4 days missing

“There is no interest by the State in finding Bruno and Dom”, say natives from Javari Valley

The leaders heard by Brasil de Fato demand aerial searches in the region and explain who are the men arrested

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Lábrea (AM) |
Natives demand government actions on the search for Bruno and Dom - Divulgação

Searches for the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and the journalist Dom Phillips reached their third day this Wednesday, June 8. The search in the rivers Javari, Itaquaí, and Ituí is led by Indigenous peoples. Members of Funai, the Federal Police, the Army, and the Navy are participating. Although three suspects of involvement have been arrested, the resources employed by the task force have been identified as insufficient to find the two men, who have been missing since Sunday, June 5, in the Javari Valley Indigenous Land, in the far west of the Amazon. 

Brasil de Fato heard three of Javari’s Indigenous leaders. On condition of anonymity, they highlighted that the federal agencies are not taking action. Due to Javari Valley vastness, they consider it crucial to fly over the region, which is the second largest Indigenous Land in Brazil. Without it, the chances of finding the two men decrease each day as the angst of their relatives, friends, and colleagues grows.

According to the Navy, a helicopter is being used in the operation, in addition to a personal watercraft. Native people who searched the area looking for Pereira and Phillips say they did not see any aircraft.

“These actions that have been taking place here [the searches] are not being made by air. No helicopter is being used. This active search is being conducted by authorities’ watercraft and Univaja’s watercraft [Union of Indigenous Peoples Organizations of the Javari Valley]”, says one of the leaders. 

“We don’t see any interest”

Another Indigenous man agrees with the need to conduct air searches: “It should have a helicopter flying over that area where they disappeared. Our Indigenous associations are conducting searches based on what we know about tracing the trail the victims took. We hope to find them alive.”

A third Indigenous man says he does not believe the searches will succeed. “We don’t see any interest from them [authorities] to make it happen. Once more, I see that they do nothing. But we will make pressure to get those responsible detained. These damned men, criminals, these wretches who end the lives of people”. 

A resident of the Indigenous land said to Brasil de Fato’s reporters that since the Javari Valley is subject to environmental crimes, the natives have set up their own inspection structures. “It is a huge area and they never really got to capture the criminals that invaded the Indigenous lands. The police force undertakes searches only when a disappearance like this happens”.

Contacted by Brasil de Fato, the Ministry of Defense reaffirmed they sent a helicopter to the region this Tuesday, June 7. Funai acknowledged receipt but did respond to the questions. 

Who are the men arrested? 

The investigation has so far detained three illegal fishermen. Tuesday, June 7, the Federal Police announced the arrest of two men, one known as “Churrasco” ("barbecue" in English) and the other as Jâneo. According to Indigenous organizations, both were taken to Atalaia do Norte’s police station and, then, released. A third suspect, known as “Pelado” (“naked”, in English), was detained on Tuesday in the riverside dweller community of São Gabriel, in the Itacoaí river. “Pelado” was carrying ammunition of restricted use and drugs, as reported to Brasil de Fato by the Military Police of Amazonas state.  

An Indigenous man who was working with Bruno Pereira on the day of the disappearance claims that “Pelado” and Jâneo had threatened the inspection team, including the Indigenous affairs official, who works for Funai, and the Guardian’s British reporter when they met by chance on Saturday, June 4. “They [“Pelado” and another fisherman] pointed two guns at the Indigenous people and said to them ‘You're gonna get shot’”, he said to Brasil de Fato. 

“We arrived at the [inspection] base, in front of a Jaburu lake. Mr. ‘Pelado’ passes by our canoe with a cartridge pouch with about 30 bullets. We made the video and we took pictures. The reporter [Dom Phillips] took a picture and filmed it. All the evidence was in our hands to try to incriminate this invader”, said the witness.

Federal authorities denied joint planning with indigenous people 

In addition to criticizing the lack of logistical infrastructure available in the operation, Univaja pointed out the lack of dialogue between federal agencies that work in the searches and representatives of the Indigenous people, who know the region better than anyone else. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, June 7, the agency says it invited the institutions involved in the searches to attend a meeting to elaborate on joint planning. The meeting was held on that same day. However, only six military police officers from Amazonas state attended it.

“Once more, we see the current Brazilian government omit itself from its responsibilities in the face of the escalation of violence against Indigenous peoples and human rights supporters in Brazil”, says the statement jointly signed by Univaja, Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab, in Portuguese), Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib, in Portuguese) and Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (Opi, in Portuguese).

“Although the Brazilian Army was urged to collaborate with a force of 25 soldiers, it has so far not made any personnel available for the operation. The Federal Police, in the same way, moved a single police chief to Atalaia do Norte, along with Navy officers who moved just yesterday [Monday, 6] to Atalaia. We emphasize that a Task Force was not constituted for the search mission”, the statement highlights.

Edited by: Felipe Mendes