Entries in Puerto Rico (14)


Repeal of DOMA Affects Puerto Rico

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- The Supreme Court's decision to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act also affects Puerto Rico.

The federal government gives 1,138 rights, benefits and protections to married couples, including immigration rights, which are now extended to same-sex couples. Even though same-sex marriage is not legal in Puerto Rico, those who get married in one of the 13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is recognized will get all federal rights on the island as well.

Local benefits, however, are still not available to these couples. For now.

Renowned activist Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that in just the past four months, the climate has changed tremendously towards gay rights in Puerto Rico. During this time, four state laws have passed protecting the LGBT community. A controversial law banning discrimination because of sexual oriental and gender identity in the workplace was signed into law in May. There was also an extension of domestic violence protections to all households, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two other laws now include LGBT families in public and private healthcare plans on the island.

As Pedro Julio notes, Latinos are more likely than any other ethnic group to support gay marriage, but there's still a long way to go in terms of unteaching what are essentially cultural norms and assumptions about the LGBT community in Puerto Rico.

 Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Puerto Rico Statehood Experts Challenge Voting Results

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A vote in Puerto Rico over the island’s status as a U.S. territory has triggered a fierce debate over whether a majority voted to become the 51st state.

The island territory has been debating the issue for decades and pro-statehood politicians are celebrating Tuesday’s vote claiming it was the first time in 45 years that Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood.

Others, however, are challenging that conclusion and argue that the vote indicates opposition to statehood.

“Puerto Ricans in general are just dissatisfied with the current government,” Yarimar Bonilla, a Rutgers University assistant professor of anthropology and Caribbean studies, told ABC News. “They voted against the government in place and they voted for change.”

A slim majority of voters in the Caribbean island territory chose statehood in a plebiscite, which is a non-binding referendum in which people express their opinions for or against a proposal.

The ballot included offices including the governor as well as its territory status. It’s not known how many voters skipped the territory question.

The territory question had two parts. The first part asked voters if they favored their current status as a U.S. territory. About 54 percent of voters said no, that they were not happy with the status quo.

From there, everyone could answer a second question that gave three options: statehood, sovereign free association or independence. Sovereign free association is not the same as the current status.

Only about 1.3 million voters answered the second question. Of those, 61 percent chose statehood, 33 percent chose the semi-autonomous choice and six percent chose independence. Nearly 500,000 people left the question blank. The population of Puerto Rico is nearly 4 million people.

It was the first time statehood won a majority of votes in similar referendums in the past 45 years.

“Statehood didn’t win,” Bonilla said. “There was a vote of whether people wanted to change the current status or not and the majority voted for change in current status. However, that wasn’t a win for statehood.”

“If you take into account the number of people who want to continue with the status that they have now and the amount of people who voted for an option other than statehood, then statehood doesn’t have a majority vote,” she said.

Additionally, the people voted to oust Gov. Luis Fortuna, a member of the pro-statehood party, along with other pro-statehood leaders.

“The state party was defeated in the general election,” Edgardo Melendez, a Hunter College professor in the Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies told ABC News. “The statehood governor lost. They lost both chambers of the legislature. This is a general victory for the Popular Democratic party, which supports commonwealth.”

The results of the vote will be sent to Congress and to the White House. It would be up to Congress to initiate a process to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

“Nothing is going to come of this,” Bonilla said. “There’s no consensus. You have a divided population. There’s no way Obama can say that the Puerto Rican people have spoken in a united voice for anything.”

Bonilla said the ballot was designed by the statehood party, not by Congress.

“If you compare what statehood got in this election with previous plebiscites, it’s not such a big difference,” Melendez said. “There is no real growth in the statehood option so we have to be very, very careful in saying this is a victory for statehood because it’s not.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Buddy Roemer Beats Gingrich, Paul in Puerto Rican Primary JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico was bad for any GOP candidate not named Mitt Romney.  However, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had particularly dismal performances on the island.

