Avelino Gonzalez Claudio
In August of 1985, Avelino González Claudio was accused of participating in the planning and authorization of an operation to secure $7,117,000 from a Wells Fargo armored truck in Hartford, Connecticut on September 12, 1983, along with other Puerto Ricans and two North Americans. The operation was carried out by a clandestine organization fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico, the PRTP-Macheteros. Avelino was not arrested at the time. However, more than 20 years later, he was arrested in Manatí, Puerto Rico, on February 7, 2008.
Avelino was born in the town of Vega Baja on October 8, 1942. As a student at the University of Puerto Rico, he became a member and then vice-president of the Pro-Independence University Federation (Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia-FUPI). In the mid-1960’s, he married and moved to New York City, earning his living on Wall Street, and working with the Puerto Rican community, joining and then leading the Vito Marcantonio Mission of the Movemiento Pro-Independencia (MPI) in New York. He and his family of four children returned to Puerto Rico, where he worked in the independence movement, including administering the political journal Pensamiento Crítico (Critical Thought).
Avelino Goes Underground
When the arrests of 1985 took place, and Avelino was not arrested, he assumed the identity of José Ortega, and, while the FBI pursued him, he lived a quiet life, working as a computer teacher to support his family and contributing constructively to his nation, seeking to improve the services provided by the Department of Education.
The charges against those arrested in 1985 had various results: Carlos Ayes, Filiberto Ojeda, Juan Segarra, Norman Ramirez and Roberto Maldonado went to trial in 1989; Ivonne Meléndez Carrión also went to trial—some were acquitted, others convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from one year to 55 years; while Orlando González, Hilton Fernández Diamante, Jorge A. Farinacci, Isaac Camacho, Elías Castro and Angel Días Ruiz negotiated a plea agreement in 1992. They were sentenced to terms of five years in prison. Two others have never been arrested: Avelino’s brother Norberto and Victor Gerena, and are being sought by the FBI.
Life in Prison
While in Federal custody Avelino was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His friends and family fought for months to have him transferred to a prison where he could received adequate care. They were finally successful after several months of persistent campaigning.
Initially Avelino was supposed to be placed in transit to a Federal medical detention center in Texas. The Federal Beaurou of Prisons sent Avelino to the Brooklyn Detention Center instead. Neither the family nor his attorneys were notified. The family became aware by tracking Avelino via the Internet.
As a prisoner in transit, Avelino was placed in Solitary Confinement, at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center. Under these circumstances Avelino was isolated from the general population, has no right to visits by anyone but attorneys and the right to only one phone call a month. Once in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, Avelino was denied the medication medically prescribed for Parkinson’s.