94 Percent of California’s Registered Latino Voters Predicted to Cast Ballot in 2016 Election

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) predicted this week that 94 percent of California’s 4.1 million registered Latino voters will participate in the November 2016 election. According to NALEO’s latest state profile of Latino voters, it estimated that over 3,839,000 California Latino voters will go to the polls. If that number holds, according to NALEO, it would “mark a 22 percent increase in Latino turnout in the state from Election 2012, and a 12 percent increase in the Latino share of the vote in the state from Election 2012.”

Other highlights from the NALEO profile include the following:

  • Latinos account for nearly one of every four registered voters in California. There are 17,075,641 registered voters in California.
  • 54% of California’s Latino registered voters identify as Democrats, 29% are unaffiliated and 17% identify as Republican.

For the complete report, see below.

Wilmer Valderrama Explains One of the ‘Major Problems’ in This Election

Actor Wilmer Valderrama has just about had it with the finger-pointing this election season.

The “Minority Report” star, who works closely with the non-partisan organization Voto Latino, recently spoke to The Huffington Post about his concerns over the current political tactics of presidential candidates.

“A lot of the campaigns and the political journey of this last year and a half for our government has become all for the sake of entertainment and very little for the discussion of change,” Valderrama told HuffPost. “A lot of pointing fingers and a lot of name calling, saying ‘you’re a liar, you’re a liar.’ Everyone’s calling each other a liar, so you don’t know who’s actually telling the truth anymore.”

Read More at HuffPost Latino Voices

Landmark Sexual Slavery Trial Begins in Guatemala

Top Story — Two former soldiers in Guatemala went on trial Monday for the alleged rape, sexual enslavement, forced disappearance and murder of indigenous men and women in a six-month period during the country’s 36-year civil war.

The trial marks the first time in history that sexual slavery will be prosecuted as a war crime in the country where it is alleged to have taken place.

Retired Colonel Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Girón, 59, and regional commander Heriberto Valdez Asij, 74, stand accused of killing or forcibly disappearing Maya-Q’eqchi men from the northeastern village of Sepur Zarco, then authorizing the systematic rape and enslavement of their wives.

The surviving women, now in their seventies and eighties, testified that the soldiers raped them and burned their houses down after their husbands were killed. The women said they were then forced to report to the military base in Sepur Zarco in rotating shifts every three days, to cook and clean for the soldiers.

The shifts lasted 10 months between 1982 and 1983, a period during which the women say they continued to be raped. Some women were reportedly held on bondage for six years, until the military base closed in 1988.

The women, along with five indigenous men allegedly tortured at the Sepur Zarco base, first sought legal recourse in 2011 for the crimes committed against them. The trial is expected to last 40 days. The defendants, who were jailed in June 2014, deny any wrongdoing.

Guatemala’s civil war lasted 36 years. According to the United Nations, 83.3 percent of the victims of human rights violations were Mayan.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Mexican authorities reported seven suspected criminals and one innocent bystander were shot in a series of violent clashes between alleged drug cartel members and police in the border city of Matamoros, during a weekend of violent shootouts that claimed at least 18 lives.

Mexico’s national security commissioner announced the capture of Francisco Javier Hernández García, known as “2000,” the acting head of the Sinaloa based Beltrán-Leyva cartel.

Mexico’s Federal Health Commission has granted the parents of two sick girls the rights to import medicinal cannabis as part of their treatment — an indicator of the Commission’s willingness to approve the alternative treatment without an explicit court order.

Caribbean

A Haitian opposition alliance including presidential candidate Jude Célestin, known as the “Group of Eight,” has refused to meet with the OAS group sent to resolve the country’s indefinitely suspended presidential elections.

Reuters, meanwhile, is reporting that two unnamed government officials in Haiti said Prime Minister Evans Paul is likely to step down so he can ultimately take over as for President Michel Martelly in a transition government when Martelly steps down on Sunday.

