Brazil Dispatches Helicopters Looking For Two Missing People In The Amazon
Brazilian officials have begun searching a remote part of the Amazon rainforest with helicopters for a British journalist and Indigenous official who has been missing for more than three days.
Civil police in Amazonas state also said on Wednesday that they had apprehended a suspect for allegedly carrying a firearm without a permission, which is frequent in the region.
However, the state’s public security secretary, Gen. Carlos Alberto Mansur, later stated that officials did not have any specific proof linking the individual to the disappearances.
At a press conference, Mansur added, “We’re searching for a probable link, but for now, we have nothing.” He added the suspect, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also known as “Pelado,” was still being held.
Since the investigation began, police have questioned five more people, but no arrests have been made in connection with the disappearances, authorities stated in their first combined public speech.
Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to the Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Arajo Pereira, a Brazilian Indigenous affairs agency official with vast knowledge in the region, were last seen early Sunday in the Sao Rafael hamlet of the Javari Valley Indigenous territory.
The two were threatened on Saturday when a small number of men arrived by river to the Indigenous territory’s border and displayed firearms at a patrol sponsored by Univaja, a local Indigenous people’s organization.
Phillips photographed the guys at the time, according to the association’s president, Paulo Marubo, who earlier told the Associated Press that Pelado was one of them.
Phillips and Pereira were supposed to return to Atalaia do Norte via boat, but they never arrived.
Authorities’ search efforts were delayed to begin and remain insufficient, according to indigenous leaders on the ground, family members, and peers of Pereira and Phillips.
Phillips’ family and allies attended a vigil outside the Brazilian embassy in London, urging officials to explain why the search took so long to begin.
“We had to come this morning to inquire about Dom Phillips’ whereabouts.” “Can you tell me where Bruno Pereira is?” Sian Phillips, Phillips’ sister, told reporters. “We’ve come to raise the question of why it took so long for them to start looking for my brother and Bruno. We want the investigation to continue.”
After Univaja and the federal public defender’s office filed a request, a Brazilian federal court issued an injunction on Wednesday ordering authorities to deploy helicopters and more boats.
Federal police revealed various photographs and videos of the region obtained earlier that day from a helicopter at an evening news conference.
Judge Jaiza Maria Pinto stated in her judgement that she had ordered the Indigenous Affairs office to maintain protections in the region after Univaja filed a petition in 2019 alleging several criminal acts.
Despite the directive, she claimed, the zone was “kept in a low-protection and surveillance status.”
One of the Indigenous affairs agency’s three top directors was fired on Wednesday. The decision, according to the agency, was made in May and had nothing to do with the case.
Meanwhile, Gustavo da Cruz, an employee of the Indigenous Affairs Agency, has proposed a 24-hour walkout on June 13 in Congress.
“If being a public servant was once a safe profession, it is now a career fraught with terror, murder, violence, and threats,” da Cruz told lawmakers.
In the area, which boasts the world’s biggest concentration of uncontacted Indigenous people, there have been numerous shootouts involving hunters, fishers, and state security officials.
It’s also a main conduit for cocaine produced on the Peruvian side of the border, which is trafficked into Brazil and then sold to Europe.
The search has enlisted the help of 250 individuals from the army, navy, police, and firefighters, according to federal police.
Phillips, 57, has been reporting from Brazil for more than a decade and is currently working on a book about Amazon preservation with the Alicia Patterson Foundation’s help.
Alessandra Sampaio, his wife, made a video begging with the government and authorities to step up their search efforts.
“There’s still a chance we’ll find them.” “They must be discovered, even if I don’t find the love of my life alive,” she said in a video uploaded on Twitter.
Scientists, artists, journalists, and soccer stars, including the great Pele, echoed her request, sharing comments on social media urging authorities to step up the search.
Pereira has long worked for the Brazilian Indigenous Affairs Agency in Javari Valley. Before leaving on leave, he was in charge of their regional office and the coordination of isolated Indigenous tribes. Illegal fishers and poachers have been threatening him for years.
President Jair Bolsonaro attracted flak on Tuesday for referring to the two men’s job as a “adventure.”
“In a fully wild environment like that, simply two individuals in a boat is not a suggested trip.” Anything might happen at any time. It may have been an accident, or they could have been killed,” he added in an interview with SBT television.
“We pray and hope that they will be located soon. The armed forces are putting in long hours.”