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NGOs Banned in Uganda; Mexico about to Elect New Leader; Romney at Largest Latino Convention; Romney Courting Latino Voters; Opium Crops Decline in Afghanistan
Aired June 21, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes.
I'm here in battleground state of Florida, where a major gathering of Latino officials from around the country. Of course, immigration is a big issue, but the economy, jobs, education are as well. Both Mitt Romney and President Obama, they're going to be here. That tells you just how important this meeting is and how important the Hispanic vote will be in November.
Romney speaks this hour. We're going to bring it to you live. Plus, the president addresses the crowd tomorrow.
Now, in national polls, President Obama has a huge lead over Romney among the Hispanic voters, 66 percent to 24 percent. That is according to the latest Gallup survey.
But here in Florida, the race is tight, the president has a four-point lead over Romney. Last month, he trailed him by six points.
We're going to have much more of the impact of the Latino vote, and the issues that will influence it, up ahead.
This just in to CNN, a Syrian military pilot has defected. We are told that the pilot took off in a MiG-21 fighter jet, landed in Jordan and was granted asylum. The White House is praising the pilot's decision to flee Syria -- comes one day after the military in Syria could face international prosecution for a attacks on civilians.
A Syrian opposition says that the regime has killed 81 people today alone. The government reports that 20 army law enforcement, and civilians killed by rebels.
Australia and Indonesia, they are now working together in a rescue operation. A ship carrying about 200 people capsized near Christmas Island. It lies off of Australia's northwest coast. It is closer to Indonesia than Australia. It is targeted by people seeking asylum, hoping to get to Australia. Officials are worried that a number of people boarded illegally and making it difficult to account for everybody on board.
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MALVEAUX: And they look like regular soccer fans to you, but passion over tomorrow's quarterfinal European championship match between Greece and Germany go far beyond the sport. It is more like Europe's financial crisis playing out on the field. Debt-stricken Greece hopes to whip the biggest creditor Germany. But the Germans as are the heavy favorites and many feel that the victory over the underdog Greeks would make Germans feel too powerful.
When he's carried him out of the hospital, we were in royal awe. Well, his baby steps on the lawn, to his big walk down the aisle, the world has watched Prince William grow up. And now he is hitting another milestone, and it is a big 30.
The palace says that Prince William is having a low-key day. One side note, now that he is of age, the duke of Cambridge is entitled to his share of his mother's estate loosely valued at 10 million pounds.
In Uganda accusing more than three dozen aide and human rights agencies of promoting gay rights and recruiting children into homosexuality. The government is banning the groups from operation in Uganda, which is in the heart of East Africa. The ban comes three days after a police raid disrupted a gay rights workshop in the capital of Kampala.
Now, police detained four people for hours and Amnesty International is calling this raid illegal.
Our David McKenzie, he is following that story. He is joining us live from neighboring Nairobi, Kenya.
And, David, first of all explain to us why this is important in Uganda. I understand that homosexuality is essentially legal there.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. It's actually illegal in around 30 countries in Africa, but often those laws are grandfathered in from the old colonial days, Suzanne. And so, the Ugandans are taking a different approach here and active push against gay rights movement in the East African country.
As you say, some three days ago, there was a raid on a meeting near Kampala, the capital, and the police surrounded the hotel and detained the activists for several hours and questioned them and released them. But the activists say in fact that this is a clear violation of their rights, and they are constantly being harassed by the police.
Take a listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a place where you keep threatening people all of the time, what would you expect, where you know that if -- if you are seated somewhere, you could be arrested. If you know that if you could be talking to someone perceived to be, you know, something might happen to you, and you live in fear.
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MCKENZIE: Well, Suzanne, now this latest move pushed by the ethics ministry, they're saying they are investigating the NGO groups who within a week scores of them could be banned, and that could stop really key and vital social services to a broad spectrum of the Ugandan population -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And many of the banned agencies, I understand, they are bringing a lot of the need aid to Uganda. How are they are going to fill that gap now that they are not going to be there?
