Mapuche indigenous leader Facundo Jones Huala has started a trial over his potential extradition in a typically defiant tone.
Jones Huala faced legal proceedings on Thursday morning in the city of Esquel, Chubut, and before the hearing started, he declared: “Long live the RAM [Ancestral Mapuche Resistance], for those who say it doesn’t exist, the RAM exists and resists.”
His defence team filed a motion to dismiss the trial, alleging that the evidence presented had not been accepted. The judge rejected both preliminary motions raised by the defence, thus denying the dismissal of the trial.
The hearing started at 10am in a room attended by some 20 people who supported the indigenous leader. They were mostly members of the Pu Lof Mapuche community in Resistencia Cushamen, where a police raid in 2017 ended up with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, who was found dead 79 days later.
As he entered the courtroom, Jones Huala shouted that “RAM exists and resists” in front of those carrying posters with the face of Santiago Maldonado and flags of indigenous peoples.
The accused entered, guarded by the Federal Penitentiary Service and sat with his attorneys, Eduardo Soares and Gustavo Franquet, both members of the Argentine Attorneys’ Union. Judge Gustavo Villanueva then entered and extradition proceedings formally commenced.
During a lengthy and fiery speech lasting nearly half an hour, the accused justified his actions and spared no criticism for the State and Courts, Government, and Police.
He called himself “a fighter” and defended his community, concluding: “I won’t be tamed, do what you will because I don’t sell myself like a piece of land”.
Chile is seeking Jones Huala’s extradition, arguing he should serve the sentence imposed on December 21, 2018, by a Valdivia court that sentenced him to nine years in prison for the crimes of arson and illegal weapon possession.
Jones Huala called the judge “corrupt.” During his speech, the Mapuche leader did not hesitate to criticise or even address Judge Villanueva directly. “You’re corrupt, I say that to your face, with all due respect,” he said.
He then stated that the security operation around him was mounted out of fear. “I wish we were armed like these policemen, I wish we carried the same weapons and machine guns, to face each other on an equal footing,” he declared.
Emboldened, Jones Huala addressed the authorities hearing him in the room and told them: “If you want to end our fight, you’ll have to shoot us.”
As informed by Chile courts, he has one year and four months of his sentence left to serve.
At the start of the trial, Jones Huala’s defence lawyer, Eduardo Soares, filed a motion for dismissal because the evidence presented by the accused’s legal counsel had not been accepted.
The counsellor asked Judge Gustavo Villanueva to accept the defence’s evidence and warned that if that did not take place it would set a “dangerous precedent” which places his client in a “handicapped position”.
Who is Facundo Jones Huala?
Francisco Facundo Jones Huala was arrested in 2023 in El Bolsón, Río Negro, after being a fugitive from Chilean justice for over a year.
After his detainment was announced, the authorities of the neighbouring country initiated the extradition formalities for the RAM leade, in order to enforce the sentence against him, in consistency with the red alert issued by Interpol.
In December 2018 Jones Huala was sentenced to nine years in prison for “arson and weapon possession” by the Chilean courts. He promotes the use of political violence and makes the ancestral claim of the indigenous people stretching across the Andes.
According to the account of his mother María Isabel in numerous interviews, Facundo first joined the Mapuche cause when he was 11 years old, after a blizzard in 1996 took its toll on Bariloche, and led him to collect donations from a local radio. “There, on the radio, with that blizzard, he met different Mapuche children, and started learning about his true history, at 10 or 11 years old”, María told Anfibia.
Regardless of his characteristic mixed-race origin, Jones Huala claims his Mapuche roots from his father’s side, from Cushamen, a township near Esquel (Chubut) which was purchased by the Benettons, Italian millionaires who own a million hectares from Chubut to Tierra del Fuego.
Over time, the Mapuche leader started radicalising his position based on links with Chilean Mapuche organisations through the RAM, which he called “special forces” within the autonomous Mapuche movement in terms of the use of violence to “achieve liberation,” including arson and land occupation.
“The RAM belongs to a bigger movement, the Organised Autonomous Mapuche Movement, which are the ‘special forces’ of the Mapuche fight. Ideologically I adhere to RAM”, Jones Huala told the TN news channel in an interview a few years ago.