Groups make conflicting leadership claims on Latin America’s oldest civil rights organization

Two groups claim leadership over the country’s oldest Latino civil rights organization, prolonging a dispute rooted in a botched national election in July.

Since that election for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a grassroots organization that is the cornerstone of national Hispanic civic participation, the two groups have been battling for control of the organization, each with its own president. national.

One side is led by Domingo García, who served as national president before the July elections in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and says he still holds the position and exercises effective control over the organization.

The other is led by LULAC CEO leading to the failed election, Sindy Benavides, who leads a group of national board members who say they impeached and removed García.

The Benavides camp has appointed a new national president, Ralina Cardona, who previously served as the group’s national vice president for the Northeast.

From García’s perspective, Cardona tops a list of LULAC board officials fired last month “following the discovery of misconduct.”

“The internal conflict has practically been resolved. Two-thirds of the board met and voted to terminate our CEO’s contract and we removed him. The members who had been involved in the black money grab and the attempted hostile takeover of LULAC, they were defeated and now they have been removed from their positions,” García told The Hill.

“It’s checkmate.”

García added that he controls the organization‘s national headquarters building in Washington, as well as the group’s finances.

“At the end of the day, I’m sitting here at national headquarters, just had a meeting with our staff. We are moving forward with the mission of LULAC. If they want to engage in a negative campaign, we’re not going to engage with them. Had finished. We are moving forward,” García said.

But Benavides and his allies say they won’t go down without a fight.

“We have the constitution on our side, he can say he has a building,” Cardona said.

At the heart of the Benavides camp’s argument is a board meeting held in Washington last month, where seven of the group’s original eleven board members voted on 77 items. of impeachment against García and declared him removed from office.

García’s camp held a side meeting in Dallas to fire Benavides and remove Cardona and four other board members who had opposed García.

“The gathering of several board members and Domingo García in Dallas, Texas on the same weekend violated LULAC’s constitution, which requires that the meeting site be in Washington, D.C., among other places. shortcomings,” Cardona wrote in a statement last week.

The two sides agree on very little, but they have both stressed that the trial that stopped July’s national elections was a key step in ending the conflict.

This lawsuit was filed with a local Texas judge, who issued a temporary restraining order to stop elections in Puerto Rico.

Although he listed García as a defendant, Benavides supporters say García orchestrated the trial to derail an election he was certain to lose.

The lawsuit alleged that outside groups were funneling money to create “paper councils,” or national convention-eligible voting groups, to execute a hostile takeover of LULAC.

García elaborated on this allegation, claiming that a local Puerto Rican political party, the New Progressive Party (PNP), wanted control of LULAC to further its mission of creating a state for the territory.

Adding to a long-standing personal rivalry between García and Benavides, LULAC’s foray into Puerto Rican status politics was the detonator of controversy over the band’s leadership.

LULAC has openly supported Puerto Rico’s statehood for decades, although the group was born more than 90 years ago as the joint Mexican-American Defense League of Texas.

LULAC has a broader membership base than any other Hispanic civil rights organization, and its more than 130,000 members claim national origin from across Latin America, including Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Since the botched election, official LULAC communications from García’s camp have included the phrase “serving the 66 million Latinos in the United States and Puerto Rico”, despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a United States territory and its residents are statutory US citizens.

While it is likely that García’s opponent in this election, Juan Carlos Lizardi, would have won with the support of dozens of paper councils, there is debate among LULAC members as to whether the use of these advice goes against the rules of the group.

Lizardi, a Puerto Rican-born New Yorker, was likely to push the statehood issue forward as a LULAC priority if elected president.

Prior to the elections, García dampened LULAC’s support for the state, despite the fact that Benavides in 2018 had officially led the group firmly into the state camp.

This controversy and accusations of a “hostile takeover” threaten to split the Mexican-American and Puerto Rican constituencies of LULAC, which together form the bulk of the group’s membership.

“The island of Puerto Rico has been part of LULAC for 33 years, they have gone shoulder to shoulder with their brothers across the country fighting for immigration, fighting for education, fighting for health and housing, while they are treated like second-class citizens on the island, while they eat breadcrumbs,” said Cardona, of Puerto Rican descent.

For many Puerto Ricans, especially statehood advocates, the elections in San Juan were an opportunity for LULAC to fully embrace Puerto Rico.

Yet the lawsuit in Texas managed to derail this election, leaving García in control.

Cardona says the lawsuit will be thrown out once the courts are satisfied the election was held in accordance with LULAC’s statutes.

“At this time, we will follow the course of this lawsuit in Texas. ‘Cause when it’s thrown away for absolutely nothing, it’ll resolve itself, ’cause once [the courts] know, it’s all thrown away because it was baseless,” Cardona said.

While García also said the lawsuit in Texas must run its course, he said the LULAC leadership controversy is a closed book until next summer’s national convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“We have launched a national search for a new CEO and I am not running for re-election in July next year,” García said.

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