MCKENZIE: Well, some of the civil rights groups I spoke today said that it's going to be a major problem, 38 NGOs, stopped them. These NGOs, they haven't named them specifically, don't just necessarily work just on gay rights, they're working in HIV/AIDS and health services and education. The rights activists say that if these NGOs get stopped from doing their work, because the government says that they are promoting homosexuality, then this will stop things like HIV/AIDS outrage to individual Ugandans who may or may not be gay.
So certainly, they are very worried that this is just the latest nail in the coffin as it were, and the fight by the Ugandan government against the rights activists.
MALVEAUX: David, obviously, the Obama administration is responding and the U.S. State Department issued the following statement about the proposed legislation that is pending in Uganda's parliament setting harsher penalties for days saying, "We think it's inconsistent with Ugandan's international human rights obligations, and this just sets a bad, bad precedent."
First of all, so Ugandan government listening to the U.S., do they care what the United States believes is unjust and inhuman and is there something they believe the United States will actually do?
MCKENZIE: Well, they definitely care what the United States government is saying, Suzanne. Certainly, it is a key partner of Uganda both in terms of humanitarian aid, assistance over the years, and certainly partnering with Uganda in the fight against terror in the region, particularly Somalia. So, yes, Ugandans do worry on the political level what the U.S. is thinking.
But they've used this as kind of a domestic tool political tool in Uganda, and also way some people say of turning the screws on civil society which is one of the few areas of society which is pushing potentially against a powerful central government. The opposition in Uganda politically isn't very strong. So, these groups, including the gay rights groups are some of the few voices that raise concerns against the government.
And while they might worry about what the U.S. and European Union have to say on the gay rights issue, they certainly also want to look strong amongst ordinary Ugandans.
MALVEAUX: All right. David McKenzie, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
In less than two weeks, a major election will take place in Mexico. Our neighbor to the south will choose a new president.
Now, polls are showing that the leader of the opposition PRI Party is the front-runner. His closest rival is the leftist mayor of Mexico City known as AMLO. He lost in 2006 to President Felipe Calderon.
Miguel Marquez, he has more from Mexico City.
MIGUEZ MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andres Manual Lopez Obrador or AMLO as they call him here, making his second run for president. The former Mexico City mayor says this is a contest that will define a New Mexico.
"There are two clear options he says here. Either the Mexicans want more corruption and insecurity and violence or real government for all of the people."
Denied the presidency in 2006 by less than one percent of the vote, AMLO center-left PRD claims that the election was stolen and stage months of protests here in the very heart of Mexico City. It caused massive disruption back then. AMLO's populist anti-big business message resonated with voters.
Now, Mexicans are tired of petty corruption and ineffective government, want change, but also stability, and continued economic growth.
FRANCISCO ABUNDIS POLITICAL POLLSTER: In general, people are voting for change. What type of change do you have or do you want? Do they want the more optimistic kind of change or do you want the radical?
MARQUEZ: For many voters, AMLO is viewed as the more radical choice, he opposes partial privatization of the gigantic national oil company Pemex. He's also suggested military troops should be pulled from the drug cartel hot beds, but later back off of that position.
Now, AMLO is presenting himself as mainstream, appealing to Mexican's growing middle-class and business community by modeling his promised reforms on Brazil's economic success.
"We represent the possibility of change, real change," he says. "The other party has only offered more of the same. We'll make a huge difference in people's lives."
His campaign got a lift in the polls when the student protests broke out over what they say is television coverage too favorable to the front-runner, Enrique Pena Nieto. AMLO has since struggled to balance the new message of moderation with growing and angry popular protests.
(on camera): But no matter who wins this elections, say organizers, Mexico has a lot further to go in building democratic institutions.
(voice-over): The 59-year-old affable and at times fiery politician says that's exactly what he'll do -- build what he calls the loving republic based on honesty and justice.
He also says, win or lose, this is his last campaign.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Mexico City.
MALVEAUX: This is more of what we are working on this hour on NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. They called him demolition man. His deadly act of terrorism changed Indonesia forever. Well, that was a decade ago. Now, finally, justice is served.
