Concerns for two defenders of the Amazon

“Unfortunately, we no longer have any hope of finding them alive”deplores Varney Thoda Kanamary, one of the coordinators of the Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Vale do Javari (Univaja), the association which participated in the first searches as soon as the announcement of the disappearance, on June 5, of the British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenist Bruno Araujo Pereira in this vast Amazonas border region, State located at the northwestern tip of Brazil.

The Univaja, which continues to support the relief on the spot to find the two specialists and defenders of the Amazonian cause, has just filed, on the evening of Friday, June 10, an appeal before the judge Luis Roberto Barroso of the Federal Supreme Court. “We ask that the government launch a real investigation and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs get in touch with the Peruvian authorities so that research can be undertaken on this side of the border”, specifies Carolina Santana, lawyer of the association. The two men disappeared nearly 30 kilometers south of the Peruvian border, which winds along the Javari River. And so far, no research has been undertaken on the Peruvian side.

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Police announced earlier today that they had found “genetic material” which will be compared to the DNA of the two missing persons. A total of six suspects were interviewed. A fisherman named Amarildo da Costa, locally nicknamed “Pelado” (“naked”, in French), was arrested in the river town of Atalaia do Norte. Traces of blood were discovered on his boat. He would have threatened Bruno Araujo Pereira the day before his disappearance, according to the testimony of the natives who accompanied the beginnings of the expedition of the two men. “Pelado” would be linked to the illegal hunting and fishing of protected species from the Vale do Javari, an indigenous land whose territory has been demarcated in 2001.

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With an area equivalent to that of Austria, this territory is home to a dense and isolated forest, increasingly under tension but still particularly well preserved. More than 6,500 indigenous people from seven different peoples are said to live there, in addition to nineteen groups without contact with the outside world, the largest concentration on the planet, according to estimates by the National Indian Foundation (Funai, the organization watching over indigenous territories).

Drug traffic

The extension of the Vale do Javari and the abundance of its fauna have for years represented a windfall of considerable income for illegal fishermen and hunters. There is now also drug trafficking, especially cocaine of Peruvian origin, which has in turn hit this fragile ecosystem where total impunity reigns. Brazil, the second cocaine consumer in the world after the United States, is also an important crossing point for this drug to Africa and Europe. “Cocaine of Peruvian origin now flows through this territory, precisely on the Javari River, to then be transported east to the city of Altamira”, explains Aiala Colares, geographer at the University of Para and researcher at the Brazilian Public Security Forum.

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