The votes are still being counted, but with 83 percent of the vote in, Buddy Roemer, the former governor of Louisiana who officially withdrew his bid for the GOP nomination in February, outperformed Gingrich and Paul.  Roemer, who is now seeking the Reform Party’s nomination for president in 2012, is about 200 votes ahead of Gingrich, and more than 1,000 votes ahead of Paul.

Paul is currently in last place, behind Roemer, Gingrich, and Fred Karger -- a gay rights activist and a veteran of several GOP presidential campaigns, including ones that elected Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Romney currently has 85 percent of the vote in Puerto Rico, with Rick Santorum at a distant second place with 8 percent. Gingrich and Paul have claimed 2 and 1 percent of the vote, respectively, so far.

Neither Gingrich nor Paul campaigned in Puerto Rico ahead of the primary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Compares Puerto Rico Win to Massive Pancake

Win McNamee/Getty Images(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- Stopping by a breakfast joint in central Illinois Monday morning, Mitt Romney was still riding high from his victory in Puerto Rico, noting that the diner’s famous 16-inch pancakes were nearly as large as his win on the island.

“These pancakes are something else, I’ll tell ya,” said Romney, standing in the dining room of Charlie Parker’s Diner in Springfield admiring the dish known as Charlie’s Famous Giant Pancake. “These pancakes are about as large as my win in Puerto Rico last night, I must admit.  The margin is just about as good.”

The pancakes, which go for $4.95 each, are so massive that they are served on a pizza pie dish, and were featured on the popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, a program known for highlighting outrageous plates at restaurants across the country.

“I’m looking forward to getting one of these pancakes.  Can I get one of these on the way out?  Not the super big one, I can’t fit that in the vehicle, all right,” Romney joked.  “The car’s only a Chevy SUV.”

As diners looked on, Romney made brief remarks, noting that he actually believes the economy could be on the uptick.

“I believe the economy is coming back, by the way.  We’ll see what happens.  It’s had ups and downs.  I think it’s finally coming back,” said Romney, who is set to deliver an economic speech Monday afternoon at the University of Chicago.  “The economy always comes back after a recession, of course.  There’s never been one that we didn’t recover from.  The problem is this one has been deeper than it needed to be and a slower recovery than it should have been, by virtue of the policies of this president.  Almost everything he’s done has made it harder for this economy to recover.”

Shaking hands with voters and offering to help them eat their breakfast plates, Romney stopped by the counter before leaving, keeping his word and ordering food to go -- pancakes and a “horseshoe” -- a mound of ham piled high with his choice of potatoes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Enjoys Puerto Rican Victory as Wife Urges Voters to Coalesce

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(VERNON HILLS, Ill.) -- Mitt Romney revelled in his win in the Puerto Rican primary Sunday evening before a town hall in suburban Chicago, boasting of the 20 delegates he will add to his lead as his wife Ann used the victory as a call to “coalesce” behind her husband’s campaign.

“Today the voters in Puerto Rico, by the way, just looked at the different candidates on our side of the aisle to decide which would perhaps most represent their feelings about the leadership for our party and the leadership for our nation and only 20 percent of the vote’s in, and yet CNN has called it for me,” said Romney, who campaigned in and around San Juan earlier this week.  “And the reason they were -- apparently the reason they were able to make the call with only 20 percent in, 83 percent of the people of Puerto Rico, of those who voted, have gone for me, so that’s a pretty good start."

Thank you to the people of Puerto Rico, thank you to Gov. [Luis] Fortuño and Luce his wife, thank you to Zori and all the other people in Puerto Rico who helped us have this extraordinary victory, and by the way, 20 delegates, all the delegates that were in that contest are ours,” the former Massachusetts governor continued.  “That’s good news.  Thank you.  Very exciting.”

With Sunday’s added delegates, Romney’s estimated total comes to 521, while Rick Santorum comes in second at 253 and Newt Gingrich third with 136.  Ron Paul has an estimated 50 delegates.

Introducing her husband at Sullivan Community Center Gymnasium, Ann Romney savored the win, sounding as optimistic as ever about her husband’s chances at the nomination.

