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TURNOUT: Presente.org Interim Co-Director Highlights Importance of Confronting Hate in Election Campaigns

First Posted: Oct 20, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Oscar Chacon

Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images

Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series that features leading politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders', I-Vt., presidential campaign recruited Arturo Carmona, who served as the executive director of Presente.org, considered as the largest online Latino organizing group in the U.S. With Carmona's exit from Presente.org, the organization named two interim co-directors, both with distinguished experience in engaging Latinos. One of the co-directors, Oscar Chacón, spoke to Latin Post about Presente.org and his duties as the long-time executive director at the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), now known as Alianza Americas.

Presente.org is a six-year-old organization founded on the basis to create an online voice for Latinos and mobilize them, including Latino immigrants. Chacón said the group responds to Latinos' concerns and has been consistent in taking on issues by both major political parties, such as Republicans "attacking" the Latinos communities or the Obama administration "going too crazy" on immigration policies.

Prior becoming the interim co-director, Chacón is also on the board of directors for Presente.org for more than three years. While serving on the board, he is also the executive director of Alianza Americas, which was previously known as NALACC, an organization aimed to build advocacy capacity within the immigrant community. Despite taking on an interim co-director role, Chacón said he is not retiring from Alianza Americas. His fellow interim co-director is Favianna Rodriguez, a cultural strategist, artist, co-founder of Presente.org and executive director for CultureStrike.

"We are happy that Arturo has been tapped by one of the presidential campaigns to actually be a co-leader in that particular campaign in relationship to Latino communities but we also believe [Presente.org] is in great condition to actually make a leap as we prepare to find a new leader for this organization," said Chacón. "We are convinced Presente.org has much more good things to give to our community and our society."

Chacón said the goal is to find the next permanent executive director as soon as late this year or early next year. Chacón said he and Rodriguez are not very interested in "divorcing" from their respective and previous activities.

With Presente.org and the current presidential election season, Chacón said the organization has been working to provide an agenda serves the Latino community and have the electorate become excited with the U.S. political system, which includes participating and voting.

In regards to Alianza Americas, including its run as NALACC since 2004, the organization has been working to get Latinos, especially, U.S. Latino immigrants, to become much more involved in civic engagement even if they are not eligible to vote but can at least participate actively by organizing and campaigning for the candidates they trust.

"We believe that is a way in which we're going to ultimately transform the number capacity that we have and promote political capacity in the years to come," Chacón said.

Chacón said the anti-immigrant rhetoric currently taking place on the presidential campaign trail "is one more chapter of a drama" that began in the late 1980s as Latinos, particularly Latino immigrants, became a larger population. He said the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act" of 1996 was the "most dangerous immigration policy change" in recent history and explains the punishment the immigrant community, particularly Mexicans, have been put though.

Chacón said there are concerns that this kind of rhetoric, including calls to mass deport all immigrants currently living in the U.S., is being used to mobilize and incite fears within segments of the U.S. population.

"We also believe that is also important to confront those who are happy to spread, literally, hate [and] racism against Latino communities in the U.S. as it is the case with the Trump campaign," said Chacón. "Frankly, several of the other Republican campaigns are essentially becoming copycats to what Trump has been doing."

But the focus is not exclusive to Republicans. Chacón told Latin Post that the Democratic presidential candidates also bear responsibility in providing plans for Latinos.

"We believe it's important to confront that but also to keep in line Democratic Party candidates, because we have not really heard a strong defense, a strong alternative positions being put forward by Democratic Party candidates and, to the extent they don't do that, we must also hold them accountable," added Chacón.

The Alianza Americas executive director said people have to "come to grips" that the Latino electorate, including those born and raised in the U.S. and those naturalized in the U.S., are becoming are growing segment of the country's population.

"The Latino vote is definitely going to be a decisive vote," said Chacón.

"We will make the best effort we can to make sure Latinos understand that it is important to reward candidates that actually do the right things by us as well as to punish candidates that are clearly out there to use hate [and] racism to try to get elected," said Chacón. "We need to be able to, again, get our people fired up so that we can stand together and stand strong to actually show how important this particular segment of the population, and the voting population, has already become."

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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