December 14 - Orange County Weekly: Sugar Gaddi - Latino leader Zeke Hernández says Vasquez critics are racists

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez: The Gaddi Vasquez Nomination to Peace Corps Director: Gaddi Vasquez's Confirmation Vote in the Senate (12/22/01): December 14 - Orange County Weekly: Sugar Gaddi - Latino leader Zeke Hernández says Vasquez critics are racists

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, December 16, 2001 - 11:42 am: Edit Post

Sugar Gaddi - Latino leader Zeke Hernández says Vasquez critics are racists

Read this story from the Orange County Weekly on reaction among Hispanic leaders in Orange County to criticism of Gaddi Vasquez's qualifications for Peace Corps Director at:

Sugar Gaddi - Latino leader Zeke Hernández says Vasquez critics are racists *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Sugar Gaddi - Latino leader Zeke Hernández says Vasquez critics are racists

by Gustavo Arellano

Gaddi Vasquez’s bid to become Peace Corps director has taken more hits than Tony Soprano. Since last summer, when President George W. Bush tapped the ex-county supervisor, countless former Peace Corps volunteers have questioned whether a man partly responsible for the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy—the largest in U.S. history—can properly supervise an agency with offices in 77 countries and an annual budget of $275 million. Critics also note that Vasquez has no international-relations, chief-executive or Peace Corps experience. They speculate that Vasquez’s only real qualifications are ethnicity (he’s a Texas-born Latino) and money (he gave Bush’s California presidential campaign $100,000 from his own defunct supervisorial-campaign fund).

With the Vasquez nomination wobbling, local Latino leaders—even those who’ve criticized him in the past—have rallied, and not surprisingly, they’re playing the race card.

In a message posted last week on the online message board of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Santa Ana chapter president Zeke Hernández asked, "Why . . . why do they hate us so much . . . is it because we are Latinos???"

The short answer is they don’t, and, therefore, no.

Hernández offered as evidence of bias two items: an apparently apocryphal statement by a former Peace Corps director and an article in the Washington, D.C., paper The Hill.

According to Hernández, Jack Hood Vaughn, a Peace Corps director under Johnson and Nixon, told a Senate committee that Vasquez "had not even ever been out of the country, ‘save one drunken night in Tijuana.’ Direct quote." The quotation appears nowhere in Vaughn’s congressional testimony, in news reports of that testimony, or in any comments attributed to Vaughn anywhere at any time.

(Hernández told the Weekly he received the quote from Larry Gonzalez of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials Educational Fund in Washington, D.C. Gonzalez says he was present "with at least eight others" when Vaughn made the statement during congressional testimony.)

Hernández also cites a Dec. 5 opinion essay in The Hill by John Coyne, editor of the Peace Corps Writers magazine. In that article, Coyne wrote that Vasquez’s confirmation hearing made it "clear to me, as a former Peace Corps recruiting official, that Vasquez would not even make the first cut to serve as a volunteer." Given that, Coyne argued, the only plausible explanation for the Vasquez nomination is that it might attract California Latino voters to the Republican Party.

That analysis is reasonable. Republicans make no secret of their belief that Latinos are an untapped source of GOP votes. And before he nominated Vasquez, Bush promised that the Peace Corps nomination would go to a Hispanic.

Nevertheless, Hernández urged followers to write Congress in defense of Vasquez. As a model for their efforts, Hernández included a letter from Frank Quevedo, vice president of Southern California Edison—the company that hired Vasquez as a six-figure "government relations" expert after the bankruptcy. In his letter, Quevedo says Vasquez "has never turned his back on those in need or shied away from difficult issues that confront society."

Never shied away? Quevedo conveniently forgets that Vasquez resigned from the Board of Supervisors in 1995—in the face of an 11 percent approval rating, a recall election and a grand jury investigation. A subsequent Securities and Exchange Commission investigation held Vasquez and his board colleagues responsible for the bankruptcy.

Despite that, most of the letters posted to the Santa Ana LULAC online message board by Latino bigwigs ignore Vasquez’s role in the bankruptcy. Former LULAC district director Manny Marroquín said Vasquez’s role in the bankruptcy was irrelevant. "To bring [the bankruptcy] to the surface in trying to beat down his nomination without further elaboration of the issue makes me suspect as to the integrity of those opposed to Gaddi," Marroquín wrote on the LULAC website.

Perhaps the most outlandish attempt at revising history came from OC Human Relations Commission executive director Rusty Kennedy. In his message, Kennedy wrote, "I think that the blame for the Orange County bankruptcy cannot be laid on his shoulders, but the adoption of a plan that led us out of that dark time can." Vasquez didn’t draft the plan, but if he had, his supporters would wisely ignore it: the highly political recovery plan salvaged the interests of big real-estate developers, slashed spending on programs for the poor and the environment, and saddled the county with up to $80 million-per-year debt payments well into the century.

Vasquez supporters weren’t always so blind to their man’s deficiencies—or unwilling to race-bait him. In 1988, Hernández himself accused Vasquez of selling out Latinos in a land sale. In an open letter to Vasquez, Hernández wrote, "We Hispanics have once again been led astray by unexplained and unwarranted tactics of politicians who may speak Spanish but do not speak our language." But that was then.

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By Colin Gallagher on Sunday, December 16, 2001 - 11:10 pm: Edit Post

Here's an interesting note in the ongoing controversy: Latino "leaders," such as Zeke Hernandez, are wondering why "they (Vasquez opponents) hate us." This stops just shy of calling Peace Corps Volunteers racists. I wonder if Mr. Hernandez has spent nights (or a few years) living in an adobe hut in a distant village, living with (and learning to love) the people. I wonder if he has had to fall asleep at night to the sound of mortars and high-explosive rounds detonating in military practice zones established next to such villages (something I remember well from my Peace Corps Service). I wonder if he has really even tasted the life of a PCV who has served in Central or South America. Unless he has, his comments about those who dare to dissent cannot be valued as anything more than the musings of a sheep whose nose is always pointed away from the wind.

Knowing Mr. Vasquez will likely be confirmed, we dare to dissent because it is our right to do so. And well we should. It is only through reasoned opposition that Mr. Vasquez may be confirmed, not through unthinking complicity. Thus, through the test of time, Mr. Vasquez's actions can be compared to our commentary on his character. It is said that what people are led by example. If Mr. Vasquez presents a good example of service, more power to him. Yet if he does not -- and there are certainly reasons to indicate that such may be the case -- it would be criminal negligence on our part if we had not forewarned our political counterparts of the possibility. For it is not only foreign relations and American lives that are at stake, but in fact actual, living societies around the globe that stand to be impacted by whatever decisions are made by the Peace Corps, arguably the most relevant governmental organization of the post-September 11 cultural context.

Sargent Shriver has recently called us to "Serve, serve, serve." Let us never forget that an essential, if forgotten, element of service is dissent.

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