And later, the faith of the White House could rest in the hands of the Latino voters.
I'm live here at the National Conference of Latino officials, to hear what Mitt Romney has to say about jobs, immigration and the economy.
MALVEAUX: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes.
Today, we are live in Florida, with the largest Latino political convention in the country is taking place and where both President Obama and Mitt Romney will be speaking, and the president will be here tomorrow. We're going to hear from Mitt Romney in just a few minutes. Both are trying to win over the Latino voters who are going to have a big influence on the presidential election at this gathering. This, of course, is the place to be.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): For the next few days, Orlando, Florida, will host a who's who of politicians, hoping to win over the Latino voters.
NALEO 2012 is the annual conference for National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
ARTURO VARGAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NALEO: NALEO is an organization that's devoted to increasing the participation of Latinos in the American political process.
MALVEAUX: Arturo Vargas is the executive director of the non- profit and nonpartisan group. It puts on this conference every year for its members to hobnob across the political spectrum.
This year, they're playing host to both candidates in the race for the White House.
Governor Romney speaks today and President Obama will speak tomorrow.
VARGAS: I think what we want to hear from Governor Romney and President Obama is, what is their vision of the role of Latinos in the future of America?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.
MALVEAUX: Last week, immigration was the talk of the campaign, and when the president made good on some of the promises that he made to NALEO in 2008.
OBAMA: We also need reform that finally brings the 12 million who are here illegally out of the shadows, requiring them to take steps to become legal steps, putting them on a pathway to citizenship.
LUZ URBAEZ WEINBERG (R), CITY COMMISSIONER: We've really need to see what the plan is going forward.
MALVEAUX: Luz Urbaez Weinberg , a Republican on the board with NALEO and an elected official from Florida, is eagerly awaiting Obama's speech.
WEINBERG: When he comes to talk to us, he better come with real plans, and we are ready to listen, and we all go back home to tell our constituents what we think.
MALVEAUX: Attendees say immigration is just one concern, and they want to hear about the economy, education and health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's is no surprise that the NALEO national convention is happening here in Florida.
VARGAS: It's a key battleground where Hispanics will make the difference and they have before, but they will make the difference in New Mexico and Colorado and Nevada.
MALVEAUX: Meaning that the booming Latino electorate represented here could cast the deciding ballots in the 2012 election.
MALVEAUX: We'll hear what Mitt Romney has to say shortly. Live coverage of his speech is set to begin in just a few minutes.
And he is holed up inside a foreign embassy in London. Outside the cops are waiting to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
MALVEAUX: Officials in Ecuador say they will have a decision soon on whether or not they will grant Julian Assange asylum.
For almost two days, the founder of the whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks, he's been holed up at an Ecuadorian embassy in London. If Assange step outside, he's actually going to face arrest.
Our Nima Elbagir is there. And she joins us now.
And, Nima, first of all, tell us whether or not there's any indication that the asylum decision is going to come today and whether or not he is actually going to leave the embassy.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that it is going to take about 24 hours. We don't really know when that 24 hours began, but we are hoping that by the end of today and early tomorrow, that there will be a decision. He has been receiving a steady stream of visitors, all of who have come out and said he is in good spirits, that he's working away on his computer, continuing with his work, but realistically he cannot step outside.
The Metropolitan Police officers and the representative went in to see him, which as we understand can only be done at the invitation of the Ecuadorian embassy, and said he gone in to remind him if he did come out, he would still be subject to arrest -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Is there any new details that are coming from his asylum application that might change this whole scenario?
ELBAGIR: Well, some very interesting details coming out from the asylum application, as we have seen the application. It is stating that mainly, he fears extradition to the U.S. he feels that the court proceedings in Sweden as far as he is concerned are a cover for that extradition to the United States where Julian Assange believes --
MALVEAUX: Nima, I'm sorry to interrupt. We're going to have to leave it there. We understand that Mitt Romney is going before the microphones to speak to the largest Latino convention in the country. Let's listen in.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Appreciate the chance to be with you today and I'm delighted to be here to be invited here at your annual conference. It's an honor to be among so many elected officials.
