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Juan Mari Brás (born December 2, 1925) is an advocate for Puerto Rican independence from the United States who founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP). On October 25, 2006, he became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizenship certificate from the Puerto Rico State Department

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Early years

Mari Brás was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, to a father active in the independence movement who often took his son to political meetings and rallies. In 1943, when Mari Brás was 18 years old, he founded a pro-independence movement in his high school, along with some of his friends, in Mayagüez. He was also the founder and director of the first pro-independence political radio program "Grito de la Patria".

Student activist

In 1944, he enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico (Universidad de Puerto Rico) and in 1946 became a founding member of Gilberto Concepción de Gracia's Puerto Rican Independence Party. Mari Brás became the president of the party's "Puerto Rican Independence Youth". In 1948, the university's pro-independence student body invited nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos to the Río Piedras campus as a guest speaker. The president of the university, Jaime Benítez, did not permit Albizu access to the campus. As a consequence, the students protested and went on strike. Mari Brás was one of the student leaders who chanted anti-American slogans and who marched with a Puerto Rican flag in his hand. Both of these acts were considered as acts against the Government of the United States, which at that time had a complete control of the government of the island. Mari Brás and those who protested, were expelled from the university.[1]

Mari Brás went to Lakeland, Florida, where he received his Bachelor's Degree.[2] He also studied at Georgetown University. In 1954, he went to study law at George Washington University Law School but was expelled[3].[1] He finally obtained his law degree from American University.

Political career

In 1959, Mari Brás founded the "Pro-Independence Movement", which grouped Puerto Rican independence followers who supported the Socialist philosophy. Along with César Andreu Iglesias he founded the political newspaper Claridad, which he directed for three decades. In 1971, the "Pro-Independence Movement" was renamed and became the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP). In 1973, he spoke before the United Nations about Puerto Rico being a colony of the United States and demanded the decolonization of the island. He was the first Puerto Rican to raise this issue.

On March 1976, one of Mari Brás' sons, Santiago Mari Pesquera, was murdered while his father was campaigning for the PSP. Police investigations have hinted that Mari Pesquera was assassinated as a reprisal against his father's political activism, but have stopped short of obtaining definite proof to convict his assassins. Mari Pesquera's murder has never been officially solved.

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Renounces U.S. citizenship

On July 11, 1994, Mari Brás renounced his United States citizenship at the American Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. He did this to test a technicality in United States citizenship laws. Legally, a citizen of the United States who renounces his citizenship would be deported to his country of origin. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the country's Department of State would have had no option but to deport Puerto Ricans who renounced to their citizenship to Puerto Rico. Mari Bras was taken to court in San Juan on the allegation that if he had renounced his American citizenship, then he also had renounced his right to vote in the local Puerto Rican elections. The courts ruled in his favor twice. This action continues to be a popular subject of debate.

Later Years

Juan Mari Brás, retired from active politics and no longer the president of the defunct "Puerto Rican Socialist Party", does however, make appearances at pro-independence activities and continues to teach law at the Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law which he cofounded in his native Mayagüez over a decade ago. On December 10, 2008, he was recognized by the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Association of Jurists with the award of Jurist of the Year, along with fellow lawyer Noel Colón Martínez.[4]

Puerto Rican Citizenship

On October 25, 2006, he became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizenship certificate from the Puerto Rico State Department [5]. After attempting to renounce his American citizenship, renunciation which was revoked by the United States Department of State, and over 10 years of litigation claiming he was a citizen of Puerto Rico, the State Department of Puerto Rico granted him the certification, becoming the first one to hold it.

The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Secretary of Justice determined that Puerto Rican citizenship exists and was recognized in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Since the summer of 2007, the Puerto Rico State Department has developed the protocol to grant Puerto Rican citizenship to Puerto Ricans.[6]

Former Puerto Rico Supreme Court Associate Justice and former Secretary of State Baltasar Corrada questioned the legality of the certification, citing a law passed in 1997 and authored by Kenneth McClintock which establishes United States citizenship and nationality as a prerequisite for Puerto Rican citizenship[7]. Mari Bras' efforts have generated vigorous public debate regarding the citizenship issue.[8]

Quotes

Only through a great unified movement looking beyond political and ideological differences, can the prevalent fears of hunger and persecution be overcome for the eventual liberation of Puerto Rico, breaking through domination by the greatest imperialist power of our age.
— Juan Mari Bras [9]

See also

References

External links



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