Roca died of respiratory failure Sunday at his home in the Hato Rey section of San Juan, according to a statement by his family.
A native of Yauco near the Caribbean island's southern coast, Roca founded El Vocero in 1974 and worked as its editor until his death. The newspaper is considered one of the major dailies in the U.S. territory, with a circulation of 132,000.
Oscar Serrano, president of the Puerto Rico Journalists Association, credited Roca with improving press freedom on the island by pushing several court challenges including a 1980s case in which the U.S. Supreme Court opened preliminary criminal hearings in Puerto Rico to the public.
"Journalism is in mourning over this loss, which marks an important chapter in the exercise of freedom of the press," said Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.
By: Gaspar Roca, a journalist who founded the Puerto Rican daily El Vocero and directed it for more than three decades, has died, his family said. He was 80.