I come to you as a candidate of the United States of America. And I will govern from the principle that while this is a land of extraordinary diversity, there are so much more that unites us than there is that divides us.
ROMNEY: Each of us walks a different path in life, but we are united by one great overwhelming passion, we love the United States of America. We believe in America. We are one nation under God.
Today, we are united not only by our faith in America, we are also united by our concern for America. The country we love is in peril, and that's why I'm running for president.
Almost four years ago, the American people did something that was very much the sort of thing that Americans like to do -- we gave someone new a chance to lead, someone who we had not known very long who didn't have much of a record, but promised to lead us to a better place.
At the time, we didn't know what kind of president he'd be. It was a moment of crisis for our economy. And when Barack Obama became to office, America wished him well and hoped for the best.
Three-and-a-half years later, over 23 million Americans are out of work. Unemployed. Underemployed. Or simply quit looking for a job.
At a time when we should be gaining momentum in the economy, we are actually seeing us lose a little bit of it right now. Job growth slowed and this week we learned that the number of job openings has fallen yet again. And as you know, Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard. While the national unemployment is still above 8 percent and has been for 40 straight months, Hispanic unemployment is at 11 percent.
The middle class under President Obama has been crushed. More Americans are living in poverty today than at any point in American history. Over 2 million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day when President Obama took office.
Home values have plunged, our national debt is at record levels and families are buried under higher prices for things like food and gasoline, and yet the president said that the private sector is doing fine.
This is more than a policy failure. It's a moral failure. I know that the president will say that he inherited the economic crisis, and that's true.
But we shouldn't allow the challenges that he faced four years ago to divert our attention from another important fact. The president pursued policies that have made this the slowest recovery since the Great Depression, and he broke promises many people were counting on the build a brighter future. It did not have to be this way.
Just compare this president's record with the first term of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan also faced an economic crisis. In fact, in 1982, the unemployment rate peaked at nearly 11 percent. But in the two years that followed, just two years, he delivered a true recovery, economic growth and job creation worth three times higher than in the Obama economy.
If President Obama had delivered a real recovery, a Reagan recovery, we would have 5 million more jobs today -- 5 million more. And the unemployment rate would be 6 percent, and the economy would be at least 1 trillion larger.
Now, tomorrow President Obama will speak here, and of course, that is the first time he has spoken here since the last campaign. He may admit that he has not kept every promise, and he'll probably say that even though you aren't better off than you were four years ago, things could be worse.
He will imply that you don't really have an alternative. I believe he's taking your vote for granted.
I'd come here today with a very simple message, you do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected. And your voice is more important now than ever before.
This November, we are going to make a choice. We can continue along the path we are on. Or we can choose a better way. Instead of continuing on with the policies of the last three and a half years, we can revitalize our free enterprise economy, we can lead the world as we have in what we invent and build and create.
Let me make this very clear: this is the only way we can strengthen the middle-class. And this is the only way we can create sustained prosperity. Raising taxes to grow government does not grow the middle-class.
Today, I'm asking you the join me, because while we may not agree on everything, we share the same goal, and the same vision. And the same belief in American greatness that draws so many people to our shores. Liberty's torch can burn just as brightly for future generations of immigrant as it has burned for immigrants in the past.
We know that the businesses can't succeed and grow and hire more workers without a more competitive tax system. That's why I am going to lower the corporate tax rate and reduce individual marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board.
We also know that our businesses and families need affordable and reliable energy. Producing more of our own energy resources will create jobs in America, and generate greater revenues for the country.
It will also help bring manufacturing back to our shores. You are going to see a manufacturing resurgence if we get that policy right. We know that the economy cannot grow if we are mortgaging the future to pay for the big government programs of today.
Think about that. We can't keep on borrowing massively more than we take in without putting the country in peril, and so as president, I will rein in spending, and I will get the budget balanced. And I will repeal Obamacare, because we cannot afford another $2 trillion entitlement.
