Puerto Rico: independence leader Mari Brás dies

On Sept. 10, Puerto Rican politicians from across the spectrum praised leftist independence activist Juan Mari Brás, who died earlier that day at 82 of lung cancer in his home in Río Pedras, San Juan. Mari Brás was a “legendary leader who fought for his ideals,” according to Gov. Luis Fortuño, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP). Héctor Ferrer, president of the centrist Popular Democratic Party (PPD), called Mari Brás “an example for all of us who believe in an ideal and seek the best for Puerto Rico,” while Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) president Rubén Berríos Martínez said: “Thank you, Juan, for your life and your example.”

Mari Brás founded the Pro Independence Movement (MPI) in 1959 and the leftist Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP) in 1971. His son Santiago Mari Brás was murdered in 1976; many suspected that the killing was politically motivated. Juan Mari Brás continued to be active into his later years: in 1994 he renounced the US citizenship which people born in Puerto Rico receive automatically, and in 2002 he was arrested while protesting the US Navy’s testing grounds on the island of Vieques. (Prensa Latina, Sept. 10; New York Times, Sept. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 12.

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