Demetrio Perez Jr Cause of Death: Miami politician, journalist, and educator Demetrio Perez Jr. passed away at the age of 77 after an extended illness, according to his family.
Perez was known for creating the Lincoln-Marti Schools and LIBRE, a publication aimed at the city's rising Hispanic population in the 1960s.
He also served as a Miami city commissioner in the early 1980s and sat on the Miami-Dade County School Board for five years. Perez's son, Demetrio J. Perez, described his father as an inspiration and part of the greatest generation of Cuban immigrants in the United States.
Perez was a tireless worker who advocated for children's rights and provided school choice for children and parents who had few choices, said former State Rep. Ralph Arza.
Perez was sentenced to house arrest and probation in 2002 after entering a guilty plea to five charges, including mail fraud and making false statements.
Perez was also the host of a talk show on Radio Mambí for three decades and received statewide recognition for his creation of a curriculum that taught the contributions of Hispanics to the United States.
Born in Matanzas, Cuba, in 1945, Perez came to Miami at the age of 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan, a program that brought Cuban children to the United States after Fidel Castro's takeover. He studied at Miami Edison Senior High School and sold newspapers and worked at other teenage jobs.
Perez established the first Lincoln-Marti School in Miami in 1968 with his family's support, and that single school grew to become a chain of 46 for-profit schools and childcare centers serving 6,500 students from Miami to Kissimmee.
Perez motivated Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represented Florida's 27th congressional district from 1989 to 2019, to open her own private school, Eastern Academy in South Hialeah, when he was the leader of the Bilingual Private School Association, known as BIPRISA.
Perez was an early advocate of school uniforms and vouchers, and many of his ideas were ahead of his time, said Arza. Perez's controversial Section 8 rent subsidy program, for which he pleaded guilty to five charges, including mail fraud and making false statements, tarnished his legacy.
His publication LIBRE was discontinued in 2020 as a paid insert in el Nuevo Herald after readers complained about anti-Semitic content.
The Miami Herald Media Co. had the right to review all LIBRE content a day in advance of publication and reject any content it found unsuitable, according to Perez. Despite his successes and failures, Perez's legacy will be remembered by those who knew him, including his son, who will continue to carry on his father's work and legacy.