ROMNEY: Everybody likes free stuff, but there is no free stuff when government has to the pay and it has to tax the American people or when it borrows from future generations. Obamacare is depressing job growth. If priority number one is jobs, you have to get Obamacare out of there.
In one study, 73 percent of a business owners said that Obamacare has made it harder for them to hire people. Think of that. Almost three quarters of small businesses saying Obamacare is making it less likely to hire people. If jobs are your priority, you got to get rid of Obamacare and put in place real reform that works.
Repealing Obamacare and replacing it will give businesses the kind of certainty they need to expand and to hire and to grow. Now, by the way, we can also jump start our economy by expanding trade in our hemisphere.
As you know, however, the president has not completed a single new trade agreement with a Latin American nation and he has failed to crack down on countries like China, who don't live by the rules.
We know that our kids can't succeed if they are trapped in failing schools, and that is why as president I will give the parents of every low income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school.
ROMNEY: When it comes to education, a choice for every parent means a chance for every child. An effective immigration system can also strengthen the economy as it has since the nation's founding.
Unfortunately, despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform. For two years this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate, he was free to pursue any policy he pleased, but he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Nothing. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election, and trying to secure your vote.
Last week the president finally offered a temporary measure -- he called it a stopgap measure -- that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election.
After 3 1/2 years of putting every issue from loan guarantees to his donors to Cash for Clunkers, putting all of those things before immigration, now the president has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on day one, but didn't. I think you deserve better.
Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive order. The answer is that I will put in place my own long- term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure. As president, I won't settle for stopgap measures. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long-term solution. And I'll prioritize measures --
ROMNEY: -- and I want you to also know this, I will prioritize efforts that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier. And I'm going to address the issue of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it. Let me speak about some of the guidelines that I will use in putting together the policy. And as you have heard me say many times it is critical to redouble the efforts to secure the borders. That means both preventing illegal border crossings and making it harder to illegally overstay a visa.
We should field enough border patrol agents, complete a high-tech fence and implement an improved exit verification system. Our immigration system should help promote strong families as well, not keep them apart. Our nation benefits when moms and dads and their kids are all living together under the same roof.
ROMNEY: But today, too many families are caught in a broken system that costs them time and money and entangles them in excessive red tape. For those seeking to come to America the right way, that kind of bureaucratic nightmare has to end. And we can do this with just a few common sense reforms.
As president, I'd reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof.
ROMNEY: And we will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents.
ROMNEY: And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from coming together. Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, it is also an economic necessity. Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs and they drive innovation at a very high rate.
Immigrants founded or co-founded nearly half of our top 50 venture-backed companies in this country -- nearly half. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business. And that kind of risk-taking is something we need more than ever, because new business startups in America are at a 30-year low.
I'll work with states and employers to update our temporary worker visa program so that it meets our economic needs. And if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here. So I'd staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America.
ROMNEY: We want the best and brightest to enrich the nation through the jobs and technologies they are going to create. Now, we also have a strong tradition in this country of honoring immigrants who join our military and put their lives on the line to keep the country safe. Since September 11th of 2001, the United States has naturalized nearly 75,000 members of the Armed Forces. Too many of those patriots died on distant battlefields for our freedom before receiving full citizenship here in the country they called home. As president I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service.
ROMNEY: Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America. But improving access to legal immigration is only one part of the equation. We must also make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration, so that people are rewarded for waiting patiently in line.
That is why my administration will establish a strong employment verification system so that every business can know with confidence that the people it hires are legally eligible for employment. We can find common ground here, and we have got to.
We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains the land of opportunity both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws and want to come to our shores.
Now, throughout my campaign, I have often had the chance to speak about my dad and how proud I am of him. He was born, as Scotty said, to parents, American parents living in Mexico. When he was 5, they left everything behind and started over in the United States.
His dad, my grandfather, was a builder, and he went bust more than once. My grandfather didn't make much money. There were times in my dad's life when he lived in poverty. But my grandfather had big hopes for my dad and tried to help him as best he could.
