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Mexican Consul Calls For Boycott

AP-NY-01-05-00 2049EST

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Mexican consul in Atlanta took an unusual step for a diplomat and called for Latinos to use their economic might by boycotting Georgia companies that mistreat or ignore Hispanic customers.

Consul Teodoro Maus was interviewed on WPLO-AM, a Spanish-language radio station in suburban Lawrenceville. His comments were reported Wednesday in the Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma.

``If in some area, in some zone, in some place, in some business they are not being treated with dignity, with the respect they need, well, we begin to deal with an economic boycott,'' Maus said.

Maus, who is responsible for helping Mexican citizens in Georgia, was in Mexico City for a diplomatic conference Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

The press attache for the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta, Bernardo Mendez, said Wednesday that Maus did not want to organize a boycott. Instead, he wants Hispanic community leaders to apply ``economic pressure'' on businesses that treat Latinos unfairly.

Political scientists said it's unusual for a consul to take such a strong stand on an issue that does not directly affect his government. Maus, however, has been a vocal supporter of the entire Hispanic community in Georgia.

He criticized a local law that made it illegal for store signs to be in foreign languages and supported measures that would make it easier for Hispanic students to be admitted to Georgia colleges.

Dr. Han Park, director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia, said Maus' boycott comments were ``inappropriate.''

``His office is designed to protect, not Mexican-Americans, but Mexican citizens,'' Park said. ``Advising them to boycott some products, that really is not protecting or promoting their interests. It's a political retaliation ... he's not there in Atlanta to do that sort of thing.''

Without naming specific companies, Maus complained about businesses that exploit immigrant workers. He also suggested a national boycott of shops that do not offer services in Spanish.

Economists estimate Hispanic buying power in Georgia more than doubled this decade to $3.7 billion. Estimates of the number of Hispanics in Georgia range from 220,000 to 481,000.

``The economic force, that is what we have now,'' Maus told Reforma for a story about his Dec. 31 radio interview. ``Simply because of the number of people, we now have an economic force we are not understanding, which we are not capturing and we are not using.''

AP-NY-01-05-00 2049EST

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