“At the end of the day, we Republicans are all going to get together and we’re going to all unite because we have a community organizer who’s going to unite us and his name is Barack Obama,” she said.

“So we have some work to do -- we have to have you all get out and vote but we need to send a message that it’s time to coalesce, it’s time to come together, it’s time for us to get behind one candidate and get the job done so that we can move on to the next job, which is bringing us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama,” Ann Romney said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Weighs Papayas, Odds in Puerto Rico

Christopher Gregory/Getty Images (BAYAMON, Puerto Rico) — Picking out fresh produce at a market outside of San Juan on the eve of the territory’s primary, Romney told reporters that he felt “cautiously optimistic” about his chances on the island.

“We had such a great rally last night, that couldn’t have been more fun and more encouraging,” said Romney, referring to a raucous rally in Old San Juan on Friday night that featured live music and fireworks. “Cautiously optimistic that we’re going to do well in Puerto Rico.”

Romney, who heads to Illinois Saturday evening for a town hall event, said he hopes he is “going to do well there as well.”

As he weaved through the market with his wife Ann, who at one point attempted to buy him sugar cookies as a belated birthday present but was thwarted when Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno insisted on paying, Romney was asked again about his stance on statehood for the territory.

“I think that I’ve pointed out that the people of Puerto Rico should be able to express their own opinion on this issue, and if they decide they’d like to be a state I’ll help them in the effort in Washington to secure that conclusion,” said Romney, as he bagged locally grown papaya at the cash register.

Puerto Ricans go to the polls to vote on the island’s status in November.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Defends Sotomayor Criticism in Puerto Rico

Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Campaigning in Puerto Rico, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to defend his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an icon in the Latino community.

Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican heritage and widely supported by Democrats and Republicans alike throughout the island. Upon arriving in San Juan on Friday, Romney faced questions about his accusation that Sotomayor is an “activist, a liberal jurist.”

Last week Romney’s campaign released a radio ad in Ohio attacking Santorum for his 1998 vote to confirm Sotomayor to the federal circuit court, a decision that “put her on the path to the Supreme Court,” said conservative lawyer Jay Sekulow in the ad.

In Puerto Rico, Romney told a reporter for Noti Uno, ”I prefer people who follow the Constitution and do not make law as a judge.”

One reporter asked Romney if he understood that this attack ad “is sensitive for many Hispanics.”

But Romney didn’t budge from his opposition to her nomination to the country’s highest court. The former governor said he still disagrees with her judicial philosophy, which he called “quite different from my own.”

Romney added that he would be “happy” to support a Puerto Rican justice, “but they would have to share my judicial philosophy. That comes first.”

Puerto Rico will hold its Republican primary on Sunday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Will Back Puerto Ricans’ Desire for Statehood

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- 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.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Parades in Puerto Rico Amid Questions on English, Statehood

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- With a jazz bland blaring island music and a narrator touting Rick Santorum’s conservative credentials in Spanish, the Santorum family led a pop-up parade in their honor down a main thoroughfare in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday afternoon.

While Santorum, his wife Karen and five of their seven children made their way down the cobblestone streets, supporters chanted, ”Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum!”

The family stopped to take photos and sign autographs both for those who can vote for him in the Republican primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and for Americans who seemed surprised when they ran into a presidential candidate while vacationing.

Carlos Rodriguez, Santorum’s deputy state director, was the designated narrator, and as the family made their way down the winding streets of Old San Juan, he told the crowd, “Vote for Rick Santorum.”

“Puerto Rico, the first Republican candidate is here today,” he said.  “San Juan, vote for Rick Santorum, he’s the conservative candidate.”

When the family reached the ocean side, Santorum was asked again about some controversial comments he made while campaigning in the island earlier this week.

English, he told a local newspaper on Wednesday, should become the “principal language” of the territory if Puerto Rico wants to be the nation’s 51st state.

On Thursday, he told reporters, “English should be taught here and everyone should speak English here.”

