Romney Will Back Puerto Ricans' Desire for Statehood, Won't Make English a Precondition

SAN JUAN - Landing in Puerto Rico on the eve of the island's weekend primary, Mitt Romney reiterated his stance on its quest for statehood, saying he would support whatever the majority of the citizens desired and would not impose preconditions on the U.S. territory should it decide to try to become a state.

"My view is that the people of Puerto Rico should have, as they will have, the opportunity to make their own wishes felt," said Romney, who stood beside Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno as he addressed the press on a tarmac. "If a majority of Puerto Ricans wish to become a state, then I will support that effort in Washington and will help lead that effort in Washington."

Asked whether he believed making English the official language of the territory would be necessary for it to become the 51st state - a question that plagued Sen. Rick Santorum during a trip here earlier this week - Romney said he doesn't have "preconditions" that he would impose.

"I'll go back to what I said before … I will support the people of Puerto Rico if they make a decision that they would prefer to become a state," said Romney. "I don't have preconditions that I would impose. I instead will stand and work with your governor to help carry out the will of the people of Puerto Rico."

Santorum, who campaigned around San Juan this week, dialed back comments he made to a local reporter suggesting that he would require Puerto Rico to adopt English as its official language in order to achieve statehood. Santorum later said he believed the country should place importance on both languages.

Romney also made clear his preference for all children to master English, referring to it as the "language of opportunity."

"Well, as you know, English has been an official language of Puerto Rico for 100 years and I think selecting the words of your governor, Spanish is the language of Puerto Rico's heritage, English is the language of opportunity," he said. "I would hope that young people would learn both languages, but particularly English so that as they trade throughout the country and participate in educational opportunities, and economic opportunities throughout the country, that their English skills would make it even easier for them to travel and be effective in trade in the United States and, of course, abroad."