FBI arrests Machetero suspect

On Feb. 7 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Puerto Rican independence activist Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, a suspected leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros. According to Luis Fraticelli, who heads the FBI in Puerto Rico, the arrest was carried out without incidents in the northern town of Manati. “We don’t know what condition our companero is in at this point,” Alvin Couto, an attorney and spokesperson for the Socialist Front of Puerto Rico, said on Feb. 10.

Gonzalez Claudio had been sought for 22 years in connection with the 1983 armed robbery of $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut. In 1985 the FBI arrested 11 of 17 suspects in the case, including EPB leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who was released on bail in 1988 and went into hiding in 1990. Ojeda was later convicted in absentia and sentenced to 55 years in prison; he died in a massive assault FBI agents mounted at a house where he was living with his wife on Sept. 23, 2005. Gonzalez Claudio’s arrest came shortly after the US government issued subpoenas to three Puerto Ricans in New York to testify before a federal grand jury, presumably in relation to the EPB; the hearings have been postponed twice.

Gonzalez Claudio is to appear in federal court in Puerto Rico at 3:30 PM on Feb. 11, represented by attorney Juan Ramon Acevedo. A number of organizations, including the Socialist Workers Movement and the Human Rights Committee, plan to protest outside the federal building in Hato Rey, near San Juan. The Socialist Front’s Couto charged that with the subpoenas and the arrest, the US is “criminalizing the independence struggle in the country to create fear and confusion.” (Prensa Latina, Feb. 7; AFP, Feb. 8; Prima Hora, Puerto Rico, Feb. 10 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 10

See our last post on the Puerto Rican struggle.