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Rick Santorum defends Puerto Rico 'English' comments

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amny Photo Credit: Rick Santorum campaigns in Puerto Rico on Thursday. (Getty)

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was scrambling Thursday to defend his controversial comment that Puerto Rico would have to make English "the main language" on the island in order to become a U.S. state.

"Like in every other state, [Puerto Rico must comply] with this and every other federal law, and that is that English should be the main language," Santorum told Puerto Rico's El Vocero newspaper on Wednesday.

The comment so inflamed Puerto Rican Sen. Oreste Ramos that he withdrew his endorsement of Santorum.

"Although such a requirement would be unconstitutional ... as a question of principle, I cannot back a person who holds that position," Ramos reportedly said.

Puerto Rico is set to vote on the issue of statehood in November.

Santorum defended his comments Thursday to reporters: "What I said is English has to be learned as a language, and this has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used, yes."

He said that speaking English should be a "condition" for Puerto Rico's transition to a U.S. state.

"I think if you talk to most parents, they want their children to learn English," Santorum said. "It is essential for children in America to be able to speak English to fully integrate and have full opportunities."

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