[Ppnews] Machetero Leader Arrested In Puerto Rico

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 7 16:59:47 EST 2008



Machetero Leader Arrested In Puerto Rico

By Edmund H. Mahony

Courant Staff Writer

2:55 PM EST, 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, <http://www.courant.com/>The Hartford Courant

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