Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Tuesday said anything could happen in the case of a British journalist and a local expert on indigenous affairs who went missing Sunday in Amazonia's Javari Valley.
Two people in a boat, in a region like that, completely wild, is an adventure that is not advisable to do. Anything can happen, Bolsonaro lamented. It could be an accident, they could have been executed..., he added.
Dom Phillips, 57, a British contributor for The Guardian, was doing research for a book when he disappeared in the state of Amazonas together with Bruno Araújo Pereira, an expert from Brazil's government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai).
They have been missing since leaving the village of Sao Rafael for the municipality of Atalaia do Norte in the western Amazon, Javarí Valley Indigenous Land, and the border with Peru and Colombia.
I pray to God that they are found soon. The Armed Forces are working very hard in the region, Bolsonaro also said. He underlined that the Brazilian Navy began investigating the case Sunday afternoon, shortly after it was reported that the researchers had not arrived on schedule at Atalaia do Norte.
We are following the case of the disappearance of the British journalist Dom Phillips who was with the indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira in the Amazon, posted British Chargé d'Affaires, Melanie Hopkins.
My brother Dom is deeply committed to the Amazon, we knew it was a dangerous place, but he believed it is possible to save nature and indigenous peoples, said Phillips' sister Sian.
We ask the Brazilian authorities to do everything possible to know where he is, time is crucial, every minute matters, she added in a video on social media.
Phillips has lived for 15 years in Brazil, where he made several reports on the forest and indigenous peoples.
The Federal Police have questioned aliases Churrasco and Janeo, who were said to have had a meeting with the disappeared, but they were both released, according to local press reports.
We do not rule out the possibility of a crime, said Amazonas State Interior Police Commissioner Guilherme Torres.
Araújo Pereira's partner, anthropologist Beatriz de Almeida, said that I know the region well, I know that accidents can happen there, but I am apprehensive about the threats he suffered.
Phillips has worked on other occasions with Araújo Pereira in this area riddled with garimpeiros or prospectors of minerals such as gold, loggers, and fishermen who harass the indigenous people. In addition to that, drug traffickers from Colombia and Peru use the area to send shipments to Brazilian criminal organizations.
Several native peoples who never had contact or had recent links with western civilization are known to live in the area.
”We emphasize that in the week of the disappearance the team (of Phillips and Araújo Pereira) received threats, which were not the first,” said the Union of Indigenous Peoples from the Javarí Valle (União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javarí - Unijava) and the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently-contacted Indigenous Peoples (Opi) in a statement.
Araújo Pereira had been an official of the state-run National Indian Foundation (Funai) until 2019. He was said to have left Funai due to the difficulties he had being able to work with isolated Indians, according to Folha de São Paulo.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace pointed fingers at the Bolsonaro administration's anti-indigenist policy.
Bolsonaro's Brazil gives license for depredation to occur in broad daylight, especially on indigenous lands, where the increase in violence is notorious, the NGO has said.
Human Rights Watch also insisted it was urgent that the authorities devote all necessary resources to find the disappeared.