THE 2004 ELECTION: Hispanic voters are more focused this year on education and the economy, and less on the issue of immigration, according to a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C. The poll found that 94 percent of respondents said the economy and jobs was "extremely" or "very" important in determining their vote for president in November, while an equal percentage said they would look at the candidates' stances on education in helping to determine which one would receive their vote. Slightly more than 88 percent said health care was an "extremely" or "very" important deciding factor, while 63 percent cited immigration issues. "Given the tremendous growth of the Latino population, candidates, political organizations and the news media are paying greater attention to Latino voters in 2004 than in any previous election year," says Roberto Suro, Pew Hispanic Center director. The war on Iraq was cited by 77 percent of Hispanic voters as "extremely" or "very" important to their vote for president. The poll also found that while nearly half identified themselves as Democrats, a significant portion – 21 percent – said they did not affiliate themselves with either major party. (For more on the Hispanic electorate, see stories starting on Page 50 in this issue.)
NEW HEAD OF OAS: Former Costan Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez this month assumes the post of Secretary General of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., succeeding former Colombian president César Gaviria to head the group for the next five years. In a statement, Mr. Rodríguez pledged "to promote inter-American ideals," adding that "we want to pursue freedom, justice, and development, so that every citizen of the Americas can enjoy a decent life and realizing his or her full human potential."
POLITICAL MEDIA: Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe has named Melisa Díaz as director of Hispanic media. McAuliffe says "Melisa will fight for the concerns and needs of Hispanic Americans and will ensure that the Democratic message is strong within these communities. Melisa's hard work and dedication will help Democrats take back the White House this fall." Prior to joining the DNC, Ms. Díaz was the Washington correspondent for the Puerto Rico daily El Vocero, and previously was communications director for Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.). The Puerto Rico native is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico Law School.
CHANGES AT NCLR: Ray Lozano has taken over as acting chair of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza, replacing San Antonio attorney José Villareal, who resigned after being named vice chair of John Kerry's presidential campaign. Mr. Lozano is market executive for DTE Energy in Detroit and is a former executive director of LA SED, a community-based organization in the Detroit area.
NEW IMMIGRATION POST: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hired former Clinton administration official Guillermo Linares as director of the city's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Mr. Linares, who in 1991 became the first Dominican American in the country elected to public office when he joined the New York City Council, says he will be "always looking out" for the interests of the immigrant community. "We will do everything possible to make sure they know they are not alone," he says. Mr. Linares was chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans at the White House during the Clinton administration. He is a doctoral candidate in education at Columbia University.
PUSHING FOR CELIA MEDAL: On the first anniversary of the death of "queen of salsa" singer Celia Cruz, Rep. Robert Menéndez (D-N.J.) pledged to continue lobbying for a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor award, and introduced legislation for a commemorative coin. The Congressional Tribute to Celia Cruz Act would be awarded "in recognition of her enduring contributions to music, Latino culture, and American society." The Celia Cruz Commemorative Coin Act would instruct the Treasury Department to mint coins in commemoration of Cruz's contributions to U.S. culture. "Her passion for a free Cuba, the spirit she shared as an entertainer, and her service as an ambassador for all Latin cultures makes her worthy of our nation's highest honor," says Mr. Menéndez. Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J.) has sponsored similar legislation in the U.S. Senate.
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