Crime & Justice

Gov’t officials join protests over murders in Brazilian Amazon

Brasilia, Jun 23 (EFE).- Officials with Brazil’s state-run National Indian Foundation (Funai), an agency that works to protect indigenous peoples’ culture and interests, have joined a day of protests over this month’s killings of a British journalist and his indigenist guide in a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon.

Striking Funai officials, activists and representatives of indigenous movements gathered Thursday to demand justice in this capital and other Brazilian cities for Dom Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other leading international newspapers, and Bruno Araujo Pereira, an indigenous affairs expert.

The 24-hour work stoppage at Funai is aimed at pressuring rightist President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to launch a “far-reaching investigation into the chain of criminal activity” in the Amazon and provide protection for indigenous peoples and other rainforest guardians.

A smaller group of people who gathered in Rio de Janeiro paid tribute to the victims with a rendition of the indigenous song “Wahanararai,” which Pereira sang during his last visit to a Ticuna indigenous community in the far-western Brazilian state of Amazonas.

A video of that expert singing in his native language while surrounded by indigenous people went viral this week on social media.

The demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro accused Bolsonaro of being indifferent to the suffering of indigenous communities, saying his permissive rhetoric and lax enforcement policies are responsible for the recent increase in deforestation and illegal mining in the Amazon region.

The “Fora Bolsonaro!” (Bolsonaro Out!) chants heard at demonstrations last year decrying the president’s pandemic response also filled the air during Thursday’s protest in Rio de Janeiro.

The protests took place hours before forensic authorities in Brasilia released the bodies of Phillips and Pereira for burial in Rio de Janeiro and Recife, respectively.

A total of eight people are suspected of involvement in the June 5 murders in Amazonas state, where the men had traveled to conduct research for a book on the threats indigenous people face in that remote region from drug traffickers and illegal miners, fishermen and loggers.

One of the three detainees thus far – illegal fisherman Amarildo da Costa Pereira – confessed to the crime and led authorities to the place where the bodies had been hidden deep in the rainforest for 10 days.

Two other fisherman – Oseney da Costa Pereira, Amarildo’s brother; and Jefferson da Silva Lima – also have been arrested.

Pereira was apparently targeted after he accused the brothers of illegal fishing in Vale do Javari, a more than 85,000 square-kilometer (33,000-square-mile) indigenous territory near Brazil’s border with Colombia and Peru.

The other five suspects are being investigated for allegedly helping to hide the bodies, which had been quartered and set on fire before being buried about three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the river where the men were intercepted and killed. EFE


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