Disappeared in the Amazon: British journalist, Brazilian expert

RIO DE JANEIRO –


A British journalist and an indigenous affairs expert are missing in a remote part of Brazil’s Amazon region, a local indigenous association said on Monday. The area has been marked by violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents.


Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to the Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Araujo Pereira were last seen Sunday at 7 a.m. in the community of Sao Rafael, according to the Unijava Association of Indigenous Peoples of Vale do Javari, for which Pereira was an adviser. . They were returning by boat from Vale do Javari and heading for the town of Atalaia do Norte, about an hour away, but never showed up.


Pereira is currently on leave from her position with the Brazilian Indigenous Affairs Agency and is one of its most senior employees operating in the Vale do Javari region. He oversaw the agency’s regional office and the coordination of uncontacted indigenous groups before taking his leave. He has received a steady stream of threats from illegal fishermen and poachers, and usually carries a gun.


Univaja said the two were threatened during their current reporting trip.


The place where they disappeared is the main access route to and from the Vale do Javari, where several thousand natives live in dozens of villages. Locals say it is highly unlikely that they got lost in this area.


Brazil’s federal prosecutors said in a statement they had opened an investigation and mobilized the federal police, the Amazonas state civilian police, the national guard and the navy. The latter will coordinate search efforts in the region, the statement said. The British Embassy said in a statement that it was in contact with local authorities and was supporting Phillips’ family.


The Guardian quoted a spokesperson as saying it “is very concerned and is urgently seeking information on the whereabouts and condition of Mr Phillips. We are in contact with the British Embassy in Brazil and local and national authorities to try to establish the facts as soon as possible.


Phillips has also contributed to The Washington Post and The New York Times.


The area has seen repeated gunfights between hunters and fishers and official security guards, who have a permanent base in the area, which is known to have the world’s largest population of uncontacted indigenous people. The Vale do Javari is also a major route for cocaine produced on the Peruvian side of the border and then smuggled into Brazil to supply local towns or be shipped to Europe.


In September 2019, an employee of the indigenous affairs agency was shot dead in Tabatinga, the largest town in the region. The crime was never solved.


“It is extremely important that the Brazilian authorities dedicate all available and necessary resources to the immediate execution of the searches, in order to guarantee, as soon as possible, the safety of the two men,” said Maria Laura Canineau, director of Human Rights Watch. in Brazil, said Monday in a statement.