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Tuesday, May 8, 2012 7:13 p.m.

Latino leaders urge GW to sever ties with Mexican billionaire

Andres Ramirez, a leader of Two Countries One Voice, speaks out Tuesday against the University's affiliation with Carlos Slim, who is scheduled to attend graduation on May 20 and receive and honorary degree. Samuel Klein | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A coalition of Latino organizers and leaders is giving the University two days to dissociate from the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, who is slated to receive an honorary degree at Commencement later this month.

The American organization, Two Countries One Voice, sent a letter to University President Steven Knapp on Tuesday demanding that he sever ties with Slim because GW “should not continue to honor a man that has amassed his fortune on the backs of the People of Mexico and Latin America.”

The organization claims Slim’s two companies, based out of Mexico City, are exploiting customers by overcharging for poor quality phone and Internet service, disproportionately affecting people in rural communities.

“For an institution as prominent as George Washington University to be bestowing an honor on such a corrupt man gives the wrong impression to others that this guy is okay,” Andres Ramirez, one of the leaders of Two Countries One Voice, said at a press conference Tuesday.

Slim, the world’s wealthiest man, controls 80 percent of the Mexican telecommunications market according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The business magnate received the GW President’s Medal in 2009 for his work in business and community development in Mexico and Latin America. The Board of Trustees approved Slim’s honorary degree in October, which he will receive at the University-wide Commencement ceremony this spring.

Sam Nelson, a member of the Progressive Student Union, is one of several students petitioning for Knapp to revoke his invitation to Slim.

“I do not want to know that the degree that I am working so hard to get is associated with the degree of a man who has caused so much harm in Mexico and Latin America,” Nelson, who could not attend the press conference, said in a statement.

If the University does not disinvite Slim within the 48-hour window, the coalition plans to hold more events on campus to promote awareness, Ramirez said.

In response to the letter, Candace Smith, executive director of media relations, said in an e-mail, “The university is looking forward Mr. Slim’s participation in commencement.”

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