Rubén Berríos

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Rubén Ángel Berríos Martínez
Puerto Rico Senator at large
In office
1972–1976
Puerto Rico Senator at large
In office
1984–1988
Puerto Rico Senator at large
In office
1993–1996
Personal details
Born (1939-06-21) June 21, 1939 (age 75)
Aibonito, Puerto Rico
Alma mater Oxford University; Yale Law School; Georgetown University
Occupation Law professor, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, politician
Religion Catholic

Rubén Ángel Berríos Martínez (born June 21, 1939) is a Puerto Rican politician, attorney, and writer, and the current president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). A former three-time Senator, Berríos is a recurring PIP candidate for Governor of Puerto Rico for three decades, although not consecutively for each elective term.

He led the Navy-Culebra protests, is a leader for the Cause of Vieques and was arrested and imprisoned for civil disobedience.

Biography[edit]

Berríos was born in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. He attended high school at Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola (class of 1957). He received his bachelor's degree in business administration and economy from Georgetown University in 1961, his juris doctor and master's degree in law from Yale University (Yale Law School), and his doctoral degree in international rights from Oxford University. He also did some post-doctoral research in Sweden. His first wife was Swedish and his son Rubén was born in Stockholm). He has been a tenured professor of law at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law since 1967.

Berríos became president of the Independence Party PIP when he was thirty-one years old and has been president of it five times. Under his leadership, the PIP adopted a democratic socialist program. Although he has had limited success at the voting booth regarding his candidacy for the colonial post of Governor of Puerto Rico in 1976, 1980, 1988, 2000 and 2004 — losing every time to either the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) or the New Progressive Party (PNP) candidate — he, nevertheless, has enjoyed great electoral success regarding his candidacy to the Senate, receiving more votes than any other candidate in the Puerto Rican senatorial elections of 1972, 1984, 1992 and 1996.

In 1972, the thirty-three year old Berríos was elected to his first term as senator. He was also re-elected to senatorial seats at the Puerto Rican Legislative Assembly on three additional occasions: 1984, 1992, and 1996.

Berríos founded the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL),[1] is a member of the Executive Council of the Latin American Human Rights Association (ALDHU),[2] and Honorary President of the Socialist International (SI).[3]

He has published the books The Independence of Puerto Rico: Cause and Struggle, Puerto Rico: Nationality and Plebiscite, and Towards Puerto Rican Socialism, and has collaborated with various publications enjoying wide international prestige such as Foreign Affairs.

Berríos is widely admired by many in Puerto Rico, including those who do not follow his political ideology. In 1984, for example, he received 84% of the general vote in his candidacy for Senator.

Political views[edit]

Berrios believes that there should be a change in the U.S. maritime laws that force Puerto Rico to import and export goods on U.S. ships. Such laws increase the price of products entering or leaving the island. He also believes that the U.S. Selective Service laws should not apply to Puerto Rico without the consent of the Puerto Rican legislature.[4]

Civil disobedience[edit]

External audio
You may listen to one of the speeches made by Rubén Berríos before a Congressional Hearing here

In 1971, Berríos led the Navy-Culebra protests that criticized the United States Navy's use of the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico for military exercises. He squatted in Culebra's Flamenco Beach for three days. He was then arrested and imprisoned for three months. In part because of his efforts, the U.S. Navy abandoned its facilities in Culebra.[5]

On May 8, 1999 Berríos began camping inside the U.S. Navy bombing practice grounds in the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico (see Navy-Vieques protests). He stayed in the Gilberto Concepción de Gracia encampment — baptized in honor of the PIP founder — for 362 consecutive days, enduring both camp devastations due to storms and declining health dur to a new diagnosis of prostate cancer. On December 1999, he resigned to his Senate seat due to the uncertainty and prolongation of his stay at the encampment.[6]

On May 4, 2000 the encampments were evacuated by federal marshals and United States Marines, and Berríos was arrested. Berríos' arrest was televised island-wide in Puerto Rico.[7]

