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Issue #1474      29 September 2010

Puerto Rican independence leader dies

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico: Juan Mari Bras, an elder statesman of Puerto Rico’s independence movement who gave up US citizenship in an act that inspired hundreds of other activists, died on September 10. He was 82.

Mari Bras died at his home in the San Juan suburb of Rio Piedras, said Elaine Mulet Hocking, a spokeswoman for his Hostosiano independence movement.

“Puerto Rico has lost a man who deeply loved his country,” said Jose Luis Dalmau Santiago, the minority leader in the island’s Senate.

A writer and law professor, Mari Bras was deeply involved in the independence cause from his days as a teenage student activist in the 1940s. He founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and was a co-founder of the small but influential Independence Party.

He dedicated his later years to seeking unity among the varied pro-independence factions in Puerto Rico, a US Caribbean territory whose four million residents are American citizens but cannot vote for president.

Governor Luis Fortuno, who represents the opposite end of Puerto Rico’s political spectrum as leader of the pro-statehood party, issued a statement praising Mari Bras as a legendary leader who fought for his ideals.

In an effort to establish Puerto Ricans’ separate national identity, Mari Bras travelled to the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1994 and renounced his American citizenship while claiming the right to continue living in Puerto Rico. His actions inspired other “independentistas” to do the same.

The State Department initially approved Mari Bras’ petition, but reversed its decision in 1998, the centennial year of the US invasion that resulted in the seizure of Puerto Rico from Spain.

People’s World 

Next article – Over 1.3 million petition to refound Honduras

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