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HomeAbout NBHRNPolitical PrisonersMachetero Leader Arrested In Puerto Rico

Machetero Leader Arrested In Puerto Rico

Two articles on the resent arrest of alleged Machetero, Avelino Gonzalez Claudio:

Machetero Leader Arrested In Puerto Rico

Hartford Courant, February 7, 2008

FBI agents in Puerto Rico said Thursday that they arrested Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, a fugitive member of the Puerto Rico pro-independence group Los Macheteros who is charged in the 1983 robbery of more than $7 million from a West Hartford amored car depot.

An FBI spokesman in San Juan said agents apprehended Gonzalez Claudio, 65, without incident at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at a housing development in the north coast city of Manati. Gonzalez Claudio has been a fugitive since jumping bail in 1986 to avoid trial on charges associated with the robbery.

Gonzalez Claudio’s apprehension appears connected to renewed law enforcement interest in Los Macheteros, which the FBI considers a potential domestic terror threat.

Los Macheteros, which established itself in the 1970s as a militant wing of the larger Puerto Rico independence movement, had been largely quiet for decades until September 2005, when FBI agents shot and killed founder Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Ojeda, another fugitive from federal criminal charges, fired on agents when they tried to arrest him.

Since Ojeda’s death, FBI agents have served search warrants on suspected Los Macheteros members or sympathizers in Puerto Rico and in New York.

In addition to the robbery of the former Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Los Macheteros claimed credit in the late 1970s and early 1980s for, among other things, eight bombings, the destruction of 11 U.S. military aircraft, the shooting deaths of two U.S. sailors and a rocket attack on the federal courthouse in San Juan.

Law enforcement and other sources believe Gonzalez Claudio was a senior member of the doctrinaire, Marxist organization, which received financial and other support from the government of Cuban President Fidel Castro. A significant amount of evidence developed through a variety of Los Macheteros investigations shows that the Cuban government received roughly half the $7 million stolen during the Wells Fargo robbery.

The sources said Gonzalez Claudio held seats on Los Machetero’s two governing boards – the Directive and Central committees – and was among the senior members who voted to approve the Wells Fargo robbery, the group’s most highly publicized action.

In addition, the sources said Gonzalez Claudio ran a cell that was responsible for the organization’s military activities.

Ojeda and former Machetero Juan Segarra Palmer recruited Hartford resident Victor Gerena to act as their inside man in the Wells Fargo robbery. Gerena, who worked as a Wells Fargo driver, tied up his fellow employees and delivered the money to Ojeda and Segarra.

They, in turn, hid the money and Gerena behind false walls built into a mobile home and delivered the mobile home to a camp ground in upstate New York where Gonzalez Claudio and three others were waiting. Gonzalez Claudio and the others then drove Gerena and the money into Mexico, where they were met by Cuban security forces. Gerena and the money later were transported to Cuba, according to a former Cuban security officer who was involved in the operation.

Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant,0,6065253.story

FBI Arrests Man in 1983 Militant Robbery

Associated Press, February 7, 2008

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—The FBI said Thursday it has arrested one of three alleged Puerto Rican militants sought in a 1983 Connecticut robbery that authorities said was among the largest in U.S. history at the time. Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, 65, an alleged member of a Puerto Rican independence group, the Macheteros, was arrested Thursday morning while driving in the northern town of Manatí, according to FBI special agent Luis Fraticelli.

Fraticelli said officials believe Gonzalez has been living as a fugitive in Puerto Rico ever since the group robbed a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in West Hartford, Conn., of some $7 million.

Authorities said Gonzalez has taught at a private school in the U.S. Caribbean territory. The FBI is still seeking his brother, Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, and Victor Gerena, who is believed to be in Cuba.

The Macheteros, or Cane Cutters, were suspected of carrying out a series of bombings and attacks in the 1970s and 1980s aimed at gaining independence for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory whose residents are American citizens who cannot vote for president.

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