Latinos Ask Obama For More Key Posts In Government ****

Latinos Ask Obama for More Key Posts in Government

The Latin American Herald Tribune (Caracas, Venezuela), May 1, 2009

Washington, DC — Several Latino leaders sent a petition to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, his 100th day in office, asking him to consider more Hispanic candidates to fill the remaining empty slots in his administration.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition grouping 29 organizations, presented a report on the process of appointing people to government posts as it has unfolded over the three months since Obama took office.

The NHLA praised some of the policies that have been put in place so far and the efforts of the government to ensure health assistance to children, as well as the intention to bring to fruition comprehensive immigration reform.

But 100 days into his term with certain posts still vacant in his administration, Obama has named or proposed 60 Hispanics for top-level posts, including 19 requiring Senate confirmation, a figure that lags behind what other presidents have done to staff the highest levels of their administrations.

The two Hispanics placed highest in the administration are Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

'There is a list of well-qualified Hispanics who can play an important role in this administration,' said NHLA director Gabriela Lemus during a telephone press conference.

Lemus described the rapid growth in the U.S. Hispanic population over the past 17 years.

In 1992, there were 22.4 million Hispanics in the United States and 5.1 million voted, of whom 61 percent voted for Democrat Bill Clinton.

Those figures increased in 2000 to 33.3 million Hispanics, 7.5 million of whom voted and 35 percent of whom voted for Republican George W. Bush.

Currently, there are 44 million Hispanics, and in the election last November 12.1 million of them voted, of whom 9.7 million, or 80 percent, voted for Obama.

From Clinton to Obama, the Hispanic population doubled and so did the number of Latino voters, leading them to feel that their votes should be acknowledged by receiving more top-level posts in the new administration.

The administration 'has made notable efforts to advance Latinos,' said Lemus, but their presence is necessary in key positions 'where they can make political decisions that reflect the needs of the Latino community.

With more than 50 million Latinos living in the United States and Puerto Rico, representing 16 percent of the countrys population, the NHLA feels its necessary for them to be a part of the decision-making process in areas like education, civil rights, immigration, the economy and health care.

The departments of Defense, Health and the Treasury are the ones that have traditionally had the lowest Hispanic representation and to date Obama has made no top-level nominations of Latinos in those departments.

In the rest of the government departments, eight have just one Hispanic in positions of considerable responsibility, one has two and just two departments Labor and Housing are meeting the expectations of the organization in terms of Latinos serving in top posts.

The NHLA groups said that they will continue working closely with the Obama administration to ensure the visible presence of Hispanics in the 205 posts that still remain vacant.