March 15th, 2012
01:21 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum stands by English condition for Puerto Rico statehood

(CNN) – Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Thursday defended a condition he said Puerto Rico must meet to be eligible for statehood: "English needs to be the principal language."

Campaigning in the territory ahead of their Sunday primary, Santorum had on Wednesday said, "There are other states with more than one language, like Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English must be the principal language."

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Speaking to CNN's National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta on Thursday, he stood by his comments.

"Obviously Spanish will be spoken here on the island. But this needs to be a bilingual country not just a Spanish speaking country," he said. "Right now it is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking but it needs to have in order for it to integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally."

Romney stakes opposition to Santorum over language issue

Puerto Rico designates both English and Spanish as official languages. There is no federal law stipulating an official language, but 31 states have adopted measures and Congress has included adoption of English as a requirement for statehood in previous cases.

Voters will be surveyed on their interest in statehood in a November referendum.

Asked by a reporter if the language issue would be a deal breaker, Santorum said he considers the matter important.

"I think that would be a condition," he said. "I think it's important."

The territory's delegate to Congress, Democrat Pedro Pierluisi, said on CNN's Starting Point Thursday that, "Santorum's view is narrow and a limiting view of what America is all about."

"English is the predominant language in the U.S. and will continue to be so, whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not," Pierluisi added.

One of Santorum's delegates withdrew his support for Santorum over the matter, according to a local newspaper report. The Vocero paper reported that Hector Perez said he was no longer committed to Santorum. The party chair told the paper that one of the alternate delegates submitted by Santorum's campaign would fill the spot.

Puerto Rico holds a Republican primary on Sunday to allocate 20 of the territory's 23 delegates. Delegates will be distributed proportionally among candidates earning over 15% of the vote unless one candidate wins over 50%. In that case, he will receive all 20 delegates.

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Filed under: 2012 • Puerto Rico • Rick Santorum
soundoff (210 Responses)
  1. Big Jilm

    I knew it – Sanitarium is a British Loyalist! He's a Manchurian candidate -a secret agent of King George III sent forward in time (hey Obama can time-travel too according to the GOP) to take back the 13 colonies!

    March 15, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    one thing about Santorum, no matter WHAT he says and no matter how STUPID it might be he doesn't run from it and always comes back to defend it. (or as the new term is today DOUBLE-DOWN) :)

    March 15, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. EatRunDive

    "Obviously Spanish will be spoken here on the island. But this needs to be a bilingual country not just a Spanish speaking country," he said.

    So there you have it, folks, Rick Santorum thinks that he is campaigning in another country. I wonder how many other countries he thinks vote for US president?

    March 15, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. dagoberto

    Hey Rick let puertoricans speak the language they choose. You're so authoritary.

    March 15, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. Malory Archer

    ..."this needs to be a bilingual country not just a Spanish speaking country". Who the double hockey sticks is HE to tell another country full of brown people what they NEED???!!! If they don't comply will he declare war on them?

    March 15, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. Save us from republicans

    Santorum. What a nut. Does this oddball come down on the right side of ANYTHING? Jerk

    March 15, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Terry

    Santorum is just nuts. There is no other possible answer for his totally dumb remarks.

    March 15, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. manochu

    he should fire all his advisor. You don't go to look for delegates in a primary in a commonwealth where spanish is the main language and 100 percent of republicans are pro statehood and say this. Also had u notice he referred to PR as a "country", he clearly doesn't understand Pr political situation and status as a commonwealth. Do we have to become a fully bilingual country in order to become a state?

    March 15, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. 4sanity

    Well, there goes the Puertan Rican vote for the GOP. Gays, immigrants, minorities, women, anyone-with-a-brain: who else should they alienate this week ?

    March 15, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. M.Orsini

    And this is the main card (language) that those opposing statehood use when fearmongering AGAINST statehood. PR will never become a state, though the reasons are far more complex than just a referendum among the Island's population. Even if the Yes vote won, there would still be virtually unsurmountable hurdles. On a side note, Islanders don't get to vote for the presidency while residing on the Island. We only get that privilege if we move to the continental US.

    March 15, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. GonzoinHouston

    Boy that ought to win him the local primary!