My dad didn't finish college. But he believed in the country where the circumstances of one's birth were not a barrier to achievement. And he was not afraid of hard work. He held odd jobs, putting up plasterboard, selling paint. He was lucky enough to live in America where hard work can turn aspirations into realities.
After he became a man of the business world, he got the opportunity to lead a great car company, and ultimately, he became the governor of a great state, the state of Michigan.
This is my father's story. But it could be the story of any American. Most of you here today are leaders in your community. Your are here because you have benefited from the land of opportunity, and you want to give back to this country, to fight for its people so they have the same chance to succeed.
We are truly one America. Everyone here has made this exceptional nation what it is today. This is an election about two people. This is not an election about being a Republican or a Democrat or and independent. This is an election about the future of America. I'd ask each of you to honestly look at the last 3 1/2 years and ask whether we can do better. Is the America of 11 percent Hispanic unemployment the America of our dreams? We can do better. We can prosper again with the powerful recovery we have all been waiting for, the good jobs that so many people need and, above all, the opportunities we owe to our children and our grandchildren.
I will do that. I will make that happen with your help and your support. Thank you so much. And God bless this great land. Thank you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney wrapping up his speech there, obviously keeping a laser focus on the economy, slamming the president's policies as well, but, really, is it enough to win over Latino voters? We're going to talk about that next with a group of analysts after a quick break.
MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes. We are live from Florida in what has been billed as the largest Latino political convention. Officials around the country are meeting here.
We just heard from presidential candidate Mitt Romney. I want to bring in a couple of analysts to talk a little bit about what we heard. Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol, he joins us.
First of all, we heard a couple of things here, not really sure if it's exactly new. One of the things we heard was that he would grant a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have served in the military and he's also considering under review the possibility of these undocumented college students who are still in this country.
Did that strike you as surprising? Did that strike you as something new that he is offering?
JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: : I think what is new and what's different is the tone of the speech, this -- the message that he is sending to the Latinos.
He is saying we recognize what you contribute to the American economy, we recognize you as part of this country, we are willing to legalize those who want to join the Armed Forces, the undocumented still can't join the Armed Forces. But if they're willing to do it, that's -- there's a bill in Congress to that order.
So it's more the tone that changes the message he had before. Obviously, the announcement by the White House and in the Homeland Security last Friday to legalize these students change whatever speech was going to happen here.
But I think he's saying what a lot of people expected. You can talk about immigration, you can talk about the border. You can talk about securing it. But the way you talk about it makes a big difference with the Latinos.
MALVEAUX: One of the things that he mentioned, I thought was really important, is he did take a dig at President Obama. He said, look, you do have an alternative here. I think that President Obama is taking your vote for granted.
Is there a feeling within the Latino community that automatically most of us are going to vote Democratic because most Latinos are Democrats?
LOPEZ: There is and there's -- we've spoken about this on different occasions, and there's a "what have you done for me lately" factor. And people read through it and they say, yes, this is a political move, but President Obama did something concrete. And here we have Governor Romney with a speech. It's a different tone. It's a very interesting message. But we also have what he said during the primaries, where he had a tough line, hard line. And we're going to see if people prefer this speech and this tone or they remember what he said before, where the people should deport themselves, that he would veto The Dream Act, that he didn't favor most of the measures he is favoring today. So that's going to be a difference.
MALVEAUX: So he specifically talked about President Obama's announcement here and he said this was a stop gap measure. That was something that the president himself used to describe the policy of allowing some young people to stay in the country who meet certain criteria, at least to avoid deportation for some time. He says that he's going to offer his own long-term, broad brush stroke policy if he becomes president. Did you hear any specifics or details that make you think that this is going to be something that's robust or significant?
LOPEZ: There's something very interesting. He spoke about giving legal residents the same process as U.S. citizens have of claiming relatives who are either undocumented or who live in another country. Usually illegal residents take a lot longer to go through this process. He wants to give them the same time (ph) as citizens. That's important.
