Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo were last seen on Sunday
The security forces engaged in the search for indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira and UK journalist Dom Phillips made the first joint statement today (Jun 8) at Federal Police facilities in Manaus, capital city of Amazonas state, with updated information on the case.
Dom Phillips, a contributor to British daily The Guardian, and Bruno Pereira, an official on leave from Brazil’s national indigenous foundation FUNAI, were last seen Sunday morning (5), in the region of the Vale do Javari indigenous reserve, Brazil’s second largest, with over 8.5 million hectares. They were going from the riverside community of São Rafael to the town of Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas, when they disappeared without a trace.
“Since the first day after they went missing, we have launched multiple raids with boats from the mobilized security agencies,” said Federal Police Superintendent in Amazonas Eduardo Fontes. The crisis management committee includes members from the Federal Police, the Navy, the Army, as well as the Military and Civil Police and the state fire department. Starting tomorrow (9), updates of the operation will be reported to the press daily.
Over 250 security agents are reported to have been deployed, in addition to two aircraft, three drones, 16 boats, and 20 vehicles. The operation should continue indefinitely until a change of strategy takes place, the superintendent added.
Earlier on Wednesday, a state court decision forced the federal government to provide helicopters and step up efforts to locate the missing individuals. The ruling also stipulated that federal prosecutors and public defenders may request support directly from the Federal Police, the Armed Forces, and other public security bodies.
Bruno Pereira had stated he had received threats in the region, the police superintendent confirmed, adding the report had been filed about a month ago, with no suspects mentioned.
“In crimes involving threats, we need a statement from the victim indicating they want the suspect to be brought under investigation, otherwise we cannot step in. We’ve been told [there were threats], but investigations are still ongoing,” he noted.
Bruno Pereira had recently been working as a collaborator for the Union of Indigenous Organizations of Vale do Javari (UNIVAJA), run by local indigenous people themselves. This is why the indigenous advocate was on leave from FUNAI.
Vale do Javari is home to 26 indigenous ethnic groups, most of which with uncontacted or recently contacted members. It is located on the border with Peru and is described by the authorities as a route for international drug trafficking.
“It is a region of intense crime and transnational drug trafficking. We know about the illegal mining, logging, and fishing that take place there,” Fontes said.
According to Amazonas Public Security Secretary General Carlos Alberto Mansur, who also spoke during the interview, five people have been heard as witnesses in addition to a suspect, who was arrested in flagrante delicto Tuesday (7) by the Military Police. He was found in possession of drugs and ammunition caliber 762, of restricted use. He was also carrying hunting weaponry.
“This suspect has not been linked to the matter yer. We haven’t associated him to the fact,” the secretary declared. The Civil Police did not disclose his name, but media outlets have stated he is named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, also known as Pelado. He was arrested with a boat. The witnesses, in turn, are people who live in the community of São Rafael and are believed to have seen the boat carrying Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips toward Atalaia do Norte.
Also according to investigators, no line of inquiry has been ruled out at this point and the focus of the operation is placed on the search and rescue of the two people missing. “We have seized material with suspected connection to the fact, which is currently being looked into. For now, our efforts are concentrated on the search, and we are hoping to find them still alive,” General Mansur declared.
Published in 09/06/2022 – 11:26 By Pedro Rafael Vilela EBC – Brasília Translation: Fabrício Ferreira – Edition: Kleber Sampaio – EBC