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Brazzil - US/Brazil - July 2004

Kerry Snubs Brazil and Latin America

John Kerry had the right woman at his side when accepting
the Democratic nomination in Boston. Although he did mention
his wife's values in his acceptance speech, Kerry chose to
ignore her Portuguese ancestry and her fluency in Spanish and
Portuguese. What a missed opportunity to get the Latino vote.

Edgardo Quintanilla


Picture On the evening when the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States eloquently accepted the nomination of his party in Boston, he made no mention of the significant role immigrants play in his country and the future of his party.

That gaffe presented to the Republican nominee, who was at the time vacationing in Texas, with a golden opportunity to attract the Latino vote in late August at New York City.

Given that the need for immigration reform in the United States is a matter which neither presidential candidate can simply wish away, John Kerry missed his cue. Kerry's advisers had it wrong. Kerry forgot that the call for patriotism does not win elections.

By not talking about immigration reform in Boston, Kerry did not heed the counsel of Louis Pasteur, the French scientist, who said that chance favors the ready mind. And what a chance Kerry wasted.

Kerry had the right place that night. Boston is an Atlantic seaport associated with the great waves of Irish immigrants who crossed the ocean for a better life in the Americas.

Boston is proof of the rise of the Irish and Catholics into the ruling elites of the United States. One need only mention the name Kennedy to make the point. A Brazilian who has married in Massachusetts is likely to have married with someone with ancestors in the land of St. Patrick.

Kerry had the right woman at his side that night. Although Kerry did mention his wife, a billionaire on her own right, and his wife's values in his acceptance speech, Kerry chose not to make any reference to the Portuguese ancestry of his wife and her fluency in Spanish and Portuguese. Here was the introduction to a world which Latinos, even Brazilians in South America, would understand, but which Kerry shelved away.

Kerry had a historic audience that night. The Democratic convention of 2004 had the largest Latino representation ever. Such numbers were used by political pundits and partisan spinners to illustrate the rise and potential of Latinos in the U.S.— a view espoused in the popular best-seller book The Latino Wave by Jorge Ramos, a Mexican-born TV journalist and writer.

For Ramos, Latinos will decide who the next President of the United States will be. Kerry, a man who enjoys surfing, chose not to ride the Latino wave that night even if he spoke about restoring trust in the U.S. government and not misleading the American people into war.

Kerry's supporters will point to the Democratic agenda to show that if Kerry is elected that Kerry will implement an immigration reform in the first 100 days of his presidency. The problem with this vague hope is that the Democrats do not have the votes to carry the day in Congress.

Nonetheless, in the culminating moment of an otherwise uneventful convention, Kerry might have all but conceded how to ride the Latino wave to President Bush by shelving the call for immigration reform in the U.S.

President Bush will have the right city and the right moment come this August to point out that the conscience of the United States and the promise of America lies in the immigrant communities all over the United States.

Brazilians are part of the Latino wave, the largest ethnic group in the United States.

By praising the immigrant, Bush will be on his way to building better goodwill for his political party in the long term. Bush could showcase the lives of two distinguished Republicans with immigrant roots: Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian-born immigrant and governor of California_the fifth largest economy in the world—and Rosario Marín, a woman of Mexican descent and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

It has been said that Latinos are conservative in their values by nature although one has to keep in mind that all generalizations are not necessarily true.

Whether Bush will keep his promise for immigration reform is a different matter.

The failure of the Republican-led Congress to present to President Bush with a mini-immigration reform plan before the November presidential election is testament that the Republican party is divided as to how to deal with immigration reform.

President Bush has failed as a leader in pushing for immigration reform, which at the very least provides for work permits for undocumented immigrants, despite making one of his guiding principles for immigration reform at a national press conference in early January 2004.

However, by simply noting the need for immigration reform in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and on the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and close to ground zero where individuals from close to 60 different countries died on a fateful September 11, President Bush will be remembered for having smartly understood the Latino wave in this global age in order to surf it into victory.

But, will President Bush really seize this golden opportunity?

Edgardo Quintanilla is an immigration lawyer in Sherman Oaks, California. He welcomes your comments at eqlaw@pacbell.net.

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