He talked about family -- about not splitting families apart. And that's very interesting because many Republicans opposed The Dream Act because that they say this could bring a chain migration. So he's talking about keeping families together.
But what's also interesting, Suzanne, is that he is talking about this as a humanitarian issue. That immigration should be a humanitarian issue. It's been a law and order issue where people say, if you've broken the law, then you have to pay the price. But he's saying, this is a humanitarian issue. And that's another important change in tone.
MALVEAUX: I also thought too that perhaps one of the things -- there -- it was a potential dig to President Obama when he mentioned about the families -- keeping families together, in light of the fact that the president has deported so many people. More than at any other president in the history of our country over the last year. LOPEZ: And there was -- the White House announced discretion to not deport those who didn't have criminal backgrounds. And that went on the -- that was supposed to benefit at least 300,000 people. Now, those who work in the area say that it hasn't really benefitted the number of people they expected too. Because you can have a U.S. citizen or a naturalized citizen claiming a spouse. But that person has to leave the country. There's changes in that sense, not in making families split apart, but it still isn't being felt.
Now, one thing is what Governor Romney is promising today, the other thing is what the White House is doing, and you have the announcement from Friday. That's something concrete and that's going to make a big difference. We're going to be hearing a lot of this in the next month.
MALVEAUX: All right, Juan Carlos, thank you very much.
We want to bring in Jim Acosta, who's inside of the room.
Jim, give us a sense of how people who were there, how they responded to this speech, whether or not they felt that there was enough to convince them at least to take a second look?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, the applause was polite for Mitt Romney, I would say, in this room. He did not get the thunderous applause that he often gets when he speaks to more supportive crowds. And that's in part because of the specifics that he laid out. And you were talking about that with Juan Carlos just a few moments ago. I mean let's just make this clear right off the -- right off the bat here, Suzanne.
Mitt Romney did not walk in here and endorse parts of The Dream Act. The only component of The Dream Act that he's prepared to support right now is the part that says that members of the military who may be undocumented, he thinks those folks should be on a path to legal status. But that is the only component at this point that he's willing to embrace. The part about college students, undocumented college students, he did not weigh in on that issue.
He has talked in the past about stapling green cards to advanced degrees. I am told by a campaign official that when he talks about that, he's talking about Ph.D., more advanced degrees than a bachelors degree at a university. So, you know, there are some specifics in this speech that he laid out today that may confuse people and make them think, well, he's talking about a kind of Dream Act.
I talked to a Romney adviser before this speech and we had the excerpts in hand, Suzanne, and he said, no, that's not what is happening today. The GOP, the likely GOP nominee, was basically just laying out some broad principles. Yes, he does want to streamline the immigration system and he talked about this today. That part is new. But in terms of endorsing the Dream Act or embracing parts of the Dream Act, that's just not what happened today, Suzanne. And I think that's probably why you heard this audience sort of respond politely, but not in any sort of, you know, thunderous way that he sees at other events. MALVEAUX: And one thing I noticed, Jim, I guess it could be a strategy, if you will, for the Romney campaign, is he really focused on the economic conditions of the Hispanic community. He talked about the 11 percent unemployment and he also talked about 2 million Hispanics living in poverty. Do you think that this is really his approach to get folks to really focus on the economic aspect and not so much the immigration and the policy that he's putting forward, which doesn't seem to actually have a lot of detail at this moment and has caused some controversy for him in the past?
ACOSTA: That is right, Suzanne. He wants Latino groups to look past this issue of immigration as much as possible and focus on the economy. And quite frankly, Suzanne, that is the Romney campaign strategy no matter which group he's talking to. While the Obama campaign, you know, has been really going after individual segments of his base, like the gay and lesbian community, like Hispanics, like college students, the Romney campaigns has not been doing that.
What they have been doing almost since the general election campaign starting is saying, this issue -- this election is about one issue and that is the economy. So he takes that issue wherever he goes. Whether it's a crowd of mostly white voters in Michigan, or to a group of mostly Latino voters here in Florida. And that's what he's going to do throughout this campaign. We have not heard the Romney campaign say they're going to do anything but focus on the economy from here to November, Suzanne.
