- - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, campaigning here in advance of Sunday’s primary, says Puerto Rico should only gain statehood if the territory makes English its principal language.

In an interview Wednesday with a San Juan newspaper, El Vocero, Mr. Santorum said English would have to be the “principal language” if Puerto Rico were to become a state. Currently, Puerto Rico’s official language is Spanish.

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Mr. Santorum said. “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.”

Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth and its residents have U.S. citizenship. But they have no full members of Congress and cannot vote in the presidential elections, though they do vote in the party-run presidential primaries.

Mr. Santorum’s remarks could hurt him with the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans who live in the continental U.S., including nearly 1 million in Florida, which is likely to be a key state in November.



Puerto Ricans will hold a referendum Nov. 6 on the status of the island, with statehood being one of three options. Congress would have the final say, no matter the outcome of the vote.

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