Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi was forced to step down from his position as majority leader earlier this year after he made supportive comments about Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential bid on a segregationist ticket. Democrats have tried to make an issue out of the fact that California Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father was a member of the Nazi Party.

California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante

But, say critics, some of those same voices are giving a pass to California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante over his past association with what they have characterized as a Hispanic student hate group on par with the Ku Klux Klan.

During his college days at Fresno State University in the 1970s, Bustamante was associated with a little-known group called the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, or MEChA. The group, which has college chapters on 300 campuses – 100 in California alone – has adopted as its motto: “For the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing.”

It is a group that is accustomed to creating violence to get its way. Fox News reported that in 1993 students at UCLA caused $500,000 in damages to the university while demanding a Chicano Studies department. Later, in 1996, “Mechistas” – the name group members call themselves – were videotaped beating up demonstrators protesting illegal immigration.

Yet, so far in his campaign Bustamante, the No. 1 Democrat candidate for governor, has neither disassociated himself with MEChA, nor explained his earlier membership, critics said.

In her Aug. 20 syndicated column, Michelle Malkin said Bustamante “repeatedly denies having a ‘radical ethnic agenda,’ but has refused to disassociate himself from his Mechista roots.”

“In fact, Bustamante recently returned to Fresno State for a separate Latino commencement ceremony founded by two of his Chicano activist classmates,” she said.

Supporters have tried to mitigate Bustamante’s membership in the group, if not the group’s radical agenda.

“Whatever you did in your youth, it’s what you did at [the] time. You can’t disassociate from past,” Manuel Olgin, a former MEChA member and now a counselor at Fresno University, told Fox News. “Now if you’re still plugged in and doing stuff, that’s a another question. But this is immaterial to me.”

Others said Bustamante was just a “moderate” member of the group, not a radical.

“His involvement in MEChA was not in a leadership position. His involvement was in being a member and doing what he could. He was involved at a higher level and that level was in student government,” Tony Garduque, another former MEChA member, told Fox News.

But critics don’t accept that view.

“What is a moderate member of a racist organization? ‘I was a moderate member of the Klan.’ Imagine if a Republican made that statement,” radio talk-show host and WorldNetDaily columnist Larry Elder told the news channel.

MEChA specifically encourages its Chicano and Chicana members to put “raza,” or their race, above all others. And, the group promotes the liberation of “Atzlan,” which includes a major portion of the U.S. southwest Mechistas believe was stolen from Mexico by the United States.

“In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal ‘gringo’ invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztl?n from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility and our inevitable destiny,” says the opening passage of “El Plan De Atzl?n, a treatise developed and adopted by Mechistas.

“We are free and sovereign to determine those tasks which are justly called for by our house, our land, the sweat of our brows, and by our hearts. Aztl?n belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent,” the treatise says, which is posted on the University of Oregon website.

Bustamante is not the only elected official with MEChA ties. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., also claims former membership in the group.

The Arizona Wildcat, the University of Arizona’s daily newspaper, confirmed Grijalva’s past in a story it ran Nov. 10, 1997, about a “MEChA reunion.”

“They had long hair, wore military fatigues and brown berets and were angry and confrontational,” the paper said. “Fists in the air, Chicano student activists in the late 1960s marched on high-school and college campuses throughout the American Southwest with voices so loud it was impossible for history to forget them. This is what alumni of Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Atzl?n told their younger brethren at MEChA’s 30th anniversary celebration. …”

As for the organization’s treatise, “substitute ‘Aryan’ for ‘mestizo’ and ‘white’ for ‘bronze,'” writes Malkin, and there’s “not much difference between the nutty philosophy of Bustamante’s MEChA and Papa Schwarzenegger’s evil Nazi Party” or, as other critics have pointed out, the Klan.

“Like Nazism, MEChA has acquired more than a tinge of racism,” Lowell Ponte noted in a column for FrontPage “In their tactics to advance Latinos and ‘La Raza,’ many of its activists have directed racist attacks against not only white-skinned Anglos but also against blacks, Asian-Americans and Jews – in fact, against every non-Latino group.”

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Bustamante, MEChA, and the media

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