Kerry speaks Spanish to win Hispanic vote

21st October 2004, Comments 0 comments

21 October 2004, WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has learned Spanish to court Hispanic voters, it was reported Thursday.

21 October 2004

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has learned Spanish to court Hispanic voters, it was reported Thursday.

Early in the campaign Kerry, who spent summers in France as a youth and speaks some French, occasionally dropped the few brief expressions he knew in Spanish, such as "Buenas tardes" (Good afternoon) or "Sí se puede" (roughly, We can do it).

But despite his hectic schedule he apparently has honed his Spanish significantly and in recent weeks has given lengthy parts of his speeches in Spanish when targeting the United States' largest minority group.

There are 40 million US Hispanics, more than 60 percent of Mexican origin or descent.

Kerry "reads Spanish very well but he is shy about speaking it," said prominent Spanish-language broadcaster Jorge Ramos, whose book "The Latino Wave" argues that US Hispanics will end up picking the next US president due to their electoral clout in key states such as Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

"I spoke with him just after he gave a speech completely in Spanish in Los Angeles.

He didn't want to speak with me in Spanish. He just said a few words," recalled Ramos, "and with a bit of a French accent."

Kerry has balked at speaking French on the campaign trail.

But there are seven million Hispanic voters who could turn out 2 November, many of whom speak Spanish.

Ramos noted the undercurrent of anti-French sentiment in the United States over Paris' opposition to the Iraq war, into which Kerry would not want to play.

One observer said: "In the United States, a lot of people would think that speaking French is anti-American," Ramos said, alluding to the wartime uproar in US media that included some restaurants famously changing the name of French fries to
"freedom fries."

Speaking Spanish, however, is seen as a vote magnet.

 "All professional experts understand that the Latino vote is potentially going to be decisive and it's a critical element of the election. And Spanish is an important medium of communication," another observer said.

Hispanic leaders say that when candidates speak Spanish, the crowd's reaction is highly favourable.

"It is seen as a positive gesture when a candidate tries to speak Spanish above all because for years there was no attention paid" to Latinos, said Clarisa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza, the largest US Hispanic organisation.

"It is a sign of respect," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, group of Hispanic government officials. "But the Hispanics we consulted also said that a candidate doesn't speak the language well it is better for him not to speak it."

"What the candidate says is more important than the language he speaks,"
Vargas added.

Republican President George W. Bush four years ago gave a series of interviews in Spanish, the first time a US president had done so.

But this year, despite using favourite Spanish phrases on the campaign trail, the president has not repeated the feat.

Sharon Castillo, a Bush spokesman for Hispanic media, said that more important than speaking Spanish was for Bush to speak Latino: in other words "he has to deal with the issues the community cares about."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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