A fisherman is detained and in the custody of the Brazilian Military Police on suspicion of being related to the disappearance of Bruno Pereira, a veteran indigenous expert, and Dom Phillips, a British journalist with a long career and based in Brazil. No trace has yet been found of them or of the small boat in which they were sailing down the Itaquaí River in the Amazon when they were last seen on Sunday. The suspect is going to be interrogated a second time while the colleagues and relatives of the disappeared accuse the Government of Jair Bolsonaro of omission for not searching hard for them and demand more means, including helicopters, to find them.
The fisherman was arrested after his boat was seen on Sunday chasing the indigenista and the reporter when they were close to their destination, the city of Atalaia do Norte. According to witnesses, aboard the second boat were several men whom the agents are now looking for. The police keep all the hypotheses on the table.
The area where they disappeared is part of the Yavarí Valley, a thousand kilometers west of the city of Manaus. It is a gigantic indigenous territory that serves as a refuge for some thirty uncontacted tribes and is systematically invaded by fishermen, poachers and mineral seekers. In addition, it is part of international drug trafficking routes, on the border of Brazil with Peru and Colombia. Phillips traveled there to document himself with an eye on a book that he prepares. Pereira works independently, now in collaboration with the Observatório dos Povos Isolados (OPI) after many years in the official body created to protect native Brazilians, the National Indian Foundation.
A judge has ordered the government of Jair Bolsonaro to reinforce search and rescue operations because in an environment as hostile as the tropical jungle, every hour is crucial. It remains to be seen if the Executive complies with the judicial decision and sends aircraft, more vehicles and people to intensify the tracking. The court ruling responds to the lawsuit filed by Univaja, the association that brings together the various indigenous peoples of the Yavarí Valley, with which Pereira also collaborates. He has been working for many years in that remote territory that he knows like few whites. Both he and Phillips are respected veterans of their respective trades.
An information published by the newspaper Or Balloon without citing any source points to a possible reason for the disappearance. The newspaper maintains that, days ago, Pereira went to the Federal Police and the Public Ministry to denounce with detailed information and photos several people who supposedly formed a criminal organization involved in illegal hunting and fishing. The men he singled out are the same ones the police are now looking for. That complaint did not translate into any action by any of the agencies.
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