Martelly, who is also a famous music star in the country, has released what Agence France-Presse called “a sexually loaded song attacking his critics,” particularly respected female journalist.

Puerto Rico released details of a bond swap proposal that would offer creditors two new bonds in an attempt to fix interest rates on a portion of the territory’s $72 billion in public debt and tie payments to government revenue, a strategy experts say could be welcomed by creditors.

The New York Times has published an analysis of one of the reasons it says Puerto Rico’s power authority has racked up $9 billion in debt: free electricity provided to all of the island’s 78 municipalities, many government-owned enterprises and some privately owned ones.

Central America

Costa Rican taxi drivers parked their cars en masse, stopping traffic in several critical locations in the country’s capital city San José, to protest the government’s failure to create a strategy to limit popular ride-sharing app Uber’s presence within the country.

Honduras has declared a national emergency over the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked —though not definitively— with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes unusually small head size and possible brain damage in babies. This comes as the World Health Organization, in a meeting yesterday called the spread of the virus an international emergency.

Andes

Felipe Froilán Molina Bustamante, a Bolivian paramilitary member convicted for the assassination of the socialist leader Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz during a military coup in 1980, was found and arrested, according to Bolivian authorities.

An in-depth report by The New York Times examines the presidential candidacy of Peru’s General Daniel Urresti, who is currently on trial for allegedly ordering the killing of a journalist in 1988 while simultaneously running as the presidential candidate of Peru’s ruling party, the Partido Nacionalista de Perú, for the upcoming general elections on April 10.

According to Venezuelan opposition leaders, doctors and Colombian government leaders, the Venezuelan government is underestimating and underreporting the number of Zika virus cases in the country, which could severely damage containment efforts.

Southern Cone

The director of state-owned Brazilian oil behemoth Petrobras, Jorge Zelada, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in a corruption scandal at the oil firm that has rocked the country’s political class.

Brazil, which will be hosting the Olympics in August of this year, has admitted that its authorities are unsure about the actual number of people infected with the Zika virus within its borders, particularly due to the fact that a large number of those infected do not develop clear symptoms. The country, however, announced that there is no chance that the Olympic games will be canceled, declaring that the virus poses no risk to athletes and tourists who are not pregnant.

Argentina will be resuming its debt negotiations with U.S. creditors on Monday in New York, where Luis Caputo, Argentina’s finance minister, stated he wanted to make a formal offer to the country’s creditors later this week.

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Venezuelan Supreme Court Invalidates Legislature as Political Crisis Worsens

Top Story — Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ruled that “decisions taken or to be taken” by the opposition-led National Assembly are void until three opposition members who were previously barred are removed from office. The court banned four legislators in December —one from President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist party and three from the opposition coalition— as they investigated reports of vote buying.

In defiance of the ban, opposition leaders swore the lawmakers into office on Jan. 6, rejecting what they say is an attempt to remove the super-majority gained in legislative elections held on Dec. 6. The government responded to those elections by nominating 13 new justices to the Supreme Court, furthering opposition claims that the court has been a tool for authoritarian rule.

The decision to rule the legislature as effectively powerless comes a day before key legislative actions were expected from both sides of Venezuela’s increasingly divided political system. Opposition members were planning to introduce a law to provide amnesty to jailed political allies and like-minded activists, while government lawmakers planned to declare a national emergency over the country’s deepening recession — a crisis that has left Venezuela with what experts estimate is the world’s highest rate of inflation.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Speaking on local radio Monday, an official from Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said the extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States will take at least a year. U.S. prosecutors from seven different jurisdictions are already jockeying for the chance to try Guzmán, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mexico’s attorney general, meanwhile, said that Sean Penn’s clandestine interview with Guzmán was “essential” to tracking the fugitive down. Mexican authorities have released raw footage of the fierce gun battle that took place during the military assault on Guzmán’s compound that ultimately led to his capture.

