Nation & World

Latino groups call for end to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — A coalition of Hispanic groups offered its recommendations for both party's platforms Thursday, including calls to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to John Trasvina, the chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, 26 of the group's recommendations are already in the Democratic National Committee's draft platform.

In explaining his group's war opposition, Trasvina said that Latinos "are overrepresented in the military; many are immigrants who are fighting for our country before it becomes their country."

The 24-member coalition includes the National Council of La Raza, MANA, the Cuban American National Council and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

The coalition is pressing the Republican National Committee platform writers as well, Trasvina said, and its members will attend both party conventions.

The Hispanic platform makes more than 100 recommendations on education, civil rights, immigration, the economy, health and government accountability. Among them:

_ Publicize the Census Bureau's confidentiality policy so that Latinos — whether legal immigrants or not — will cooperate in the 2010 census.

_ Grant citizenship to the country's 12 million undocumented workers.

_ Increase Hispanic participation in the federal work force.

_ Enhance health-care access for immigrants, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border.

_Continue No Child Left Behind with more emphasis on Latino students.

The coalition recommended that No Child Left Behind be used to combat the high dropout rates among Latino high school students. "Our 20-20 vision starts today, and that is that we will close our drop-out rate," Trasvina said at the press briefing.

Both political parties have been courting Latinos, who participated strongly in the primaries, said Susan Minushkin, the deputy director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, where the 2004 presidential election was close, have large Hispanic populations, making them hot spots again this election, Minushkin said.

"I would say this year there is much more of an interest in the Latino vote than there has been ever in the past," Trasvina said. "The community is larger and in more states, and the voting participation is higher than it's ever been. I think this year there will be more consequences if the Latino vote and the Latino leaders are not listened to."

However, Andy Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami and senior fellow at the university's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, cautioned against assuming that Latinos — especially in the second- and third-generation — vote solely on the kinds of issues listed in the coalition's report.

"The Hispanic community is looking to see which is the particular candidate that first and foremost addresses the immediate needs of the United States," Gomez said in an interview.