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ARGENTINA | 30-01-2023 11:17

Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala arrested in El Bolsón

Río Negro Province government confirms radical Mapuche leader has been detained; Jones Huala, who was allegedly drunk when found by police, had been hiding at a property in El Bolsón.

Fugitive Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala has been arrested by police in El Bolsón, the Río Negro Province government has confirmed.

In a statement, Governor Arabela Carreras’ administration said that the indigenous community activist had been detained in the early hours of Monday morning by police in the La Esperanza neighbourhood of the Patagonian town.

"The arrest of the leader of the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM), who had been a fugitive from justice in Chile since February 2022, came after several months of investigations," the provincial Security Ministry announced.

According to reports, Jones Huala was drunk and was found hiding in the barbecue area of the residency he had broken into at around 4am. Dressed in grey shorts and red trainers, he put up no resistance when police approached him. 

Jones Huala, 36, has been on the run from police for more than 11 months. The RAM leader faces various accusations against him in the courts, while Chile is also seeking his extradition for unserved jail time relating to offences dating back to 2013.

The arrest came after a tip-off from a local resident.

"There had been rumours from people who had identified him in the area for several months and we were finally able to find him. He was in a state of inebriation, in good physical condition, alone, and in hiding," Governor Carreras told the TN news channel in an interview after the operation.

The provincial government said in a statement that it was working with the local and federal court authorities on the next “procedural steps to be taken." Jones Huala could still face additional changes related to alleged offences committed in the region, local news outlets reported.

Jones Huala is the subject of an Interpol blue alert, which is aimed at obtaining information on a person's identity, whereabouts or criminal activities in relation to a criminal investigation. 

"The Federal Court of Bariloche is currently communicating with the Chilean court which issued the alert, so that within hours it can inform whether it will transform it into a red alert to enable the international arrest and the corresponding extradition request," said Carreras’ government.

Upon hearing of the arrest, Chilean Interior Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve confirmed that the government had begun the paperwork to request the extradition of Jones Huala.

“Our interest lies in zero impunity in all cases and we thus want him extradited to serve the corresponding prison term," Monsalve told the press in Santiago.

 

Arrest, allegations

Francisco Facundo Jones Huala has been a fugitive from the Chilean justice system since February 11, 2022.

Authorities in both Argentina and Chile say he is the leader of RAM, an extremist group which has been blamed for attacks on properties in both nations. 

The activist was convicted in 2018 by a court in Chile as the perpetrator of an arson attack on the Pisu Pisué ranch located in the commune of Río Bueno, in the Los Ríos region (900 kilometres south of Santiago) and for the illegal possession of firearms, crimes both committed in 2013. He was handed a nine-year prison term.

The Mapuche leader was arrested in Argentina in June, 2017, after two years on the run as a fugitive. Following his arrest, then-president Mauricio Macri ordered his extradition after the Supreme Court upheld Chile's request for extradition.

Jones Huala was imprisoned in Temuco, southern Chile, in 2018, but – in response to an appeal for legal protection filed by his defence team – the RAM leader was released on parole on January 21, 2022. 

He took up residence in a Mapuche community in Temuco until his release was finally challenged by the Chilean government and his conviction upheld by the Chilean Supreme Court, which ordered him to return to prison in February, 2022.

Jones Huala fled and his whereabouts was unknown until his arrest in Patagonia this morning.

Opposition leaders in Argentina welcomed news of Jones Huala’s arrest, with PRO lawmaker Cristian Ritondo hailing “one less criminal on the loose.”

“Families in Patagonia will sleep a little better tonight,” wrote Ritondo on his Twitter account.

Ten of thousands of Mapuches, members of an indigenous people established on both sides of the Andes in Chilean and Argentine territory, claim the return of their ancestral lands and assets. 

RAM is a marginal group within the numerous Mapuche communities inhabiting southern and central Argentine provinces.

 

– TIMES/NA

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