Two professional veterans, a Brazilian indigenist specializing in uncontacted tribes and a British journalist, have been missing since dawn Sunday. They were last seen aboard a boat in the Yavarí Valley, one of the most remote areas of the Amazon. Bruno Pereira, 57, is a great connoisseur of the territory, where for many years he has worked for the National Indian Foundation (Funai), the official body in charge of protecting native peoples. He had received multiple threats, recent and throughout his career. Traveling with him was Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to Guardian who has been reporting and living in Brazil for 15 years. The Univaja association, which brings together all the indigenous peoples of the Yavarí valley, has warned this Monday in a note that it has not heard from them for more than 24 hours. The Federal Police is aware and the Navy is heading to the area to undertake the search tasks.
Pereira was one of the professionals interviewed by this correspondent to prepare the report Threatened: the last isolated tribes in Brazilpublished last month, a chronicle of those who protect and those who threaten native tribes who resist any contact with outsiders.
The Yavarí Valley Indigenous Land is located to the west of the Amazon, on the border with Colombia and Peru. It is one of the best preserved areas of the largest tropical forest in the world and suffers from constant incursions by hunters and poachers, loggers and drug traffickers, who threaten the subsistence of the uncontacted tribes and the rest of the indigenous people who live in this territory. the size of Panama.
The Univaja association (União dos Povos Indigenas do Vale do Javari) and the Observatory of Isolated Peoples (OPI) have explained in a detailed joint statement that Pereira and Phillips had embarked on a boat trip to enter the Yavarí valley to a surveillance post on Lake Jaburu, managed by indigenous Univaja, so that the journalist could interview some of the natives who participate in the tasks to prevent the entry of poachers and fishermen. Phillips is writing a book on the environment with the help of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, she reported Monday. Guardian.
Pereira and Phillips set sail at six o’clock on Sunday morning from the village of São Rafael to the city of Atalaia do Norte on a journey that should have lasted a couple of hours, but they did not reach their destination. Two teams from Univaja, made up of indigenous people who combine technology with their ancestral knowledge, went looking for them in the following hours, but were unable to locate them or find any traces.
Univaja teams had received threats just days before. They were not the first, as the association recalled.
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Journalist Phillips, who lives in Salvador de Bahia, is a freelancer who has been covering Brazil for fifteen years for media such as Guardian, Washington Post Y New York Timesamong others.
At the time of his disappearance, the reporter and the indigenist were returning from visiting the surveillance post and were heading to the city of Atalaia do Norte. They were on board a new boat with enough fuel, according to the associations. On the way, they made a stopover in the community of São Rafael so that Pereira could meet a local leader, but he was not there and they talked with his wife. They then set sail for Atalaia, as recorded by satellite. Witnesses have assured that they saw them later as they passed through another town called São Gabriel. That is where the Brazilian Navy team is headed.
Pereira had taken an unpaid leave of absence from his official position at Funai. He is among the professionals who know the valley best, has participated in multiple expeditions and works with extreme caution. In 2019, he coordinated the largest expedition in search of isolated indigenous people in 20 years, which meant making an exception (to avoid greater evils) in the no-contact policy that Brazil has maintained for more than three decades.
The two associations of foreign correspondents in Brazil, ACIE and ACE, have expressed in a statement their “extreme concern about the disappearance” of Phillips and Pereira. They demand that the authorities immediately mobilize to locate them and that they act to “guarantee the safety of professionals, Brazilians and foreigners, who work in that region and who have suffered various threats.”
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