The belongings of a missing man found tied underwater in the Amazon


Atarai Adnorte, Brazil — The search for indigenous experts and journalists who disappeared in the Amazon rest area a week ago proceeded with the discovery of men’s backpacks, laptops, and other personal belongings that sank in the river. rice field.

The item was discovered Sunday afternoon and was taken by federal police officers by boat to the city closest to the search, Atalaia de Norte. In a statement on Sunday night, police said they had identified the item as belonging to both the missing men, including a health card and the clothes of Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.

Firefighters told reporters at Ataraia de Norte that a backpack identified as owned by freelance journalist Dom Phillips of the United Kingdom was found tied to a half-submerged tree. Told. At the end of the rainy season in the area, part of the forest is flooded.

Development began the day after police reported finding traces of blood on a fisherman’s boat arrested as the only suspect in disappearance. Officers also found organic matter of apparent human origin in the river. The material has been analyzed.

The search team, which found laptops and other items on Sunday, focused on the spot on the Itacai River where a tarpaulin for a boat used by a missing man was found by volunteers from the Mathis Indigenous Group on Saturday.

“We used a small canoe to go to the shallows. After that, we found tarpaulins, shorts and spoons,” one volunteer, Binin Beshu Matis, told The Associated Press.

Peru (41) and Phillips (57) were last seen on June 5 near the entrance to the indigenous territory of the Javanese Valley, which borders Peru and Colombia. They returned alone to Ataraia de Norte by boat in Itacai, but did not arrive.

There are fierce conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agencies in the area. Itaquai is not a known drug trafficking route, but violence is widespread as drug trafficking gangs struggle to manage waterways to ship cocaine.

Authorities point out that a major line of police investigation into disappearances points to an international network that pays poor fishermen to illegally fish in the Jabari Valley Reserve, Brazil’s second-largest indigenous territory. Stated.

One of the most valuable targets is Arapima, the world’s largest freshwater fish with scales. It weighs up to 440 pounds and can reach 10 feet. Fish are sold in neighboring cities such as Leticia, Colombia, Tabatinga, Brazil, Iquitos and Peru.

The only suspect in disappearance is the fisherman Amarido da Costa de Oliveira, also known as Perado, who has been arrested. He swung a rifle at them the day before the pair disappeared, according to reports of indigenous people who were with Pereira and Phillips.

The suspect denied cheating and tortured him to attempt a confession by the gendarmerie, his family told The Associated Press.

Pereira, formerly heading the local bureau of the Brazilian government’s indigenous peoples known as FUNAI, participated in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, as a rule, fishing gear is seized or destroyed, fishermen are fined and temporarily detained. Only indigenous peoples can legally fish on their territory.

“The motive for the crime is a personal feud over fisheries inspections,” Mayor Atalaia de Norte, Dennis Paiba, speculated to reporters without providing details.

APs had access to information police to share with indigenous leaders. However, while some police, mayors, and others in the area have linked the disappearance of the pair to a “fish mafia,” federal police have not ruled out other investigations, such as drug trafficking.

Federal Government of Brazil
Federal police officers arrive at the pier on June 12, 2022, with items found during a search for indigenous experts Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips in Atarai Adnorte, Amazonas, Brazil. increase. (EdmarBarros / AP Photo)

Laurimar Alves Lopes, a fisherman on the banks of Itaquai, told AP that he had given up fishing in indigenous territory after being detained three times. He said he had endured beatings and hunger in prison.

Lopez, who has five children, said he would only fish near his house to feed his family and not sell.

“I made a lot of mistakes, I stole a lot of fish. When you see your child dead hungry, you get it where you have to So I went there to steal fish to feed my family, but then I said: I’m going to put an end to this, I’m going to plant, “he said. Said during an interview on his boat.

Lopez accused him of being taken to the local federal police headquarters in Tabatinga three times and beaten and left without food.

In 2019, FUNAI’s official Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was shot at Tabatinga in front of his wife and daughter-in-law. Three years later, the crime remains unresolved. His FUNAI colleague told AP that they believed the killings were related to his work against fishermen and poachers.

Rubber tappers have established all the riverbank communities in the area. However, in the 1980s, rubber tapping decreased and relied on logging. It also ended in 2001 when the federal government created the territory of the Javanese Valley indigenous people. Since then, fishing has become a major economic activity.

Illegal fishing trips to the vast Javanese Valley last for about a month, said Manoel Felipe, a local historian and council teacher. Fishermen can earn at least $ 3,000 for each illegal invasion.

“Fishermen are funded by Colombians,” Felipe said. “In Leticia, everyone was angry with Bruno. This isn’t a small game. They could have sent shooters to kill him.”

By Fabiano Maisonnave

Associated Press