Lack of cooperation between U.S. and Mexican officials has hindered efforts to curb illegal arms trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a federal report from U.S. watchdog organization the Government Accountability Office.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called on the Obama administration to end the immigration raids in homes of Central American families in the United States and to provide attorneys for all unaccompanied minors who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Caribbean

Unilever agreed to build a $35 million soap and toothpaste factory in Cuba, due to open in a special development zone in 2018, in a move that will mark the global consumer product company’s return to the island after a 2012 dispute over who would have the majority stake in the company.

Thanks to a renegotiation of Puerto Rico’s debt to French oil company Total, Puerto Rico was able to keep its ambulances, patrol cars, fire trucks and other crucial public vehicles on the road after the island was almost unable to pay for the vehicles’ gas.

Haiti’s ceremony to welcome newly elected lawmakers did not go according to tradition Monday, as political parties came under heavy criticism for moving forward with the process given the country’s unresolved election controversies. Normally, Haitian President Michel Martelly would have given his final speech before both chambers of Congress, but he was denied the opportunity.

Central America

El Salvador issued a national alert Monday against a mosquito that carries the tropical diseases dengue, chikungunya and Zika, in an effort to control human transmission and infection.

The retrial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity has been yet again postponed so that the court can resolve outstanding legal petitions, according to a judge’s Monday announcement.

Indigenous authorities of the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government in Nicaragua issued a public complaint that they were pressured to sign a document that would allow for the construction of the country’s planned interoceanic canal on their territory.

Panama’s success as the fastest-growing economy in the Americas, thanks in part to the expanded Panama Canal project, “has come at a price,” according to Bloomberg View, which warns that if the country does not resolve ongoing issues of bribery and corruption, economic growth may be fleeting.

Andes

A Spanish galleon wrecked off the coast of Colombia and discovered in November did not go down in combat, according to historical research. Whatever its fate, the ship is due to be the subject of a debate between a Seattle-based treasure hunting group and the Colombian government, who both claim the rights to what could be billions of dollars in gold and silver within the wreck.

South America’s second-largest hydroelectric power plant is back online after a Colombian court reversed an earlier order that shut down the El Quimbo dam the Huila department on environmental grounds.

Southern Cone

In the latest phase of the investigation into corruption surrounding the Brazilian state oil firm Petrobras, authorities there announced Monday they are investigating 13 local and foreign banks for any irregularities involving dealings with an engineering firm linked to Petrobras

As Brazil’s annual Carnival celebrations approach, the Financial Times reports that many towns and cities have cut back on the typically lavish preparations for the event amid a historic recession.

Argentine authorities arrested the remaining two of three notorious criminals Monday after the trio escaped on Dec. 27 from prison in a breakout that highlighted for many the growing influence of drug gangs in the country.

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NPR’s Latino USA Wants YOU for Our Politics Show

In a few weeks, NPR’s Latino USA will produce its first politics show of the 2016 election cycle. Our focus will be on the U.S. Latino vote, and we are asking our listeners to help. Producer Fernanda Echávarri explains in this video:

Send your voices memos to info@futuromediagroup.org. We want to hear from you!

Featured image: David McNew / Getty

Conservative Latinos Draw Line on Immigration

Saying that certain immigration proposals “are not in line with [their] principles” or “in the best interest of the country,” the executive director of one of the country’s top Latino conservative political organizations published an open letter today, explaining that his group will reject any immigration reform proposal that includes “an end to the longstanding practice of birthright citizenship in the United States” and “the mass deportation of millions of immigrants and U.S. citizens, particularly those who have obeyed U.S. laws and contributed to society since arriving in the country.”

Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, released a “An open letter to all Americans,”  via an email press release and on LIBRE’s site. NPR also reported the news of Garza’s letter earlier this morning. The letter begins: “In recent days there has been public attention to America’s immigration system, and many proposals to amend the system have been discussed.”  The complete letter is available on LIBRE’s main site:

In a conversation with NPR, Garza said: “If you’re somebody who’s proposing bad policies, we’re going to call you out. Period, without regard to political consequences, what the political winds are. We are going to stand on sound ideas and sound policy.”

Garza

Latino USA connected with LIBRE with the hopes of talking directly with Garza. His schedule wouldn’t allow for a phone call, but he did provide answers to two questions sent to LIBRE  via email:

Latino USA: The letter does not mention any specific candidates, but it does seem to address the current comments made by candidates such as Donald Trump and other GOP candidates who have spoken about birthright citizenship and deportation. Is this letter a direct rejection of Trump’s comments?

Daniel Garza: This letter is about immigration reform. It’s about ideas and policy proposals. The letter is a direct rejection of any policy approach that may be overly costly to taxpayers, and goes against the sentiment of the majority in the U.S. who support the integration of undocumented immigrants to our country. The LIBRE Initiative has and continues to support efforts to achieve immigration reform that benefits our country, economy and population.

LUSA: What does LIBRE plan to do so that such policy suggestions do not become part of a national GOP platform? Will it be spending money to educate voters about LIBRE’s specific position?

DG: The LIBRE Initiative’s main focus has always been to promote the ideals of a free society, thus we intend to continue our work in educating our community on economic freedom and limited government—regardless of the policy stances elected officials may take. We’ll continue to drive ideas in a variety of ways, including through our events and a host of other outreach efforts.

The organization’s Facebook page, which has more than 382,000 likes, also posted news of the open letter, eliciting over 70 comments. Reaction to the open letter was mixed:

“Then we will keep on getting the disaster we have now. This was the biggest incentive for foreign females to get into the USA, have the child, and get immunity from deportation. What a stupid concept, how did the American people ever allow this to get started.”

“Señor LIBRE, por favor, the issue of “mass deportation” is a fallacy. Let’s face this with honesty. It is a stigmatizing slogan meant to appoint bigotry onto the Republican Party. More specifically, the Caucasian contingent of the conservatively principled, and TEA Party supportive Americans. The Leftist contrived mantras of ’round em up’, ‘put them in boxcars’, and ‘mass deport them all’ were conjured up to distract and conceal the realities of the federal government intentionally and willfully appropriating themselves justification to continue facilitating illegal immigration – and all for its own purpose. Attrition through enforcement (mass enforcement of American immigration law) will begin the processes of migrants voluntarily leaving to reconsider their re-entry into the US. The undocumented immigrant foreigner will experience and understand for himself the significance, the impotence and the need to enter the United States through the available legal means. The US immigration system is not broken. What is broken is the federal will to enforce the laws. It is the only factor in the system that has been intentionally damaged (to a halt) by the DC Establishment Cartel. The national focus should be placed there, to have it become the impetus toward a primary correction that would then lead to addressing other needs.”

“The American taxpayer cannot be everything for everybody. We need to put America and Americans first.”

“Really disappointed with the amount of outrage and personal attacks on this comment thread. So many people claim to be for free markets but then indulge in knee-jerk support of big government solutions that are impractical—like mass deportations that would cost in the hundreds of billions.

LIBRE is considered by many political observers as an influential group, having gained the attention of Democrats due to highly-publicized reports that LIBRE receives funding from the Koch brothers and is making inroads with U.S. Latinos. According to its website, “LIBRE is dedicated to informing the U.S. Hispanic community about the benefits of a constitutionally limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise through a variety of community events, research and policy initiatives that protect our economic freedom.”

