RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – A British journalist and an Indigenous affairs official are still missing in a remote part of Brazil’s Amazon as authorities said they are expanding search efforts in the area, which has seen violent conflicts.
Dom Phillips, who has been a regular contributor to the British newspaper the Guardian, and Bruno Araújo Pereira were last seen early on Sunday in the Sao Rafael community, reported the Univaja association of people in the Vale do Javari Indigenous territory, for which Pereira has been an adviser.
The pair was returning by boat from the Vale do Javari and bound for the city of Atalaia do Norte, about an hour away, but never showed up.
Pereira is one of the Brazilian Indigenous affairs agency’s most experienced employees operating in the Vale do Javari area. He oversaw the agency’s regional office and the coordination of isolated Indigenous groups. He has received a stream of threats from illegal fishermen and poachers.
Univaja said the two had been threatened during their trip.
On Saturday, while they were camped out, two men travelled by river to the Indigenous territory’s boundary and brandished a firearm at a Unijava patrol, the associaiton’s president, Paulo Marubo, told The Associated Press.
Phillips, who has reported from Brazil for more than a decade, has been working on a book about preservation of the Amazon with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
The pair disappeared while returning from a two-day trip to the Jaburu Lake region, where Phillips interviewed local Indigenous people, Univaja said.
The place where they went missing is the primary access route to and from the Vale do Javari, Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory that is bigger than Maine, and where several thousand Indigenous people live in dozens of villages.
People from the area say that it is highly unlikely the men would have gotten lost in that sector. Brazil’s federal public prosecutors said in a statement on Monday that they had opened an investigation and that the Federal Police, Amazonas state’s civil police, the national guard and navy had been mobilised.
The navy, which prosecutors described as coordinating the search, said it sent a search-and-rescue team of seven and deployed a helicopter yesterday.