El Presidente Nixon He’s got a lovely bunch of coconuts Austin Nixon calls them “Hispanos,” those Spanish-surnamed Mexican-Americans of Latin American descent. In certain Democratic circles, Hispanos are known as coconuts, brown on the outside and white on the inside. That’s something like a Tio Tomas. A Hispano is certainly not a chicano. Nixon’s Hispanos probably think of chicanos as lower class militants. Poor folks. Most Hispanos have made something of themselves. Take Romana Banuelos, for instance. She rose from taco vendor to treasurer of the United States. Or Carlos Villareal, urban mass transportation administrator of the Department of Transportation. At the age of nine, he was washing windshields in a Brownsville service station. Ms. Banuelos, Mr. Villareal, OEO Director Philip Sanchez, other Hispano office holders and Hispano movie stars \(every Nixon campaign group is assigned its praises from Dallas to Denver. The nation’s 11 million Mexican-Americans are important to Nixon’s political plans, and he is courting them with methodical vigor. As Texas GOP Chairman George Willeford explains, “The President has had a fight with labor and he has no credibility with the blacks. He’s got more credibility with the Mexican-Americans than with any one special interest group.” Republicans have more than 40 Hispanos in high administration positions, according to GOP campaigners. NIXON HAS done little things, like proclaiming National Hispanic Heritage Week on Sept. 16, the day Father Hidalgo y Costilla declared Mexico’s independence from Spain. Big things too: Tony Castro of the Dallas Morning News estimates that the administration will pour $47 million into projects for the Spanish-speaking this year. The projects are under the various sponsorships of HEW, HUD, 0E0, Labor, Transportation, LEAA and EPA. At least $11.4 million is for what government administrators call “marginal projects” with either program or proposal deficiencies that disqualified them for funding through regular channels. Most of them don’t stand a chance of being re-funded. More than $20 million is going to Region VI, which includes Texas, and $17 million is aimed at Region IX, including California. Some $24 to $26 million has 8 The Texas Observer been earmarked for low cost housing projects for Mexican-Americans across the nation. An additional $18 million has been appropriated for Operation SER, a costly manpower scheme previously rejected by the top staff of the OEO as an obviously political, ineffective project. State Sen. Joe Bernal, a Democratic committeeman from Texas, is critical of Nixon’s generosity with federal funds. “He’s doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and I don’t appreciate it,” Bernal said. The senator believes the one-shot projects are a callous bid for Republican votes. The GOP isn’t denying it. In a recent airport interview with Tony Castro, Henry Ramirez, chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish-Speaking People, said that minimal Mexican-American support of the President will signal an end to White House concessions. If the President gets 20 percent of the Mexican-American vote, Ramirez said, the group will be in a “good negotiating position” for further appointments and funds. In 1968 the Nixon-Agnew ticket got 10 percent of the Mexican-American vote in Texas. Now Nixon’s saying, “Give me 10 percent more or else.” Texas’ brown citizens got along well enough with Sen. John Tower during the sixties, but never before have they received the kind of bouquets thrown by the Nixon administration campaign. \(It’s hard to tell where the administration leaves off and the campaign begins. In what capacity, for example, are the Hispano office holders touring the Southwest? Can such The Nixon administration went to great lengths to fund two school cafeterias in Hidalgo County this year so that the schools could participate in the federal lunch program. A bevy of GOP administrators were on hand for the dedication. And Nixon himself spoke at the Rio Grande City High School in September, returning a visit some Mexican-American students made to him in Washington earlier in the year. HISPANO office holders may be expected to campaign for Nixon as part of their job, but some of them, at least, are well rewarded for their efforts. In his “Hard Times” column, Jim Ridgeway wrote about Benjamin Fernandez, a Californian who until last year was chairman of the National Economic Development Association. NEDA was funded by the Commerce Department to the tune of $1 million to assist local Spanish-speaking groups in starting their own businesses, particularly banks and savings and loan associations. “Fernandez traveled around the Southwest as a NEDA official encouraging businessmen to create groups which could apply for bank charters, etc.,” Ridgeway said. “At the same time, he also was president of a company called Research, Inc. After encouraging the formation of a group as a NEDA official, Fernandez would turn around and charge the group $10,000 for research from Research, Inc.” After the scam was exposed in Congress, Fernandez lost his job at NEDA. Now he’s the head of the National Hispanic Committee for Reelection of the President. In that capacity he is Nixon’s major fund raiser among Mexican-Americans. Ridgeway says Fernandez is promising to raise $1 to $2 million by election time. A similar, but possibly not scandalous, conflict of interest has been uncovered in Texas. Edward M. Yturri, a former GOP candidate for attorney general, was sworn in as director of this region’s ACTION office on Dec. 6, 1971. \(Nixon removed VISTA from the control of the OEO and put it, as well as the Peace Corps and some other volunteer groups, under the control days before he became the regional director of ACTION, Yturri officially resigned from CPI Associates, Inc., a corporation which received a $546,120 grant from the OEO in September of 1971. Here’s the chronology: June 3, 1971 CPI makes a proposal to the OEO. CPI’s and Yturri’s address are one and the same: 525 N. Toncahua St., Corpus Christi. June 9, 1971 The secretary of state grants CPI Associates, Inc., a corporate charter, with Yturri as registered agent. CPI’s and Yturri’s new address is 3309 Hackamore St., Austin. Incorporators are listed as Yturri, Louis Terrazas of San Antonio and James W. Carper of Washington, D.C. Sept. 17, 1971 OEO awards CPI a $546,120 training c ontract. Dec. 1, 1971 Yturri writes letter resigning from CPI. Dec. 6, 1971 Yturri is sworn in as ACTION director for Region VI. Yturri is still listed as the registered agent for CPI, but Bob Estrada, the public affairs officer for ACTION in Dallas, says that Yturri has had no financial interest in the company since he joined ACTION. A group of VISTAS recently picketed Yturri’s Austin home to protest his association with CPI and to dramatize their charge that ACTION has discriminated in
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