Puerto Rico: who’s playing dirty tricks on Macheteros?

Puerto Rican independence activist Hilton Fernández Diamante has charged that in June, US federal agents planted an electronic device in his car while it was parked in the apartment tower complex where he lives in Trujillo Alto, south of San Juan. Photographs, an eyewitness account and statements by the apartment complex’s management confirm that people who identified themselves as Puerto Rican police agents were in the parking area while Fernández Diamante was in New York to meet with a lawyer. Told about the suspicious activity on his return, Fernández Diamante called the Puerto Rican police’s bomb squad on June 15. Police agents evacuated the area and removed the device.

A former member of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB-Macheteros), Fernández Diamante served five years in jail in connection with the group’s 1983 armed robbery of $7.1 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut, one of the largest robberies in US history. In June he agreed to be a spokesperson for Norberto González Claudio, who was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in May in the central Puerto Rico town of Cayey; González Claudio had spent 25 years as a fugitive from charges related to the Wells Fargo robbery. Fernández Diamante’s decision to be active in the González Claudio case may have motivated the installation of the device in his car, according to a statement issued on Aug. 31 by a committee formed to support Norberto González Claudio and his brother Avelino. (Avelino González Claudio pleaded guilty to charges in the Wells Fargo case in February 2010, after his capture in 2008.)

An unidentified law enforcement source told the Hartford Courant that the device planted in Fernández Diamante’s car sent out an electronic signal that would have enabled agents to track the vehicle. His supporters say they don’t discount the possibility that the device was a bomb. The FBI office in San Juan declined to comment. (Primera Hora, Guaynabo, June 15; Hartford Courant, Sept. 2)

On June 22, Jennifer González, the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, received an envelope containing white powder; this led to an evacuation of the Capitol building for fear of a terrorist attack. Rep. Charlie Hernández received a similar envelope at his office on Aug. 17. In both cases, a “Commander Nacho” of the Macheteros assumed responsibility. But an Aug. 18 communiqué said to be sent by the Macheteros “from someplace in the Heart of the People” denied any connection with the action. The message said the group has “never used chemical weapons that could endanger the safety of the people.” (PH, Aug. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 4.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.