Monday, February 11, 2008

WNU #934: FBI Arrests Machetero Suspect in Puerto Rico

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #934, February 10, 2008

1. Puerto Rico: FBI Arrests Machetero Suspect
2. Cuba: Growing Criticism of Rules
3. Nicaragua: Women's Coop May Lose Its Land
4. Mexico: Oaxaca Top Cop Shot
5. US: Activists Protest Plan Mexico

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Puerto Rico: FBI Arrests Machetero Suspect
On Feb. 7 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Puerto Rican independence activist Avelino González Claudio, a suspected leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros. According to Luis Fraticelli, who heads the FBI in Puerto Rico, the arrest was carried out without incidents in the northern town of Manatí. "We don't know what condition our compañero is in at this point," Alvin Couto, an attorney and spokesperson for the Socialist Front of Puerto Rico, said on Feb. 10.

González Claudio had been sought for 22 years in connection with the 1983 armed robbery of $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut. In 1985 the FBI arrested 11 of 17 suspects in the case, including EPB leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, who was released on bail in 1988 and went into hiding in 1990. Ojeda was later convicted in absentia and sentenced to 55 years in prison; he died in a massive assault FBI agents mounted at a house where he was living with his wife on Sept. 23, 2005. González Claudio's arrest came shortly after the US government issued subpoenas to three Puerto Ricans in New York to testify before a federal grand jury, presumably in relation to the EPB; the hearings have been postponed twice [see Updates #818, 819, 928, 930].

González Claudio is to appear in federal court in Puerto Rico at 3:30pm on Feb. 11, represented by attorney Juan Ramón Acevedo. A number of organizations, including the Socialist Workers Movement and the Human Rights Committee, plan to protest outside the federal building in Hato Rey, near San Juan. The Socialist Front's Couto charged that with the subpoenas and the arrest, the US is "criminalizing the independence struggle in the country to create fear and confusion." (Prensa Latina (Cuba) 2/7/08; AFP 2/8/08 via; Prima Hora (Puerto Rico) 2/10/08 from AP)

*2. Cuba: Growing Criticism of Rules
While at a Feb. 5 Havana screening of a documentary on his youth, popular Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez criticized regulations that keep Cubans from staying in Cuban hotels reserved for tourists. "I belong to a generation that when we had 30 pesos in our pockets, we could stay in any hotel," he said. Rodríguez also criticized the requirement for Cubans to get special permission to travel out of the country.

These and similar criticisms have become common since July 2007, when acting president Raúl Castro called for a reform of the system; in September and October people participated in a series of meetings in which they were encouraged to voice criticisms. In a Jan. 19 meeting with National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón, Information Sciences University students complained about internet access, which is lower in Cuba than in Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere. Raúl Castro himself told the National Assembly in December that there was an "excess of prohibitions and legal measures, which do more harm than good." (La Jornada (Mexico) 2/7/08 from correspondent; Reuters 2/8/08 via

*3. Nicaragua: Women's Coop May Lose Its Land
The Nueva Vida Women's Cooperative Maquiladora (COMAMNUVI), a Nicaraguan women's sewing cooperative in Ciudad Sandino, just outside Managua, says that it is about to lose its land. According to the cooperative, a certain Yelba Carvajal is suing in court to take over the land because of a typographical error in COMAMNUVI's land title; the cooperative says it purchased the land from another cooperative in the 1990s and that Carvajal bought some other land from the same cooperative.

Doing business as the Fair Trade Zone, the Nueva Vida cooperative has been operating for nine years, providing employment for 50 people, mostly single mothers. The cooperative has official free trade zone status and says it is the only worker-owned free trade zone in the world. It was formed with the support of the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA), a project of the North Carolina-based Jubilee House Community Inc. foundation, which was invited to Nicaragua in 1993 by former foreign minister Father Miguel D'Escoto. Supporters can write first lady Rosario Murillo (, with a copy to asking her "to investigate this situation assure that justice is done." (Campaign for Labor Rights Labor Alert 2/8/08)

*4. Mexico: Oaxaca Top Cop Shot
A group of five men armed with AK-47 and AR-15 rifles and 9mm pistols shot and killed Alejandro Barrita Ortiz, director of the Auxiliary, Industrial, Bank and Commercial Police for the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, on Jan. 30 as he was jogging on the track at the Bosque El Tequio sports complex near Oaxaca city. Also killed in the military-style ambush were one of Barrita Ortiz's bodyguards, Juan Eduardo Prado Pérez; government employee Rafael Alonso Muñoz; and sports trainer Virginia Galán Rodríguez, who won the state sports prize in 2003. Two other people were wounded. It was not clear whether Muñoz and Galán were with Barrita Ortiz's group.

Barrita Ortiz was accused of directing violent police actions against activists in Oaxaca, notably during a huge police operation on Nov. 2, 2006 and a smaller one on July 16, 2007 [see Updates #873, 908]. On the day of his killing there was speculation that the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) or the leftist Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) were involved. APPO spokesperson Florentino López Martínez dismissed the rumors: "Our movement doesn't use arms, we've said it repeatedly." State government officials suggested that the culprits were more likely to be organized crime groups, which are known to carry out large, violent attacks. (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/31/08)

*5. US: Activists Protest "Plan Mexico"
On Feb. 7 Henry Ruben and other US activists were forcefully removed from a public hearing held by the US House Subcommittee on Western Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC on "Plan Mexico," a secretive $1.5 billion package of military aid to Mexico, ostensibly to fight narco trafficking. The activists had demanded that the hearing include testimony from groups that oppose the plan, including the United Steelworkers (USW) and the San Francisco-based nonprofit Global Exchange; the people called to testify were supporters of the plan, like Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon.

The protest was organized by Friends of Brad Will, a group of relatives, friends and colleagues of an independent US journalist who was killed while covering a protest in Oaxaca on Oct. 27, 2006. Oaxaca state prosecutors ruled that he was killed by leftist protesters, despite witness reports and videotapes from Will's own camera implicating two minor government officials [see Updates #872, 893]. The group is demanding an end to impunity in Mexico. (Friends of Brad Will press releases 2/7/08)

More breaking stories from alternative sources:
Argentina: Transvestites Find a Voice

Peru: Cuzco residents protest tourism development

Peru: Free Trade Deal an Andean Tragedy

Ecuador: Indigenous Confederation Inaugurates New President and Announces National Mobilization

Russia to extradite Israeli spook to Colombia

Uribe exploits mobilization against FARC

Civil Wars North and South: Perspectives on Colombia from the US Civil War

Steel Worker's Strike Shuts down Venezuela's Largest Steel Plant

Detentions, torture and violence in Chiapas

Calderón to demilitarize Mexican drug war?

"We Learn As We Go" - Zapatista Women Share Their Experiences

Video: Stop Plan Mexico!

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, new from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

No comments: