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Location: Washington, DC

AFRO-LATINOS -- (Senate - May 25, 2005)

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to bring attention to the situation of Afro-Latinos throughout Latin America, in the hopes that we can encourage more action on this issue. From Colombia to Brazil to the Dominican Republic to Ecuador, persons of African descent continue to experience racial discrimination and remain among the poorest and most marginalized groups in the entire region. While recent positive steps have been taken in some areas--for example, giving land titles to Afro-Colombians and passing explicit anti-discrimination legislation in Brazil--much work still needs to be done to ensure that this is the beginning of an ongoing process of reform, not the end.

In places where civil conflict has taken hold, Afro-Latinos are much more likely to become victims of violence or refugees in their own countries. In many areas, Afro-Latinos are also subject to aggression by local police forces at far greater rates than those perceived to be white. Access to health services is another serious concern, and recent studies have shown that Afro-Latino communities are at greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

In the last Congress, there was not one mention in the Senate of the millions of Afro-Latinos who continue to experience this widespread discrimination and socioeconomic marginalization. Now is the time for more action on this issue, not less. Emerging civil society groups are growing stronger throughout many countries in Latin America, and this growth should be encouraged as it presents important opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and House on this critical concern in the coming months, and I believe that together we can and will make a difference.

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