(VIDEO) Santorum Ignites Outrage, Tells Puerto Rico: Speak English If You Want To Be A State

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Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum was campaigning in Puerto Rico, when he basically shot himself in the foot.  His remark about Puerto Rico, which recognizes both English and Spanish as their official languages, has definitely impacted him negatively.  I can see where he is coming from, but as a Puerto Rican that was born and raised in NY, I am offended.  Politicians especially need to remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  Check out the details and video of the controversial statement here…

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Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans on Wednesday they would have to make English their primary language if they want to pursue U.S. statehood, a statement at odds with the U.S. Constitution. Puerto Ricans, who recognize both English and Spanish as their official languages, are scheduled to vote in November on a referendum to decide whether they want to pursue statehood or remain a self-governing U.S. commonwealth.

In an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination regarding the island’s political status.  He told the newspaper:

‘We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop.’

But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language. He said:

‘Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law. And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language’.

However, the U.S. Constitution does not designate an official language, nor is there a requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state.

The remark drew a backlash from Puerto Ricans. Jennifer Gonzalez, president of the island’s House of Representatives, told Univision on Thursday that she was offended by Santorum’s comments. She said:

‘We are not going to stop speaking Spanish. They cannot require us to do something that they have not required any other state in the U.S. to do’.

One statehood backer who had signed on as a Santorum delegate, Oreste Ramos, told the El Vocero newspaper he’ll no longer be willing to do so because of what the candidate said. But at the same time, Santorum picked up the backing of retired baseball player Carlos Baerga, a Puerto Rico native who played in the major leagues between 1990 and 2005.

Santorum later said he didn’t mean for the remarks to come off the way they sounded, telling reporters:

‘I never said only English should be spoken here. Never did I even intimate that. What I said was that English had to be spoken as well as other… obviously Spanish is going to be spoken, this would be a bilingual country’.

Congress would have to give approval if Puerto Rico is to become the 51st state.  Although Congress has considered numerous proposals to make English the official U.S. language, none has ever passed. Puerto Rico has about 4 million people and its population can vote in partisan primaries but not presidential elections.  Puerto Ricans on the mainland have the same voting rights as other U.S. citizens.

Romney and Gingrich have both said Puerto Ricans must decide their future for themselves. Romney has said that if they choose to pursue statehood, he would help them achieve it. Romney, who is scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico on Friday and stay through the weekend, won the endorsement of Governor Luis Fortuno, who is also the head of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Santorum was to meet with Fortuno on Wednesday before a town hall meeting with residents. He said he and Fortuno are friends because they went to the same church in Washington when Fortuno served as Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress from 2004-2008. Santorum also said that he does not support ‘at this time’ allowing residents in territories like Puerto Rico to vote for president, although he said he was open to analyzing alternatives, such as allowing their votes to count in the popular vote but not in the Electoral College.

Gingrich will send his daughter, Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, to campaign on his behalf in Puerto Rico on Thursday and Friday.  She is fluent in Spanish and was expected to hold a town-hall style meeting.

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