“The bars could not hold me
Force could not control me
They tried to keep me down
But Jah put I around”
– Bob Marley from the song Duppy Conqueror
The Puerto Rican independence movement has had an incredible track record of getting its political prisoner out. In 1965 the Puerto Rican independence movement was able to secure the release of Nationalist movement leader Don Pedro Albizu Campos, in 1979 President Carter released four Nationalists who had served 25 years in prison, in 1998 President Clinton released 11 more political prisoners who after served 20 years in prison. The latest US held Puerto Rican political prisoner to be released is Avelino González Claudio. On December 6th he’ll be allowed to serve out the rest of his sentence as probation in Puerto Rico.
The FBI first caught up with Avelino in 2008 arresting and charging him with taking part in the $7 million Wells Fargo Armored Truck Robbery of 1983 that was carried out by the Macheteros, a clandestine armed organization that used any and all means to free Puerto Rico from US colonial rule. Avelino had been living underground and working with the Department of Education in Puerto Rico when the FBI finally found him. In 2010 Avelino was found guilty and sentenced to seven years, he was 68 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
The fact that Avelino is coming back home to Puerto Rico is a cause for celebration but it’s tempered by the fact that his brother Norberto González Claudio was just recently sentenced to five years in prison. Norberto was also a member of the Macheteros and a fugitive of the FBI until earlier this year when the FBI captured him and charged him with involvement in the same Wells Fargo Armored Car Robbery. So while there’s reason to be happy that a 70-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease, who’s been in prison since 2008 for a crime that was committed in 1983 in pursuit of gaining freedom for his country is out of prison… it’s ironic that as his prison sentence ends, his brother Norberto’s is just beginning. While this is all happening Puerto Rico still continues to be a colony of the US and Oscar Lopez Rivera the other US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war has served more than three decades in prison for fighting to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism. So while this battle hard-fought battle has been won there is still much more work to do…
You can help with some of that work by printing and signing a letter to President Obama that asks him to grant Oscar Lopez Rivera clemency. The campaign has been started by the National Boricua Human Rights Network which is an organization that works towards the decontamination of Vieques, Puerto Rico, the freeing and supporting of Puerto Rican political prisoners and the independence of Puerto Rico. Over 100,000 signatures for Oscar Lopez Rivera’s freedom have already been collected and the deadline to sign the letter is December 15th. So it’s wonderful that Avelino is coming home but let’s use the celebration of bringing him home as inspiration to free his brother Norberto and Oscar Lopez Rivera and to one day see a free Puerto Rico…