The security forces involved in the search operation for indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira and English journalist Dom Phillips gave their first joint interview today (8) at the headquarters of the Federal Police (PF) regional superintendence in Manaus, to update information about the case.
Bishop Phillips, who is a contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian, and Bruno Pereira, a licensed servant of the National Indian Foundation (Funai), were last seen on Sunday morning (5), in the region of the Vale do Javari indigenous reserve, the second largest in the country, with more than 8, 5 million hectares. They were moving from the riverside community of São Rafael to the city of Atalaia do Norte (AM), when they disappeared without a trace.
“From the first day of the disappearance, we started several incursions with vessels of the security agencies present here”, said the superintendent of the Federal Police in Amazonas, delegate Eduardo Fontes. The crisis management committee includes members of the Federal Police, Navy, Army, Military and Civil Police and the Amazonas Fire Department. The idea is that, starting tomorrow (9), daily updates of the operation will be informed to the press.
According to the delegate, more than 250 security professionals are being employed in the operation, with two aircraft, three drones, 16 vessels and 20 vehicles. The searches will continue on an ongoing basis, with no deadline to end, until a suspension or change of strategy is decided, the security forces said.
Earlier this Wednesday, a decision by the Federal Court of Amazonas forced the federal government to make helicopters available and to intensify the search for the missing. The decision also determined that the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the Federal Public Defender’s Office (DPU) may request support directly from the Federal Police (PF), the Armed Forces and other public security forces.
Bruno Pereira had already denounced that he was being threatened in the region, information confirmed by the PF superintendent, who explained that the complaint had been presented about a month ago, but without any indication of suspects.
“Threat crimes, we need a statement from the victim, representing that she wants the suspect to be investigated, otherwise we cannot act. We have this information. [de que houve ameaças]but [isso] depends on some steps being taken”, he stressed.
In recent times, Bruno Pereira has been working as a collaborator for the Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley (Univaja), an entity maintained by the indigenous people of the region, which is why he was licensed by Funai.
The Javari Valley concentrates 26 indigenous ethnic groups, most with isolated or recent contact. In addition, it is on the border with Peru and is a route for the circulation of international drug trafficking. A region considered dangerous by the authorities.
“It is a region of intense crime, transnational drug trafficking, we know of the occurrence of illegal mining, illegal logging, illegal fishing,” said Fontes.
According to the Secretary of Public Security of Amazonas, General Carlos Alberto Mansur, who also participated in the interview, so far five people have been heard, as witnesses, in addition to a suspect, who is in prison. He was arrested in the act this Tuesday (7) by the Military Police, after an approach for possession of drugs and 762 caliber ammunition, of restricted use. He was also carrying hunting weaponry.
“This suspect, for the time being, has nothing to do with it yet, we have not made the connection with the fact so far”, observed the secretary. The Civil Police did not release the suspect’s name, but media outlets have reported that he was Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, known as Pelado. He was arrested with a vessel. In the case of the witnesses, they are people who live in the community of São Rafael and would have seen the boat that was taking Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips towards Atalaia do Norte.
Still according to the investigators, no line of investigation has been ruled out so far and the focus of the operation is the search and rescue of the two disappeared. “We already have material seized with suspicion of some connection with the fact, but it is still suspicious. Everything is being investigated. For now, our strong work is in the search, we are hoping to find them still alive”, said General Mansur. .