Argentina's Ambassador to Chile Rafael Bielsa has turned up at a Chilean judicial hearing to defend incarcerated self-proclaimed Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala even though the latter has vociferously relinquished his Argentine citizenship.
Bielsa unsuccessfully intended to have Jones granted parole.
Jones Huala, leader of the radical Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM) group, was extradited to Chile three years ago and is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence at the Temuco Penitentiary Compliance Center, south of Santiago, for his involvement in an attack on a house in the Pisu Pisué area, the epicentre of the Mapuche revolt.
The Bariloche-born Jones Huala also needs to account for acts of violence against private and state property in Argentina.
Argentina's Foreign Ministry -an office Bielsa himself used to head- argued that the services rendered to Jones Huala were those of a regular consular assistance granted to all citizens. But according to international law experts, Bielsa's direct participation would be against the 1963 Vienna Convention which bans consuls from getting involved in judiciary processes like this one.
Bielsa, a graduated lawyer like his father, is as an ambassador the highest-ranking representative of the Argentine State before the Government of Chile, which has ordered the militarization of Biobío, Arauco, Malleco and Cautín, the areas affected by violence related to Mapuche groups.
The Chilean newspaper El Mercurio said Bielsa had explained he appeared on record at the request of the RAM lonko (leader) to try to get him the benefit of parole. the Buenos Aires daily Clarín has reported Jones Huala is eager to return to Argentine, where he is said to have contacts with radicalized groups.
Huala's case with Bielsa present and in his defence was discussed on October 5 in the Probation Commission of the Temuco Court of Appeals. The Commission had in view the information provided by the Temuco Preventive Detention Center where the convicted person is currently serving a sentence. According to press reports, Bielsa spoke after the allegations, and according to El Mercurio, the Argentine ambassador refuted the arguments delivered by the lawyer for the Los Ríos Regional Administration, Mr Hernán Valdebenito Castillo, in a clear gesture in favour of Jones Huala.
Facundo Jones Huala was born in Bariloche in 1986 and was always considered the creator and leader of RAM, which is defined as a revolutionary, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic organization. With even violent means he aspires to impose a white state, which they call Huinca and they fight with weapons against the presence in the area of companies and families such as Benetton, Lewis, and others.
The State itself, that conception of political-territorial organization, is a Western conception. We propose the reconstruction of the power of the communities, in the same communities, under our ancestral parameters. At this moment, specifically in the process of recovery of land, it can be said that from the wire inside there is no State. The Argentine State does not exist, the Chilean State does not exist. Nor does the logic of Winka property exist, Jones Huala has been quoted as saying in his many press interviews.
Jones Huala was charged with setting ablaze an inhabited house inside the Pisu Pisue farm in southern Chile, on January 9, 2013. After he fled to Argentina he made things worse for himself. All the other defendants, in that case, have been acquitted in 2014, but the case was left open and his extradition was requested and hastily dealt with under President Mauricio Macri. Jones Huala's days in preventive detention in Chile and Argentina helped reduce his sentence from 12 to 9 years. His sentence was even upheld by Chile's Supreme Court.
Ambassador Bielsa's defence of the self-perceived Mapuche leader can only surprise those who are unaware of Bielsa's past as a montonero guerrilla member in the 1970s, during which he has vindicated terrorism as an instrument of politics and even placed bombs like the one which resulted in a Rosario businessman losing both his hands. I participated in armed actions and in the placing of bombs on 'aristocrats' of that time, Bielsa has said. We were Peronists, we were outlawed, there had been a lot of institutional violence since '55 and it seemed to us that violence was a tool, it was a loaded weapon in the future.
Bielsa's brother Marcelo enjoys a quieter life as a football coach in England.