Five days later, Berríos reentered the Vieques target practice grounds. As a result he was arrested and went to trial at the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, in San Juan, and sentenced to six hours of detention. Similar to what Berríos Martínez had done in Culebra thirty years before, Berríos did not recognize the jurisdiction of the American judicial forum in Puerto Rico during his trial for the Vieques trespassing, and did not present any legal defense. Speaking to Berríos Martínez, the sentencing judge said, "Odd as it may seem to you, we both are on the side of democracy on this one; you are complying with your conscience. I am also complying with mine."[8]

With the continuation of bombing practices by the U.S. Navy, Berríos announced his intention to enter the restricted grounds for a third time. He stayed for five days in the target practice area, before being arrested violently and forced to lie on a hot gravel road for an extended period of time after being handcuffed with his hands to his back with the other PIP members that accompanied him at the U.S. Navy bombing range. This time, convicted for the fourth time (one in Culebra and three additional civil disobedience arrests) by a United States District Court, Berríos was sentenced to four months in prison.[9]

The U.S. Navy abandoned its facilities in Vieques on May 1, 2003, by order of President George W. Bush.[10]

Former professions or positions held[edit]

  • Currently a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, School of Law (2006)
  • Candidate for Governor of Puerto Rico (1976, 1980, 1988, 2000, 2004) - has never won
  • Civil disobedient for the Navy-Culebra protests (1971) and the Cause of Vieques (1999)
  • Lawyer
  • President of Puerto Rican Independence Party (1970 to present)
  • Professor of Law at the University of Puerto Rico (1967–1971)
  • Senator of Puerto Rico (1972–1976, 1984–1988, 1993–1996)

Writings, books, speeches[edit]

  • Berríos, Rubén. The Independence of Puerto Rico: Cause and Struggle. Speech before the United Nations about colonialism in Puerto Rico, August 1973;
  • Berríos, Rubén. Towards Puerto Rican Socialism. Puerto Rico;
  • Berríos, Rubén. La Independencia de Puerto Rico: Razón y Lucha, 1983;
  • Berríos, Rubén. Puerto Rico's Decolonization. Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Affairs, 1997;
  • Berríos, Rubén. Un Mapa Para la Ruta (A Road Map), 2004.

Quotes[edit]

"I have learned that you can win the battle over the most powerful of nations, the United States, if you have the moral force behind you." — Rubén Berríos (about his transforming experience after the sacrifices he had to make for the Navy-Vieques protests)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Conferencia Permanente para los Partidos Políticos de América Latina y el Caribe
  2. ^ Asociación Lationoamericana de Derechos Humanos
  3. ^ Socialist International
  4. ^ Zwickel, Jean Willey. Voices for Independence: In the Spirit of Valor and Sacrifice. Portraits of Notable Individuals in the Struggle for Puerto Rican Independence. White Star Press (Pittsburg, California, U.S.) ISBN 0-9620448-0-6. March 1998. Page 96.
  5. ^ Puerto Ricans expel United States Navy from Culebra Island, 1970-1974. Global Nonviolent Ation Database. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  6. ^ Interview with Ruben Berríos Martínez, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Eleonora Sharef. 2004. The Yale Globalist. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  7. ^ Berríos Vieques Arrest
  8. ^ Vieques Trials: Puerto Rican Activist Sentenced To Six Hours In Jail. John Marino. Washington Post. 14 June 2000. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  9. ^ SLAMMER FOR SHARPTON Gets 90 days in Vieques protest; 11 others sentenced. Michael R. Blood and Dave Goldiner. 24 May 2001. New York Daily News. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  10. ^ New Battle on Vieques, Over Navy’s Cleanup of Munitions. Mireya Navarro. 6 August 2009. The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  • Puerto Rican Independence Party (1998). [Rubén Berríos: Cápsula Biográfica]. Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto Rico Herald. Biography: Rubén Berríos. Puerto Rico.

External links[edit]