An official from Indigenous Affairs and a British journalist are still missing in remote Brazil’s Amazon. Authorities said that they were intensifying their search efforts in the area which has witnessed violent conflicts between poachers and fishermen.
Dom Phillips, a regular contributor for British newspaper The Guardian, was last seen in Sao Rafael early Sunday morning, according to the Univaja association, which includes people living in the Vale do Javari Indigenous territory where Pereira has been an advisor.
They were returning by boat to Atalaia Do Norte, which is about an hour away. However, they never arrived.
Guilherme Torres is the head of the interior section of Amazonas’ state’s civil police. He said Pereira received a threatening note from a local fisherman that police are trying locate.
British journalist Dom Phillips has reported from Brazil for more than a decade and has been working on a book about preservation of the Amazon with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation [Paul Sherwood/Handout via Reuters]
Torres stated to Reuters that while we are working with the hypothesis of a crime having occurred, there is another possibility.
“Now, we want to find them alive in the shortest time possible. Parallel to this, a criminal investigation has been initiated to determine if any crime was committed.
Global concern was raised by human rights groups, politicians, environmentalists, and journalists about the disappearance of these two men who had worked in the difficult and hostile Amazon rainforest.
Alessandra Sampaio Phillips’s wife spoke out in an emotional TV interview. She urged authorities to increase their search efforts “because there is still a little chance of finding them”.
She added, “Even though I don’t find my love of life alive, they must be found, please.”
Pereira is one the most experienced employees of the Brazilian Indigenous Affairs Agency in the Vale do Javari region. Before he went on leave, Pereira was responsible for the management of the agency’s region office and coordination with isolated Indigenous groups.
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He is often armed with a gun and has been threatened by poachers and illegal fishermen.
Phillips, 57 years old, has been reporting from Brazil for over a decade. He is currently working on a book about Amazon preservation with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation. This foundation gave Phillips a fellowship of one year for environmental reporting, which ran from January to January.
Phillips had been on a two-day visit to Jaburu Lake, where he interviewed Univaja people. The pair vanished while they were returning. The boat was only the two of them.
The main access route to Vale do Javari in Brazil, the second-largest Indigenous territory in Brazil, is from the place where the pair disappeared. There are several thousand Indigenous people living in dozens upon villages.
Locals say it’s unlikely that the men would have been lost in the area.
Margaret Engel, executive director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, said in an email that “he is a cautious journalist with impressive knowledge about the complexities of Brazil’s environmental crisis.” He is a wonderful writer and a charming person. Our business is at its best.”
The area where the pair went missing is the primary access route to the Vale do Javari, Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory, where several thousand Indigenous people live in dozens of villages [File: Joao Laet/AP]
Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutors stated Monday in a statement that they had launched an investigation. They also said that the Federal Police, Amazonas State’s Civil Police, the National Guard, and the Navy had been mobilised.
Prosecutors said that the navy coordinated the search and sent seven search-and rescue teams. They also planned to deploy a helicopter Tuesday.
On Monday, there were no reports that helicopters were being used. Many of the men’s fellows expressed concern at the slow response of the government.
Brazil’s President Jair Bosonaro said Tuesday that “Really, only two people can be in a boat in such a wild area is not recommended.”
“Anything could happen. He said it could have been an accident or they could have died,” he told SBT in an interview.
“We pray and hope that they are found soon.” The armed forces are hard at work.”
Dom Phillips (57), and Bruno Araujo Pereira (41), went missing in remote Amazonian parts on Sunday.
Alessandra Sampaio, Mrs Phillips’s spouse, said in a tearful video that she still believed they would be found.
The family of Mr Pereira has also requested that authorities speed up the search.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro seemed to blame the disappearance of the missing men on Tuesday.
Two people on a boat in such a wild area is a dangerous adventure. He said that anything could happen
He said, “Maybe it was an accident, or maybe they were executed.”
Beware of threats
Brazilian police opened an investigation into Mr Pereira’s threats.
Expert on Amazonian isolated tribes, Pereira worked for Funai, the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai. He had clashed over illegal fishing with riverside communities.
Dom Phillips, an experienced journalist, was traveling with Pereira by boat through Javari Valley, near Brazil’s border to Peru, as part of his research on a book about conservation efforts in Amazon.
According to the groups, Pereira received death threats during the week preceding his disappearance for his fight against illegal fishing.
According to Reuters, the police interviewed local fishermen – one of whom is being considered a suspect – and they are believed to have been among the last to see the journalist and the indigenous expert in Javari Valley.
Brazilian news G1 quoted a police officer as saying that the suspect denied any involvement in Mr Phillips’ disappearance.
Alex Perez, the official, stated that the suspect told police that he only saw the two men speeding by in their boat.
Police are also looking for the suspect fisherman who wrote a threatening note to Pereira last week.
Rights group that first raised alarm over the disappearance of a child said that security forces failed to pursue key leads.
Eliesio Maruba, a member of the Univaja rights organization, stated that neither the navy nor the police had shown up at a meeting where Univaja wanted them to discuss the suspects it believes are behind the threats.