March 13, 2003
Courting New Amigos
The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles is reaching out to the Latino community -- but not with ordinary diplomacy. In addition to usual programs it uses to rally communal support for Israel, the consulate last week unveiled its new strategy for community relations. This being Los Angeles, that strategy is, of course, connected with Hollywood.
Mark Paredes, the press attaché and community outreach liaison for the Israel Consulate has become a series regular on "El Tribunal del Pueblo," the prime-time Spanish version of "The People's Court," which is broadcast on Telemundo. Paredes plays the district attorney on the show. For the most part, the show is unscripted, and Paredes, who in addition to his consular duties is pursuing a career as a screenwriter and actor, gets a considerable amount of screen time. The consulate is so eager for Paredes to appear on the show -- which they see as a good way to reach out to the Hispanic community -- that they have given him one a day a week off work so that he can attend the tapings.
"Hispanics are a powerful political presence in California," Paredes said. "They are the majority in the state, a lot of them are Christians, but they don't know much about Israel, and we have not really courted their support. It's a virgin mind that we can dig into. This show is part of our Hispanic outreach -- getting out into that community."
Paredes, a former U.S. diplomat who speaks seven languages, including Hebrew, is starting to get something of a reputation in the Latino community. Other actors who come in to tape the show all want to know "Which one is the guy from the Israeli Consulate?"
But don't think that this job is causing Paredes to slack off from his myriad consulate duties.
"With all the speeches that I give around town," he said. "I more than make up for the time off in overtime."
"El Tribunal del Pueblo" airs Monday through Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Telemundo.