    March 15, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. DC from NJ

    I am a liberal atheist who disagrees with Santorum on just about everything, but I think he's right about this one. He did not say that Puerto Rico needed to become a primarily English-speaking country because he thinks that it is best for their country; he said that Puerto Rico needs to adopt English if they want to become a state of the US.

    March 15, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. rs

    WHY are Republicans going down this "scorched earth" cultural warfare road? This all but guarantees their loss!

    March 15, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Manuel

    I think he aint taking many delegates from Puerto Rico. the majority of the republicans in Puerto rico are believers in statehood, second spanish is the first language of puerto ricans, third this is not a matter of what you speak, but about rights of american citizens fourth he should fire his advisors, he clearly doesn't understand US-PR relationship, specially when he say things like " you have to become a bilingual "country" first to become a state". either we become a country or a state?

    March 15, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Malory Archer

    DC, why should PR have to adopt English in order to become a state when 22 already existing states haven't done so? Are you implying that the federal government should trample on those 22 states' rights?

    March 15, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. chelle

    DC from NJ. Actually he did use the word country – albeit I imagine he "misspoke". So why not let them become their own country as an alternative to becoming the 51st state? Why this continual limbo? Not a state or an independent Spanish speaking country? It is 2012 for heavens sake. Pick one and move on.

    March 15, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. TG

    I just can't fathom how DUMB this man....I just boggles my mind....

    March 15, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. BigD

    Why must Puerto Rico have 'higher' (actually, different) standards that the other 50 states? I can see Santorum ushering in a new era of 'institutionalized racism'. May God (and NOT the Pope of Santorum) help us! I'd hate to see our country being run by a puppet regime of Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia under the ex-Senator.

    March 15, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. VG

    I think Santorum is very confused. He is thinking that the point of these primaries is who can offend the most number of voting blocs. There's not enough white fundamentalist vote for you to win primaries, Santo. What a doofus.

    March 15, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Bill in Florida

    Good thing that ex-Senator Santorum will have absolutely no say in whether or not Puerto Rico becomes a state.

    March 15, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. darienne g. domenech

    Santorum does not cease to surprise me! How can he be that stupid that he thinks he can get away with pandering to ignorant extremist s on the mainland and at the same time insult the very people who could be his delegates,who,mind you,arebilingual, by the most part,and treat everyone as non English speaking "country";we have been part of the U.S. since 1898 and citizens,yes,citizens,since 1917!! This is the kind of stuff that that tells me he can not be aPresident of the United States. My grandfather was colonel and my father a captain and
    both had university diplomas.(the former several engineering diplomas and the latter two medial specialties
    both were totally bilingual, as 99.9% of those who feel American are,so mythank you
    suspicion is he was talking and informing himself with the wrong individuals....
    thank you .darienne garcia domenech

    March 15, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Fla Pete

    Santorum better come campaign again in Meami,Florida.South of thee border,ya can't get anyone to speak english..Spanish,creole,gangsta rap,ya got it all in south Florida.They'll tell ya too Santorum in Spanish,creole to go to Hell ,you puto bandaiyo....Keep your Yankee American crap in Washington,not Meami man,just keep the food stamps,welfare coming and we'll be happy.... Taco viva Yaa all....

    March 15, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. J from PHX

    Perhaps we should start with Geography 101 and learn that Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth and their Chief of State is the President of the United States. It is not another country. Next, we can review languages. Of course, during his latest PR trip, he only managed to rile up evangelicals and discuss English only requirements for statehood. Perhaps he should have talked about the high unemployment rate in PR and his plan for economic recovery there.

    March 15, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  24. Jamie from Riverside

    Let me get this straight, you're making up lies about conditions for Puerto Rican statehood (which i've heard nobody but you bring up) AND you want them to vote for you as well.

    Talk about a beggar with a whip.

    March 15, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. LynneSki

    @DC from NJ - I'm fairly sure "to be eligible for statehood: English needs to be the principal language" means Puerto Rico needs to become a primarily English-speaking country. That's what "principal language" means. It's the one you use the most, hence primarily English speaking.

    I still think it's funny that the GOP upon taking control of the house said their number one goal was to make sure Obama was a one term president and then this guy is one of their front runners!

    March 15, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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