One year after the murder of British journalist Dom Philips and Brazilian indigenous activist Bruno Pereira, things have hardly changed in the Yavarí Valley, the corner of the Amazon where they lost their lives at the hands of poachers. This area of the Brazilian jungle, known as a “valley” but the size of Panama, is the region in the world where the largest number of uncontacted indigenous communities live. It is also a slipway for drug trafficking and organized crime, a lawless land. Activists in the area and relatives of the victims regret that things have barely changed since the terrible crime
On Monday, at a memorial service for Philips and Pereira, family and friends gathered on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach to remember them. Visibly moved, the journalist’s widow, Alessandra Sampaio, called for forceful actions so that the State is more present in that remote region on the border with Peru, where threats to indigenous people who defend their territory from invaders continue to be daily. “If this case that went around the world has not changed anything in the Yavari, when will it change? I speak from an uncomfortable position because I lost the love of my life, I didn’t want to be here, I wanted to be in my simple life that I had with Dom, we wanted to grow old together. They stole it from me, from his family, from his friends due to greed, due to the lack of intentional control by the previous government, ”she criticized. Sampaio, now forced to become an activist, is preparing the creation of the Dom Philips Institute, to disseminate actions for the preservation of the Amazon.
At his side, Beto Marubo, the president of the Univaja association, which brings together the indigenous peoples of the valley, confirmed his frustration. “Absolutely nothing changed. The Brazilian government owes an explanation to the world of what measures it is going to take from now on. We do not have a concrete response from the authorities, ”he lamented. Last April, men armed with rifles invaded a village of the Kanamari ethnic group and threatened the chief, shortly after the Federal Police confiscated illegally extracted wood from that indigenous territory. In November of last year, the Kanamari had already denounced that illegal fishermen operating in the Yavarí threatened to exterminate the indigenous leaders of the area. A fisherman even pointed a gun at the chest of an indigenous woman, citing the murder of Philips and Pereira as a warning.
Marubo, who has been threatened with death for years, affirms that in the transition between the Government of Jair Bolsonaro and the new Administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at the end of last year, they already presented the urgent measures that would have to be implemented, such as reinforcing the powers of the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples, Funai, the state body that cares for native populations, so that its officials have “police power” and can confront armed people. He criticizes that until now there have only been palliative and isolated measures, patches that do not attack the root of the problem.
Last week, the Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara, ordered the creation of a working group to find solutions to the lack of security and the increase in crime in the area. However, the anniversary of the death comes after a week of bad news for the indigenous and environmental cause that goes in the opposite direction to what the relatives of Philips and Pereira and the Yavarí activists are demanding. The Chamber of Deputies, with a conservative majority, withdrew powers from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and the Ministry of the Environment and approved the “temporary framework” bill, which, if it goes ahead definitively in the Senate, could greatly hinder recognition law of new indigenous lands.
Meanwhile, one year after the murder, none of the defendants (Amarildo da Costa, Oseney da Costa and Jefferson da Silva) have been convicted, who are imprisoned in federal prisons. The first hearings should have been held at the end of January, but they were canceled due to technical problems, and since then their lawyers have managed to delay their interrogations. According to information obtained by the Globo chain, last week the courts charged two other people: Ruben Villar, nicknamed Colombia and alleged orderer of the murder, and another illegal fisherman, Jânio Freitas. According to the police, in a year the defendants made more than 400 telephone calls, including the day of the crime, moments before and after the execution. Those conversations would be the strongest proof that it was a premeditated crime.
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