Avelino González Claudio came home. His relatives and supporters, including other ex-political prisoners, warmly greeted his arrival at San Juan airport by singing the Puerto Rican Revolutionary anthem.
González Claudio finally arrived Dec. 6, freed from one of the U.S. federal correctional facilities where he had spent the last four years. He is to live in a halfway house for three months and then complete the rest of his seven-year sentence on parole.
Despite some physical frailty from the Parkinson’s disease that afflicts him, González Claudio looked happy and pleased to be reunited with his loved ones. A condition for his exiting prison is that he make no public political statements, but his broad smile and raised fist were expressive enough.
González Claudio was apprehended in Puerto Rico in 2008 after living clandestinely for 23 years. In 1985, when several Macheteros were arrested, González Claudio was charged in absentia with the planning and robbery of $7 million from a Wells Fargo armored truck. This involved a famous heist by the political-military group Ejército Popular Boricua-Macheteros (Popular Boricua Army-Machete Wielders) in West Hartford, Conn., in 1983.
While in jail, González Claudio was subjected to the rude and inhuman treatment that the capitalist state reserves for all revolutionaries who dare to confront this criminal system. He faced solitary confinement, restricted family visits and denial of health care. Because the prison refused to provide adequate care and medication for what was eventually diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, he underwent severe physical deterioration. Even talking is a difficult task for him.
To obtain release, he admitted guilt to the charges of conspiracy in the Wells Fargo robbery. In exchange, the U.S. government accepted the fact that the money from the robbery was destined to aid the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and not for individual gain of those Macheteros involved.
Los Macheteros is a Marxist-Leninist organization started in the late 1970s to fight for independence of the island, but independence with social and political justice for the masses. Though a relatively small organization, it was able to deal several blows to the U.S. military and corporations — as the Wells Fargo robbery shows.
The organization is on the FBI and U.S. State Department’s lists of “terrorist” organizations, and its members have been persecuted, jailed and even assassinated. Its Secretary General, Commander Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, was cruelly murdered in 2005 by FBI agents sent to the island solely for this targeted assassination.
U.S. imperialism might be making war on several fronts at the same time, but this does not prevent it from repressing its oldest colony, Puerto Rico, and preventing its people from living in a sovereign nation. Washington still keeps the Puerto Rican independence movement under close watch and continually harasses pro-independence activists.
There are still two independence fighters in U.S. jails — Avelino’s brother, Norberto González Claudio, who was imprisoned in 2010, and Oscar López Rivera, who has already spent more than 31 years in U.S. dungeons for struggling for the independence of his homeland.