“It’s something that I think is essential to be an American period,” Santorum said.  ”Whether you’re going to be a state or not, people should speak English.  And English should be a common language among all Americans.  Period.  And the idea that somehow or another it should be the only language -- it’s not the only language in California, it’s not the only language in Arizona, it’s not the only language in New Orleans -- we understand that people of different cultures speak different languages, but we have a common language, and that’s what I was saying yesterday.  To suggest that maliciously, I would add, (that) someone would maliciously write that I said that, was really unfortunate.”

He told reporters before leaving the island that the original story was “crap.”

Statehood is a crucial issue on the island -- one that has divided the people there -- and during the two days Santorum spent campaigning for the territory’s 23 delegates, he was frequently asked about the issue.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and most Republicans on the island are supportive of statehood.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


After Delegate Defection, Santorum Defends Call for Puerto Rico to Adopt English

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Rick Santorum on Wednesday became the first Republican presidential hopeful in this election to visit Puerto Rico before the island commonwealth’s Sunday primary, taking a controversial stand on statehood that he was forced to defend this morning after losing a key supporter.

The trip has ignited a firestorm with Santorum’s comment that English would have to be “the main language” in order for Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state.

“Like in every other state, it [must comply] with this and every other federal law- and that is that English should be the main language,” Santorum said in an interview with the El Vocero newspaper Wednesday. “There are other states with more than one language, as is the case with Hawaii, but to be a state of the U.S., English should be the main language.”

The question of statehood is a huge issue in Puerto Rico, which is set to vote on the matter in November. The island’s voters will have a referendum on whether to become a state, something some Puerto Ricans favor and others oppose, whether they be in favor of remaining a commonwealth or becoming independent.

Santorum’s comments left one of his supporters, Oreste Ramos, so upset that the former Puerto Rican senator rescinded his endorsement.

“Although such a requirement would be unconstitutional, and also would clash with our sociological and linguistic reality, as a question of principle I cannot back a person who holds that position,” Oreste said, according to El Vocero. “As a Puerto Rican and Spanish-speaking U.S. citizen, I consider the position of Mr. Santorum offensive.”

Santorum’s deputy chairman in Puerto Rico tried to explain away Ramos’ defection by claiming that his gripes have more to do with Santorum’s stance on statehood than specifically with the English-language issue, and that it is too late for Ramos to remove his name as a delegate for Santorum.

Santorum on Thursday defended his English-language comments as he was exiting a special-needs school in San Juan with his wife, Karen, and five of their seven children.

“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,” Santorum told reporters, stating that the use of English should be a “condition” if Puerto Rico is to become a state. The island, he said, “needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish speaking country.”

“I think English and Spanish – obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island – but this needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish-speaking country, and right now it is overwhelmingly just Spanish speaking. But it needs to have, in order to fully integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally,” Santorum explained.

“I think that would be a condition. I think it’s important. And I think if you talk to most parents, they want their children to learn English. It is essential for children in America to be able to speak English to fully integrate and have full opportunities,” he added. “I don’t think we’re doing any more than, you know, people who come to America on the mainland. We’re not doing them any favors by not teaching them English.

Puerto Rico considers English and Spanish its official languages, but Spanish is more frequently used. With the island’s primary only three days away, Santorum – already the underdog there – cannot afford to alienate supporters. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is the favorite in the commonwealth, and the former Massachusetts governor enjoys the backing of Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno. If Romney, or any other candidate, wins more than 50 percent of the vote Sunday, then he will take 20 of the island’s 23 delegates. That leaves three super delegates, and two have already endorsed Romney.

Santorum met with Fortuno in San Juan Wednesday, explaining away the governor’s support for Romney by noting that “the establishment across America lined up behind Gov. Romney very early on and I certainly respect that.”

At the same time, Santorum tried to emphasize his ties to the island, noting that he was once referred to as “Senador Puertorriqueno.”

“I was referred to by many in my state as Senador Puertorriqueno,” he told reporters. “They used to make fun of me: ‘Why are you representing Puerto Rico?’

“Well, someone has to because they don’t have a voice. I felt a responsibility to the island.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio