SAN JUAN – Attorney and academic Juan Mari Bras, founder of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, died Friday of complications from lung cancer, his family told Efe. He was 82.
His wife, Marta Bras Vilella, was with him at the moment of death, daughter Mari Mari Narvaez said.
“I knew that he was going to die this year, though he didn’t want to die. It took him some time to prepare for his death,” the editor of El Nuevo Dia newspaper said of her father.
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño extended condolences to the Mari Bras family, while the chairman of the small Puerto Rican Independence Party, Ruben Berrios Martinez, said that Juan Mari Bras “died as he lived, dedicated to the struggle for freedom and justice in his homeland.”
Besides his role in politics, Juan Mari Bras created the weekly magazine Claridad and founded the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Law School at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, and he was the first Puerto Rican to formally renounce U.S. citizenship.
Puerto Rico has been U.S. territory since 1898 and island residents were granted citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.
On July 25, 1952, Congress allowed Puerto Rico to establish a “permanent association with a federal union,” or commonwealth. The island became a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy. EFE