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Threats Issued to Latino Leaders

Schwarzenegger seeks precautions after the lieutenant governor and L.A. mayor get messages.

April 25, 2006|Peter Nicholas and Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that prominent public officials of Mexican heritage, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have recently received racially motivated death threats.

At a news conference in the Capitol, Schwarzenegger said he had asked district attorneys throughout the state to take extra precautions against hate-based crimes.

Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante have both "received disturbing and hateful death threats," the governor said.

The governor's advisors had heard about the threats from a Sacramento news report. They told the governor, who decided to make a public statement.

Schwarzenegger also cited a Mexican restaurant in the San Diego area that authorities said was the target earlier this month of hate-based arson.

"This is not what California stands for. The greatness of California is its rich diversity. Hate, racism and intolerance are never accepted in our public debates," said Schwarzenegger, who made a statement about the threats at an event in which he announced the appointment of a crime victims advocate.

Villaraigosa told KCAL-TV Channel 9 news late Monday that he had received threats but did not offer details. He said he had not increased his security, adding: "I'm not concerned about that."

He has acknowledged receiving death threats in the past, both in public office and a candidate for mayor.

A spokesman for Bustamante said that three weeks ago, the lieutenant governor received a postcard containing offensive remarks and threats. The card bore a Pasadena postmark.

Bustamante spokesman Stephen Green said the lieutenant governor gets three or four such letters a year. The most recent postcard won't "alter his life at all," Green said.

Bustamante is a Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner.

Schwarzenegger's communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, said the governor "learned about these threats that have been sent to the Latino elected officials and he felt it important as governor that he come out and denounce these activities."

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