Saturday, March 17, 2012

Puerto Rican Primary Important to GOP Candidates

The Republican presidential primary is Sunday in Puerto Rico. Governor Luis Fortuño has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney in the GOP primary. Why is the Puerto Rico primary important? There are 23 delegates up for grabs and the winner will have the acknowledgement of an important constituency - the Latino voter.

All of the candidates have stated that when the vote for statehood happens in November, they would work with Puerto Ricans for statehood, should that be the decision of the people.

This year the leading Republican candidates have all said they would work with Puerto Rico to become a state if that is what its citizens decide. Some Puerto Ricans favor becoming a state, while others oppose the idea, preferring to remain a commonwealth or to become independent. In January, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were confronted with the issue at an event in Miami only days before the Florida primary.

“I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide that they want to become a state and I can tell you that I will work with [Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno] to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico,” Romney said.

Gingrich, for his part, said that “if the people of Puerto Rico make the decision that they want to be a state, I will work actively to help them negotiate the process of accession to the United States, but the people of Puerto Rico have to decide their future.”

However, when Rick Santorum weighed in on the issue this week in a campaign swing through Puerto Rico, the former Pennsylvania senator sparked controversy by introducing an important caveat: the island territory must adopt English as its main language. Puerto Rico currently lists both English and Spanish as its official languages, but the latter is clearly the dominant one there. Adopting English, Santorum said, should be “a condition” if the island becomes a state.

Santorum received criticism all around for his remark that adopting English should be a requirement for statehood. It was a blunder, to be sure, as while it is a fact that English is our country's established language, it is not declared as "official" by law. It was offensive to Puerto Ricans. Governor Fortuno spoke out that the languages spoken in Puerto Rico should not be politicized.

“Since the very beginning of the 20th century, English and Spanish have both been official languages in Puerto Rico. We’re proud of that,” Fortuno said in an interview with ABC News. “I don’t think language should be used in any partisan context or certainly regarding status.”

Here is a radio ad for Romney touting Fortuno's support running in Puerto Rico. Romney's son, Craig, is the narrator.

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