Brasilia, Jun 15 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday that a British journalist who went missing along with an indigenous expert in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest earlier this month had made enemies in that region due to his work as a reporter.
“That Englishman had a bad reputation in that region because he did a lot of reporting against the ‘garimpeiros’ (illegal miners) and on the environmental issue,” the rightist head of state said in an interview with journalist Leda Nagle on her YouTube channel.
Dom Phillips, a longtime contributor to British daily The Guardian and other media outlets, and indigenous guide Bruno Araujo Pereira went missing on June 5 in a remote area of the Brazilian Amazon near the border with Peru and Colombia.
Search teams thus far have found some of the men’s personal belongings, while authorities fear they may have been killed by mafias of illegal fishermen and miners who operate in that region and previously had issued threats to Araujo Pereira.
Bolsonaro on Wednesday reiterated that both men were aware of the risk involved in traveling there and had made an imprudent decision.
“They decided to go into a totally inhospitable area alone, with no security. And then the problem happened,” Bolsonaro said, adding that “a lot of people didn’t like them in that region” so “they should have been doubly careful.”
“It’s really reckless to travel in that region without being properly prepared physically and mentally, (not) having duly authorized weapons,” the president said, noting that “river pirates” also are active in that region.
The disappearance of the two men has sparked fears among environmental groups and even international entities like the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has urged the Brazilian government to step up its search efforts.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said his government is “deeply concerned” about the fate of the two men and has offered to assist Brazil in its investigation.
Brazilian authorities thus far have arrested two people suspected of following Phillips and Araujo Pereira along a river near the Javari valley, where the two were last seen.
Bolsonaro on Monday confirmed that “human remains” were found in the area of the Amazon where the journalist and his indigenous guide disappeared.
The president said there are “indications” that illegal groups operating in Amazonas state committed “evil” acts against Phillips and Araujo Pereira.
“The indications lead one to believe that (the illegal groups) committed some evil deed against them. Human remains were found floating in the river and they have already been sent to Brasilia for DNA testing,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Radio CBN Recife, part of the Globo news network. EFE