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Montevideo, June 5th 2023 - 00:16 UTC



Mapuche violence escalates in Argentine Patagonia

Wednesday, September 28th 2022 - 17:53 UTC
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Fugitive Facundo Jones-Huala is said to be in the Villa Mascardi area Fugitive Facundo Jones-Huala is said to be in the Villa Mascardi area

As Mapuche violence escalates in the Villa Mascardi area in the Department of Bariloche in the Argentine Patagonia province of Río Negro, former Security Minister and current PRO Chairwoman Patricia Bullrich Wednesday said fugitive rebel Facundo Jones-Huala was hiding there.

The Argentine-born Mapuche leader Jones-Huala had been extradited from Bariloche to serve a nine-year sentence in Chile for a 2013 arson attack. During his appearances before the Temuco Court of Appeals seeking parole or other benefits, he was personally counseled by Argentina's Ambassador to Santiago Rafael Bielsa.

Jones Huala, leader of the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM) who is a fugitive from Chilean Justice, crossed into Argentina and is said to be with five people accomplices from Chile's radical Arauco-Malleco Coordination (CAM) branch in Villa Mascardi, where a group of hooded men usurped Tuesday a property under the jurisdiction of Argentina's National Gendarmerie (Border Police).

“They just kicked out the park ranger and took the house of Luis Dates, which is the one guarded by the Gendarmerie, who went there today in the afternoon with the prosecutor and three of the extremists kicked them out and Gendarmerie could not act and had to retreat,” Bulllrich said in a TV interview. “Later they took the National Parks post,” she added.

“What is happening in Villa Mascardi is the total and absolute takeover by these groups of extreme violence,” she went on.

“The Government needs to evict Luis Dates' house immediately. Evict them from the place of the park ranger and reinstate a post of the forces so that all the citizens of Villa Mascardi can rebuild their homes,” she also explained.

“The State is responsible for the burning of those houses and for not letting the forces act to arrest Jones Huala. They are letting them do it, it is very serious what is happening,” she stressed.

Bullrich also suggested it was necessary to “commit the provincial governments of Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut, the prosecutors of each of the provinces, the federal prosecutor's office and the ministries of Security” to solve this problem.

“It is a very deep issue because it is an area where Argentines live lawlessly. The territory must be retaken, real security must be generated, which is not a little box with five or ten gendarmes...”

Luis Dates, the owner of the Los Radales property, said “the prosecutor was stoned and access was blocked with a box, so we can say that the land is being usurped by this self-styled Mapuche community.”

“They are not Mapuche at all, because they are a bunch of hooded criminals who have been plundering, robbing, and setting fire to Villa Mascardi for four years, with the complicity of the Government,” Dates insisted while admitting some neighbors had seen Jones Huala at the premises.

Meanwhile, Argentina's Federal Government has created a unified command in Villa Mascardi made up of Gendarmerie (Border Police), Prefecture (Coast Guard), Airport Security Police (PSA), and Federal Police forces to deal with the escalating violence. The decision was taken Tuesday by Security Minister Aníbal Fernández after conferring with Secretary of Security and Criminal Policy Mercedes La Gioiosa and chiefs of all four forces involved. In the meantime, the area is guarded by the Special Operations and Rescue Corps (COER) of the Río Negro Police.

“The unified command will operate in the Gendarmerie squadron of Bariloche, where the situation room will be located, with a representative of each force plus the Police of Río Negro,” the Ministry said in a statement.

Río Negro Department of Security and Justice Chief Betiana Minor requested federal forces remained guarding the area after Sunday's attack by a group of hooded men who set fire to a National Gendarmerie mobile hut in Villa Mascardi followed by Tuesday's seizure of the Los Radales property by members of the Lafken Winkul Mapu community. “It was an act of cowardice, vandalism, attacking at night and hooded,” said Minor.

Meanwhile, Federal Chief Comptroller Miguel Ángel Pichetto linked the Montoneros guerrilla group of the 1970s to the Mapuche attacks in Villa Mascardi: “It is a rural guerrilla action,” the former Vice-Presidential candidate said Wednesday.

“It is time for the Government, the Argentines, to take note of what is happening in Patagonia. It went from a pre-insurrectional activity to a rural guerrilla character,” he warned.

“What happened with the burning of the Gendarmerie checkpoint, we are facing an armed confrontation; it is an attack aimed at the national State,” he underlined in a radio interview.

”What are the Montoneros doing there? What is (Roberto) Perdía doing with the mutual lawyers' association, what is (Fernando) Vaca Narvaja doing? Today they are better prepared than in other years, with weapons. Nobody says anything, this issue is gaining strength now but until a few years ago it was very difficult,” Pichetto stressed.

The National Gendarmerie post that was set on fire at around 9.30 p.m. by a group of hooded men was part of the small operation ordered by the Federal Ministry of Security after Governor Arabela Carreras asked Minister Aníbal Fernández to contain the recurrent violence in the area.

A forensics team of the Federal Police has been deployed to collect evidence that could be useful for the case and to make a survey of the land.

Juntos por el Cambio lawmakers have requested the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs and the Federal Government brief the MPs on the ongoing events in Villa Mascardi.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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