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A Romney Pander in Puerto Rico?

10:25 PM, Mar 18, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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CNN has projected that Mitt Romney will win Sunday's primary in Puerto Rico, and Romney will most likely receive all 20 of Puerto Rico's delegates. Romney had the support of Puerto Rico's Republican governor, Luis Fortuño, and was expected to win handily.

But Robert G. de Posada, the former president of the conservative Latino Coalition, has an op-ed at the Daily Caller charging that Romney "sold out his conservative principles" in order to win big in the Caribbean territory. De Posada points out that Congress has often required territories with large non-English speaking populations to agree to use English officially within government and in schools before allowing those territories to achieve statehood. Romney, he says, pandered to pro-statehood sentiments in Puerto Rico while ignoring this precedent as well as his own position back on the mainland:

On Thursday, Romney called a radio station in San Juan (Noti-Uno) for an interview with a local reporter. When asked if he would support requiring that English became the principal language of government as part of a petition for statehood, Romney said no. When asked if he thought the legislature should have English as the principal language, once again Romney said no. He even opposed requiring English in the courts and public schools.

In Louisiana and Alabama, Mitt Romney is for English as the official language of the United States. In 2008, when Romney sought the GOP nomination, he was upfront about his opposition to bilingual education and his support for ending it in Massachusetts. But in Puerto Rico, he is a strong advocate of bilingualism and opposes requiring the state to make English the principal language of the legislature, courts and public schools. This only makes sense in the Romney World of Flip Flops.

But Romney took it a step further. He stated that a simple majority of 50% + 1 was enough for him to aggressively support statehood for Puerto Rico. As Rick Santorum said during his trip to Puerto Rico, “We need a significant majority supporting statehood before it’s considered. Why would we want a state where nearly half of its residents do not want to be part of the Union?”

Santorum should be commended for staying true to his conservative principles even when it was not politically convenient. Santorum could have pandered to the pro-statehood governor of Puerto Rico in order to get the 20 delegates at stake, but instead the former senator spoke the truth and told Puerto Rican voters a reality they needed to hear. Immediately after, Romney’s campaign started attacking Santorum and maliciously twisting his comments, telling voters that the former senator was advocating “English-only” and was against Spanish.

On ABC's This Week Sunday morning, Jonathan Karl asked Rick Santorum about his recent statement in Puerto Rico that English as the de facto language should be a prerequisite for statehood. "There's only 15 percent, according to the census, [that] are fluent in English in Puerto Rico," Santorum said. "And what I have said is that obviously Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking country -- excuse me, a Spanish-speaking island, not a country but a Spanish-speaking island -- and they'll continue to speak Spanish, and of course that's their culture, and they have every right to do so."

Santorum went on to similarly accuse Romney of pandering. "This is the hypocrisy of Mitt Romney to go and pander for votes, knowing full well that there's no way he would stand for...Puerto Rico coming into statehood without having proficiency in English," he said. "Yet to get 20 delegates, he's willing to say whatever he needs to say in order to get those votes. And I'm hopeful the people of Puerto Rico will see through the charade of what Governor Romney will do to get votes."

Both Romney and Fortuño have disagreed with Santorum's comments on English and Puerto Rican statehood. Puerto Rico will vote in a referendum on its status in November, the fifth such vote since 1967.

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