The Corner

Fortuño: English Requirement ‘Shouldn’t Be an Issue’ for Puerto Rico

Yesterday, Rick Santorum caused a ruckus in Puerto Rico when he told a local newspaper that if the territory wanted to become a state, English would have to become its “main” language.

But Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño tells National Review Online that Santorum’s stipulation “shouldn’t be an issue.” He notes that Santorum clarified his remarks earlier today, saying he wanted the island to be bilingual, not solely English-speaking. Fortuño also points out that English is already one of the island’s two official languages, the other being Spanish.

And Fortuño shares Santorum’s sentiment. “As a parent, I can tell you that most of us want our children to be totally fluent in both languages,” he says. “Given all the free-trade agreements [being negotiated] in the region, it makes sense to be at the very least bilingual.” In his most recent State of the State address, he announced an initiative to ensure that no child graduated from Puerto Rico’s public schools without being “fully, truly bilingual.” “And this initiative is supported by more than 90 percent of parents in polls,” he observes.

Nonetheless, Fortuño is supporting Mitt Romney in the primary on March 18 for three reasons. First, Romney pledged to devote more resources to a “strong national-security initiative along America’s Caribbean border.” “Oftentimes in the mainland, most people believe that border security has only to do with the southwest border with Mexico,” he says. “That’s like being concerned about your safety at home and only locking your front door,” he jokes. “The back door is America’s Caribbean border: Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

Fifty percent of the drugs that make it to the mainland come through the Caribbean, Fortuño notes. That’s a 20-percentage-point increase from just two years ago. “Some of these law-enforcement agencies have had significant vacancies for the last few years in their local offices here,” he warns. “We are fighting against these drug lords who are smuggling drugs through Puerto Rico to the mainland.”

The second reason for Fortuño’s support is Romney’s promise to create jobs. “Governor Romney has vast experience in creating jobs in the private sector as well as creating pro-growth policies when he was governor of Massachusetts,” he argues. Most importantly, Romney “acknowledged that every single job in Puerto Rico is an American job. He pledged he would include Puerto Rico” in his policies.

Finally, Romney promised to respect Puerto Ricans’ decision when they vote on November 6 on their legal status. Should the territory vote to become a state, “Governor Romney has pledged to respect the results of that plebiscite and to provide the necessary leadership in Washington to work with me on those results and its implementation according to law,” Fortuño says. (Congress must vote to accept Puerto Rico into the Union for it to become a state.) “Showing that respect for the will of the voters” was crucial for his decision to endorse.

Puerto Rico will send 23 delegates to the Republican national convention: 20 at-large delegates and three superdelegates. The at-large delegates will be allocated proportionately according to the popular vote, unless one candidate receives over 50 percent. In that case, all 20 delegates will go to the victor. Meanwhile, two of the superdelegates, national committeewoman Zori Fonalledas and national committeeman Fortuño, are supporting Romney, and the third, party chairman Carlos Mendez,  is supporting Newt Gingrich.


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