Rio de Janeiro, Jun 8 (EFE).- Brazilian authorities have arrested a suspect in the disappearances of a British journalist and a local indigenous affairs expert in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest, officials said Wednesday.
Dom Phillips, a veteran reporter for London-based daily The Guardian who is writing a book on conservation efforts in the Amazon, and Brazilian expert Bruno Araujo Pereira went missing Sunday morning in Valle do Javari, an indigenous territory in the western part of Amazonas state, near the border with Peru and Colombia.
The two men had traveled there to investigate threats against indigenous people.
The suspect, identified as Amauri, is suspected of issuing threats to indigenous people who inhabit the region and are defenders of the Amazon, according to the Civil Police of Amazonas state, an investigative state law-enforcement agency.
Amauri was detained Tuesday night in Sao Rafael, his home community and also a base for wildcat miners, poachers, illegal fishermen and drug traffickers who operate in Vale do Javari.
He was the fifth man questioned thus far by the Civil Police in connection with the disappearances and the first to be treated as a suspect.
His arrest comes as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration is under pressure at home and abroad to do more to find the missing men.
Although Bolsonaro said in a television interview that he hopes Phillips and Pereira are found alive, he said they had embarked on an ill-advised “adventure” in an inhospitable region where criminal gangs operate and may even have been “executed.”
The two men were seen setting off by boat from Sao Rafael for a two-hour trip to the city of Atalaia do Norte, but they did not arrive at their destination.
People close to Araujo, who has worked for several years in that region and had been the target of various threats from gangs of illegal miners and loggers and even drug traffickers, had feared his life was at risk.
Among those calling for more decisive action by Bolsonaro’s administration is the United States’ special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry.
“We will follow up with you,” Kerry said Tuesday during a meeting in New York with Brazilian indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara after she informed him about the missing men.
Guajajara, who was being honored in the Big Apple as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most-influential people, said during the ceremony that Brazilian authorities’ search for the men was extremely slow and lamented the lack of security for indigenous people and their supporters in remote areas of Brazil.
She also urged US President Joe Biden to take up the matter with Bolsonaro during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. EFE