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Hispanic community shows disappointment in debates

by Olga Rodriguez Special the the Daily Planet
Friday October 13, 2000

For listeners of Radio Unica, a national Spanish language station, Jim Lehrer spoke with a sweet female voice and both George W. Bush and Al Gore had a slight Argentinean accent. 

They were listening to the only presidential debate being simultaneously translated into Spanish and broadcast live throughout the nation by Radio Unica. 

“For us it’s important to do this for our audience,” said Michael Sher, General Manger of Radio Unica 1010 AM, the San Francisco affiliate. “We are hoping to reach anyone who understands Spanish and is registered to vote.” 

With an average of 25,000 calls a day, Radio Unica considers itself an interactive radio station where listeners, most of them women, can call to ask questions that range from to sexual problems to immigration. 

”How do I tell my husband that two of the children are not his?” asked Dora, a listener from Fresno, to Dr. Isabel, who hosts one of the most popular day shows of the station. 

Questions like these fill the phone lines throughout the day. But Wednesday night, to keep up with tradition, Radio Unica hosted an opinion forum after the debate that kicked off with a shouting match between Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Ballard, R-Florida, and Luis Gutierrez D-Illinois. 

“What you just heard was a ardent and friendly dialogue and probably the best debate of the night,” said Ricardo Brown, host of the network’s national news program, as he opened the phone lines. 

Most of the callers said the debate did not change their vote. The also expressed disappointed with the presidential candidates for not addressing issues such as immigration, discrimination and U.S.-Latin American relations and said the debate did not change their vote. 

“To be honest I think the Costa Rica-USA soccer game did a better job in addressing U.S.-Latin American relations than the candidates,” said Jorge, a caller from New York, referring to the Costa Rica-USA soccer match, dropped from programming at half time to allow for tonight’s second presidential debate. 

“They both said the U.S. has to ensure democracy in Yugoslavia, in Russia,” he added. “But after three hours of debate they have not even mentioned Peru, Colombia or Cuba.” 

After the first debate, 61 percent of Latino voters said they supported Al Gore, 25 percent George W. Bush, 1 percent Ralph Nader and 13 percent were undecided, according to a poll conducted by Hispanic Trends, a polling firm owned by Hispanic Publishing Corporation. 

“Neither one of these gentlemen seem to care about our community,” said Raul, a caller from San Jose. “But we are going to send a message to the Republicans. California is still hurting from what they did to us with Pete Wilson.” 

The San Jose caller was referring to Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative against undocumented immigrants, and Proposition 209, the 1996 initiative against affirmative action, both supported by Pete Wilson. 

Wednesday night’s opinion forum was an example of the political division that exist among different Latino groups. Of the callers who said they support George W. Bush most were Cuban Americans.  

And most callers from California said they support the Democratic Party, even though they are not very happy with Gore. 

“Not surprising,” said Sergio Benedixen, president of Hispanic Trends, in an interview with Brown. “Our polling firm reports 77 percent of Latino voters who vote Republican are Cuban Americans.”