Garza’s letter comes at a time when Trump’s net unfavorable with U.S. Latinos is at –51%, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Latinas Represent: Putting Latinas In Power

There have been over 12,000 members of Congress in U.S. history, only 10 of them Latinas. Currently, only one percent of Latinas living in the U.S. hold political office. This year, a national group called Latinas Represent is setting out to change that–to help elect more Latinas to office and to support those women that make it there successfully. Lesley McClurg reports

 Photy By Tony Fernandez/AFP/Getty Images

contributors1

McClurgLesley McClurg is a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio’s daily interview program, “Colorado Matters.” She came to CPR after getting her start in public radio as a freelance reporter and producer for KUOW in Seattle, Washington.In addition to her work as a journalist, Lesley also has extensive experience in documentary filmmaking and writing. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, she won an Emmy Award in 2009 for the documentary, “Green Prison Reform.” Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University

Photo by Wikimedia user Vcelloho

The Drop In Deportations

The Latino vote helped re-elect President Obama in 2012. Yet despite Latino support, the Obama administration has been responsible for a record number of deportations, on track to reach the 2 million mark sometime this year.

However, deportations fell slightly in 2013.

So…should advocates renew their faith in Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of immigration reform?

 

 

FT_Removals

Disappointment across the aisle

 

Graca Martinez, an organizer with United We Dream, says she’s upset with President Obama’s deportation policy.

 

“He promised the first year of his presidency to give us immigration reform and here we are in his second term and he’s given us nothing,” says Martinez.”

 

In fact, the president’s immigration policies displease people across the political spectrum.

 

Raul Grijalva was one of 29 democratic congressmen who signed a letter asking for the deportations of non-criminals to be halted. He says the administration has fallen into a Catch-22.

 

“Now they find themselves with no political response on the other side and owning a policy that’s deported more people than in the history of the country,” says Grijalva.

 

Republican congressman Mario Diaz Balart is critical of the president’s deportation policy.

 

“He said that he was not going to deport folks that didn’t have serious criminal records, he is deporting record numbers of people, many of which have families in the United States and have not committed serious crimes,” says Balart.

 

Looking ahead

 

There could be movement on immigration reform this year.

 

House Speaker John Boehner continues to support tackling immigration reform in a piece meal fashion.

 

In the meantime, democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez argues the president should stop breaking immigrant families apart through deportations.

 

“This isn’t amnesty, this isn’t a permanent solution,” says Gutierrez, “this is a temporary solution that allows you to say, ‘I’m going to protect you in the place you’re at right now, you don’t get to travel, you don’t get to vote, you just get to stay with your family in a safe place.”

 

The immigration reform effort is further complicated by this year’s midterm elections.

 

Some reform advocates hope Hope Republicans will be more open to compromise after primary season.

 

Now it’s a waiting game to see whether President Obama is remembered as the president who tackled immigration reform or the one who carried out a record number of deportations.

 

NOTICIANDO: UNZIPPING THE MITT

Governor Mitt Romney has often mentioned his family connections to Mexico—which earned him criticism for either not highlighting his heritage or for using it to simply score political points. Host Maria Hinojosa explores the Mexico issue by talking to a satirical twitter incarnation of the candidate called Mexican Mitt.

[audio:http://latinousa.org/audio/1244seg04.mp3]
Click here to download this week’s show.

Check out Mexican Mitt’s video debut below:

Noticiando: RNC, Recapped

This year’s Republican National Convention was one day shorter and the party’s presidential candidate was officially nominated during the first 24 hours. So what’s the point of all the spectacle and symbols? And what kind of message is the GOP crafting for and about Latinos? Univision News political editor Jordan Fabian tells us his impressions.

[audio:http://latinousa.org/audio/1235seg04.mp3]

Click here to download this week’s show.

Jordan Fabian is the political editor for Univision News’s English-language portal. Prior to joining Univision in 2011, he worked as a staff writer at The Hill newspaper in Washington, DC where he covered Congress and the 2012 presidential campaign. Jordan has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News and C-SPAN, and has contributed to a number of nationally-syndicated radio programs. He also freelanced for Hispanic Business magazine. Jordan hails from Olney, MD and is a lifelong resident of the Washington area. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts in history.