Dom Phillips in the Amazon jungle, in an image from 2019. Photo: AP
Three days ago, two men disappeared from the face of the earth in a remote area of the Amazon in Brazil. One, Dom Phillips, is a British freelance journalist and contributor to The Guardian. The other, Bruno Pereira, a well-known Brazilian expert on indigenous peoples.
They disappeared on their way to a meeting as part of an investigation into illegal mining and fishing. They never reached their destination. President Jair Bolsonaro says so they may have been executed after undertaking an “adventure not recommended”.
Federal police, supported by a Navy helicopter, continue to search the Amerindian reserve of Valle de Javari, near the border with Peru.
Bruno Araújo Pereira and Dom Phillips, disappeared in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo Twitter / @NeuronaSV.
Located in the western part of the Amazon, this valley is very difficult to reach and is home to tribes that are usually totally isolated. The region is suffering an escalation of armed violence due to the presence of miners, gold diggers and poachers. Indigenous people living in the area have also undertaken their own research.
According to an unverified account published by the Amazonia Real news site, journalist Dom Phillips and his guide Bruno Pereira they were ambushed After receiving threats from clandestine gold miners.
They had “received threats in the countryside the week (before) their disappearance,” the Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley (Univaja) and the Observatory of Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples said in a statement ( OPI).
Pereira, repeatedly threatened with death
President Jair Bolsonaro referred to the case, describing the region as “completely wild”.
“Really, two people alone on a boat in such a region, completely wild, it’s a bad adventure. Anything could happen. There may have been an accident, they may have been executed, anything is possible. I hope and pray to God they are found safe and sound soon, ”she said.
Bruno Pereira, who has worked for the India Foundation (Funai) for many years, has regularly received threats, including death threats, from illegal loggers and miners craving indigenous land. His family says he still wants to believe it could be an accident.
“I hope and pray to God they are found safe and sound soon,” Bolsonaro said. Photo: EFE
Dom Phillips’ wife has called for an intensification of the research. You said the civilian police of Amazonas, involved in the investigation, on Tuesday evening he was questioning a “suspect”. Four other people were questioned “as witnesses”.
For WWF Brazil, the government “was very slow to act” to mobilize forces. “The Amazon is becoming a land without law “deplored the organization in a statement.
Phillips and Pereira had traveled by boat to Lake Jaburu and were due to return to the town of Atalaia do Norte on Sunday morning.
They were trying to interview the natives, for whom they arrived at Lake Jaburu on Friday night.
They began their return early Sunday morning, stopping in the community of Sao Rafael, where they would find a local leader.
Photo file of the Brazilian indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira. Photo: EFE
Since he did not arrive, the two men continued towards Atalaia do Norte. The last time they were seen was in Sao Gabriel, near Sao Rafael.
Phillips and Pereira they traveled on a new boat with 70 liters of gasoline and used satellite communications equipment.
The Brazilian Alessandra Sampaio, wife of the journalist, asked in tears “intensify searches”in a video released by TV Bahia.
Dom Phillips. Photo: Reuters
The journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, asked the authorities in a video on social networks “to do everything possible (…) Time is of the essence”.
Pereira’s family also stressed with anguish that “time is of the essence (…) especially if they are injured”.
In addition, about forty correspondents and friends of Phillips, who also published in the New York Times and the Washington Post, asked in a letter to O Globo Increase your efforts “immediately”.
Research efforts for the indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips. Photo: EFE
Eleven media outlets called for an urgent hearing with the ministers of justice and public security and defense and asked for information on the progress of the operations.
In this indigenous land, where Phillips had traveled with Pereira in 2018, he lives 6,300 individuals from 26 different groups19 of them are isolated, according to the NGO Socio-environmental Institute.
Violence has increased in recent years. The local base of Funai, to protect and assist the indigenous, suffered several attacks since 2018, including the murder of an employee in 2019.
With information from Martín Bernard, RFI correspondent in Sao Paulo