters reside.

Pew estimates that 19.3 million Latinos are eligible to vote, making up about 7.4 percent of all voters in 2008. While turnout among those voters has traditionally been lower than the national average, experts say, the overall number of eligible Latino voters is rapidly growing.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio