Bill Sarno CTLatinoNews.com
The health, well-being and future of Connecticut’s Latino community is critical to the health, well-being and future of the entire state. In addition, Hispanic support on Election Day is not a given for any candidate for governor unless he does more to “walk with” the Latino community.
These were the messages that reverberated through the walls of the state Capitol in Hartford on Thursday as the leaders of the Hispanic Federation and representatives of eleven member agencies introduced Latino Connecticut: A Call to Action, a 125-item plan detailing how government should help the state’s more than 510,000 Latino residents.
This blueprint includes specific recommendations covering economic empowerment, education, immigrants, civil rights, women and support of Latino nonprofit organizations.
What was made clear by several speakers at the press conference is that all the candidates for state office need to address these recommendations now if they want the support of the growing ranks of Hispanic voters. This includes Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is running neck and neck in the polls with Republican opponent Tom Foley.
“The road to election runs through the Latino community,” said Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, a New York based nonpartisan agency consisting of 100 nonprofit agencies. In Connecticut, the Federation has 11 fully involved member agencies and several others in the pipeline.
Although several Hispanic members of the legislature have urged their supporters to turn out and vote for Malloy, the Democrat was not given a free pass at the press conference.
Calderon said all three candidates for governor have not been in the Latino community enough. “They all need to do more,” he said.
“We have a plan. They have to be able to walk with us,” Calderon said. “We are going to turn out to vote, to decide who is the next governor, who will be in the Assembly,” he said.
A Federation leader also disputed the state’s figures for Hispanic registrants, pegged last year at 154,000 based on a survey of surnames.
This is a “gross under representation, said Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, Connecticut director for the Federation. “They are not counting me,” she said because her married name, DiMarzo, is not Hispanic.
The Federation also announced that get-out-the-vote grants have been awarded to the Hispanic Health Council of Hartford, Junta for Progressive Action of New Haven, the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network and the Hispanic Center of Danbury. The goal is to register and mobilize more than 8,000 voters for the Nov.4 election.
The Federation also plans to “direct reminder calls to 100,000 Latino voters in the final week before the election.
“We will see a huge turnout,” Calderon said.
At the presentation Thursday, leaders of member agencies touched upon some of the recommendations of the Call of Action.
The speakers included Carlos Valenzuela of the Hispanic Center, who said that economic empowerment measures should include addressing the concerns of domestic and farm workers.
The services the local agencies provide are needed if Latinos are to be successful, self-sufficient, said Mary Sanders, director of the Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain, where she said there are waiting lists for GED and computer courses.
The disparity between Hispanics and the general population regarding serious health issues is another concern, said Fernando Morales of Latino Community Services. He cited higher rates of diabetes, obesity and HIV-AIDS cases.
Joan Cruz, director of special projects for the Hispanic Health Council, said support for preventive care initiatives would reduce visits to emergency rooms.
The bottom line for most speakers was that going to vote was essential to achieve these recommendations.
Calderon said the coming elections are much more important than even the presidential ones to the Latino community. “These are bread and butter issues,” he said.
Cruz also stressed the need for engagement in the electoral process.
“Go out to vote. Let’s move,” she said.