A coalition of activist groups tried to rain on telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helú's George Washington moment.
The world's richest man received an honorary degree from George Washington University on the national mall in Washington D.C. on Sunday, while trying to be heard over the din of distant vuvuzelas and activists looking to drown out his speech.
"It was a very, very spirited crowd," said Juan José Gutiérrez, co-leader of Two Countries – One Voice that lead the protest. "I think we got our point across.”
The organization, made up primarily of grassroots Latino advocacy groups, had asked GWU to withdraw their commencement invitation to Slim earlier this month because of what they describe as his "corrupt and monopolistic" business practices that help to keep millions of Mexicans in poverty.
"I had previously met with two of the University’s Vice Presidents, we conveyed our concerns, and we told them what our list of demands were," said Jose, President of Vamos Unidos. "They took the position that they would politely agree to disagree with us. They went on to honor Mr. Slim."
Coalition organizers estimated that they had 700 protestors "about 100 yards" from the commencement on Sunday, they had hoped for 1,000. They also said they were "respectful" of the commencement ceremonies and didn't unleash the vuvuzela blasts until Slim gave his speech.
Slim –whose family fortune of about $74 billion puts him well ahead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on the Forbes List of billionaires– vehemently denies allegations that the companies he control are monopolies or engage in corrupt business practices. He owns the dominant landline telecom company in Mexico --Telmex-- which controls about 80 percent of the market. In addition, his America Móvil owns upwards of 70 percent of Mexico's mobile telephone market.
"Fighting against poverty and ignorance is imperative not only from ethical, social, and moral reasons but also because of economic needs," Slim said to the over 5,000 people at the GWU commencement. "Chronic pessimism leads to mediocrity."
Slim's speech was rewritten from a letter he wrote to students who participated in the ceremony of the Academy of American Achievement eighteen years ago.
"What is most worthwhile in life does not have a price: Love, friendship, nature, forms, colors, sounds, and smells that we perceive with our senses, the feelings that are only appreciated when we are awake and open to enjoying life," he said.
The coalition, which was launched just three months ago by the Ramirez Group, Vamos Unidos USA, Presente.org, and Mexicanos sin Fronteras, told Fox News Latino they are hoping to expand their campaign from a protest they consider to be a success.
"His empire has kept millions in poverty while he is obscenely rich, "stated Andrés Ramírez, President of the Ramírez Group, based in Nevada, one of the leaders of the coalition. "We cannot ignore how Slim has made his billions, and that is why our first action is to ask George Washington University to break their ties with him immediately."
“This isn’t a minor grievance, this is a man whose become the wealthiest man in the world at the expense of some of the poorest people in the hemisphere,” Ramírez said.
According to report by the OECD, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mexicans paid the highest prices for high-speed Internet among the 34 nations in the OECD.
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