And I will tell you, I did hear from an Obama campaign aide who was reacting to this speech. And it was a harsh reaction. The reaction I got from an Obama campaign aide is that, in their words, Mitt Romney is physically incapable of taking a position on an issue. Those are the words that they used, basically saying that, look, Mitt Romney was given another chance today to take a position on what the president did last Friday. He basically did not do that, Suzanne. He said he would just replace what the president proposed with a broader package, but he didn't lay out the specifics of what that package would be, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right, Jim Acosta. Obviously, President Obama is going to have his chance to weigh in on this. Perhaps later today he'll talk about it. But he certainly will be here tomorrow at the convention to talk and be before this group himself to lay out his policies as well.
Jim Acosta, thank you so much.
I want to turn again to our (ph) international focus. We have heard before how important opium is to the farmers of Afghanistan. We're going to tell you about the new legal crop that could change it and help break the chain of international drug trade.
MALVEAUX: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. We take you around the world in 60 minutes. We are now bringing you a story about opium poppies. They are a cash crop in Afghanistan. The main source for revenue for Taliban militants. But an increasing number of farmers are standing up to the insurgents, ditching the opium for a legal crop. It's giving their families a better life and a peace of mind. Here's Sara Sidner.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Herat, Afghanistan, located in western Afghanistan, is an ancient city marked by a towering mosque, bustling markets and an improving economy. What's happening in Herat, the government says, is a good argument for a spice revolution. Replacing opium poppy crops, the main source of funding for the Taliban, with the world's most expensive spice, saffron.
"Herat province has been cleaned of 99 percent of its poppy cultivation. The 1 percent is in places with some security problems. With government, cooperation of NGOs, some donations and U.S. AID has played an important role to help and encourage saffron cultivation," he says.
Saffron can sell for thousands of dollars a pound on the world market. But for farmers like Haji Ibrahim (ph), it's not just as simple as deciding to switch. After changing his crop from poppy to saffron, he says he had visitors.
"Taliban took money from me. I walked for days with my eyes wrapped with a piece of cloth. I was kept in a well for two days. Finally they told me to stop promoting the cultivation of saffron," he says.
Instead, he and his 13 family members moved, and now freely grow and sell saffron, which he says brings in more profit than poppy ever did. Enough to buy this large home in a safe and relatively peaceful environment, where his young daughters are being educated.
The Afghan government, along with NATO members, have been trying to stem the growth of opium poppy. Ninety percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and brought in an estimated $1.4 billion last year. Most of that ended up with Taliban and government-linked war lords.
But saffron is being looked at as a potential gold mine in Heart. And far easier crop to plant and harvest than opium poppy and aligning with the tenants of Islam gives new opportunities for Afghan women. Parigul Danishyaar says she wouldn't have a job if it weren't for saffron cultivation. Working with poppy was forbidden in her household.
PARIGUL DANISHYAAR, SAFFRON WORKER (through translator): Neither my family would allow me and not I would participate in it. I'm very happy with this work because this is very useful for Afghanistan and other countries. This is legal work.
SIDNER: Work that is yielding big money. Dozens of companies have been formed with the aim of exporting Afghan saffron abroad.
SIDNER (on camera): When you think of Afghanistan, you don't normally think luxury items. But take a look at this saffron store. Look at the packaging. They're actually putting saffron in what looks like pretty little perfume bottles. And to give you some idea of just how precious and expensive this stuff is, this little bottle, just two grams, will cost you $8. A princely sum for something to cook with in a country that has been impoverished for years.
SIDNER: But saffron's success here isn't without pitfalls. Since the government and some NGOs are handing out saffron bulbs to encourage farmers, there is the potential for flooding the market and bringing the price of this precious spike down. Afghan's like Haji Ibrahim and Parigul Danishyaar hope the obstacles they face will disappear and they eye the world markets where the deep red spice can fetch as much as $5,000 per pound.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Heart, Afghanistan.