HomeWorldWhat drew Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira to the Amazon

What drew Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira to the Amazon

Police followed the suspect’s instructions to human remains in the jungle, but forensic analysis to identify them has not yet been completed.

“Although we are still awaiting definitive confirmation, this tragic outcome puts an end to the anguish of not knowing the whereabouts of Dom and Bruno. Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love,” Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said in a statement.

The couple, who were first reported missing on June 5, had received death threats before leaving, according to the Coordination of the Indigenous Organization, known as UNIVAJA. Each was well aware of the often violent incursions of illegal miners, hunters, loggers and drug traffickers into the area, but they were equally dedicated to exposing how such activity affects Brazil’s protected wilderness areas, endangers its indigenous peoples and accelerates deforestation.

Pereira, 41, a father of three, has spent much of his life serving the country’s indigenous people since joining the Brazilian government’s indigenous agency (FUNAI) in 2010. He told CNN that the Office of The agency’s Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Coordination had conducted a large expedition to contact isolated indigenous people under his leadership in 2018, and had participated in multiple operations to expel illegal miners from protected lands.

Pereira’s passion was evident in an interview with CNN last year. “I can’t stay away for long. fathers”, he said, referring to the indigenous people of the region with the affectionate term “relatives”.

Phillips, 57, a highly respected British journalist who had lived in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, brought environmental issues and the Amazon to the pages of the Financial Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times and, notably, The Guardian. . Pereira was on leave from FUNAI in the midst of a broader reorganization of the agency when he joined Phillips to help research a new book.

The planned book would be titled “How to save the Amazon.”

In a video filmed in May in an Ashaninka village in the state of Acre, in the northwest of the country, and released by the Ashaninka association, Phillips can be heard explaining his effort: “I came here (…) to learn with you , about their culture, how to see the forest, how you live here and how you deal with threats from invaders and gold diggers and everything else.”

Dom Phillips (C) speaks with two indigenous men at Aldeia Maloca Papiú, Roraima state, Brazil in 2019.

a dangerous company

Home to thousands of indigenous people and more than a dozen uncontacted groups, Brazil’s vast Javari Valley is a patchwork of rivers and dense forests that make access difficult. Criminal activity there often goes unnoticed or is only confronted by indigenous patrols, sometimes ending in bloody conflict.

In September 2019, indigenous affairs worker Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was killed in the same area, according to the Brazilian Public Ministry. In a statement, a FUNAI union group cited evidence that dos Santos’ killing was in retaliation for his efforts to combat illegal commercial extraction in the Javari Valley, Reuters reported at the time.

Across Brazil, dealing with illegal activity in the Amazon can be deadly, as CNN previously reported. Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil amid conflicts over land and resources in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing figures from the nonprofit Catholic Land Pastoral Commission.

Critics have accused the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro of emboldening criminal networks involved in illegal resource extraction. Since coming to power in 2019, Bolsonaro has weakened federal environmental agencies, demonized organizations that work to preserve the rainforest, and has spoken out in favor of economic growth on indigenous lands, arguing that it is for the well-being of the indigenous people themselves. indigenous groups, with calls to “develop, “colonize” and “integrate” the Amazon.
Candles flicker at a vigil for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira.

Pereira last year lamented the diminished state of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protection agencies under the Bolsonaro presidency. But he also saw a silver lining, telling CNN that he thought the change would push the indigenous people of the Javari Valley to overcome historical divisions and form alliances to protect their shared interests.

However, in another interview with CNN later in the year, he was more circumspect about the dangers. Just returned from a trip through the rainforest, his feet and legs covered in mosquito bites, Pereira described a backlash by criminal groups against indigenous land patrols.

“[The patrols] It took them by surprise, I think. They thought that since the government was withdrawing from operations, they would have a free pass in the region,” Pereira said.

But neither Pereira nor Phillips were going to give a “free pass” to the exploitation of the Amazon.

“Dom knew the risks of going to the Javari Valley, but thought the story was important enough to take those risks,” Jonathan Watts, global environmental editor for The Guardian, told CNN.

“We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom believes that it is possible to safeguard nature and the livelihood of indigenous peoples,” his sister, Sian Phillips, said in a video last week urging the Bolsonaro government to intensify the search for the pair.

On Wednesday, Jaime Matsés, another local indigenous leader in the Javari Valley, told CNN that he had recently met with Pereira to discuss a potential new project that monitors illegal activity in his community’s territory.

“He seemed happy,” Matsés recalled. “He wasn’t afraid to do the right thing. We saw him as a warrior like us.”

And if his disappearance was intended to strike fear into those who would follow in his footsteps, it backfired, Kora Kamanari, another local leader, told CNN on Wednesday.

“We are more united than before and we will continue fighting until the last indigenous person is killed.”

Julia Koch contributed reporting.

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