One year after the murder of a Funai official and a British journalist, leaders heard by DW say that, despite the repercussions of the case, nothing has changed in Vale do Javari, which continues to be dominated by insecurity and crime. then a licensed employee of the Indigenous Peoples Foundation (Funai), and of Dom Phillips, a British journalist, the indigenous people who helped to locate the bodies returned to the crime scene this Monday (05/06), in the Indigenous Land (TI) Vale do Javari, Amazonas.
On the banks of the Itacoaí River, between the communities of São Rafael and São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the municipality of Atalaia do Norte, a cross will be planted where Bruno and Dom were shot with a hunting weapon. The bodies would later be quartered and burned, and located after eleven days of searches.
Bushe Matis, coordinator of the União dos Povos do Vale do Javari (Univaja), says that the critical situation of threats and violence, denounced so many times in life by Bruno, remains. “Nothing has changed. We have no security”, he summarizes to DW. “After Bruno and Dom’s death, there was all that repercussion, but we’re still the same”, he says.
A similar assessment is made by Beto Marubo, leader of the region. “People feel powerless. We still haven’t seen any improvement in the protection of indigenous peoples and the forest in the Javari Valley, the cause for which Bruno fought and died,” comments Beto.
“We don’t see the police wanting to go into the forest to catch the invaders. They also don’t call the indigenous people to help with that. More and more, we are seeing forests cut down”, details to DW an indigenous leader who, due to threats, asked not to have his name identified in this report.
Bruno: friend and mentor
Eliésio Marubo, Univaja’s lawyer, will participate in the tributes in Brasilia. In the federal capital, closer to the authorities, he says he makes a great effort so that the indigenous people of the Javari Valley are heard. “Just like when Bruno and Dom died, when the indigenous people gathered information and passed it on to the authorities and nothing happened, the same thing is happening now”, Eliésio tells DW.
It was with Bruno’s help that the leaders of Vale do Javari improved the way in which they reported illegalities committed by invaders. To identify the points most exposed to crime in the vast area of the Amazon rainforest that borders Peru and Colombia, they specialized in cartographic reading, mastery of technology such as GPS and drones, and image editing.
“Bruno helped make our lifts more technical. In addition to being someone we trusted a lot, he gave us the conditions to work better. He was very important to us”, says Eliésio.
Bushe recalls that, many times, complaints about invasion, theft of wood, illegal hunting and fishing were not even analyzed by public agencies. “Most of the time, when we took a document, we heard the answer: ‘There is no location, there is no material. You can’t do anything’. But now we make a document with the location, photo, image of the invaders, be it camp or vessel, even with the name of the person, a complete material”, points out the president of Univaja.
“Crime was not intimidated”
It was the gathering of qualified information about illegal activities on the IL carried out by the indigenous people, Bruno and Dom, in their journalistic work, that motivated the murderers.
The complaint presented by the Federal Public Ministry, accepted by the Justice, turned into defendants Amarildo da Costa Oliveira (known as “Pelado”), Oseney da Costa de Oliveira (“Dos Santos”) and Jefferson da Silva Lima (“Pelado da Dinha”) for double qualified homicide and concealment of a corpse, who are under arrest.
The illegal fishing carried out by Amarildo in the Indigenous Land was well known. Bruno’s request to Dom during the expedition through the region they were making together to take pictures of the accused’s boat would be behind the ambush.
“People who invade the territory are linked to groups that operate in the region and commit various illegalities. Although several accused have been arrested, they have families that continue the activities. And organized crime continues to finance all of this”, emphasizes Eliésio.
In the last twelve months, although the spotlight has turned to the Javari Valley, the invaders have not been intimidated. “Our rivers are routes for traffickers and smugglers. The invasions did not stop. Against this criminality, a joint action by the State is necessary, acting in isolation is palliative, ineffective. Some Army and Federal Police operations took place in isolation, which is irrelevant given the problems to be faced”, criticizes Beto Marubo.
In 2019, Maxciel dos Santos Pereira, a Funai employee, was murdered after receiving several threats for combating mining, logging and illegal fishing. The case remains unpunished to this day.
The surveillance of the territory carried out by the indigenous people themselves, despite the insecurity, did not stop. It’s been a while since the latest Univaja complaint reached the authorities. “We sent the last complaint less than a month ago. We take wood that is cut within the territory”, comments Orlando Possuelo, indigenist and technical advisor of the entity.
Possuelo was one of the founders, alongside Bruno, of the Univaja Surveillance Team (EVU) at the end of 2021. They trained the members, warriors nominated by the different villages and peoples who live in the TI – Mayuruna/Matsés, Matis, Marubo , Kulina Pano, Kanamari, a recently contacted Korubo group, a Tsohom Dyapá group in the same condition, as well as indigenous people who chose to live in isolation.
The main objective was to protect the territory during the declared abandonment in the years of the Jair Bolsonaro government (2019-2022). The activity, however, is part of the traditional wandering through the lands, but it was systematized and organized to collect information. “The State always says that this is not our role. But when will they do? Where is the resource? Where are the teams so they can carry out these actions?”, asks Bushe Matis.
For Eliésio Morubo, the authorities, in general, do not want to discuss this matter. “But we want to because it is our right to discuss, to help think about the region, the actions. We need to look for ways for the government to listen to us. We have been seeking dialogue since last June”, he says, also criticizing the Lula government.
Questioned, Funai did not respond to DW until the closing of this report.
waiting for the state
Beto Marubo is disappointed. The expectations of change created last February, when an official delegation led by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited the region, were frustrated. “We indigenous people declared that the Brazilian State had returned to the Javari Valley. They were good speeches, an unprecedented situation, but, in practice, nothing is happening. Indigenous peoples are still in a situation of vulnerability in the face of the growing threat, including the isolated ones”, he justifies.
Of concrete actions since then, adds Beto, the Federal Police has provided a ferry with a reasonable number of agents. “But she still isn’t in Atalaia do Norte”, he laments.
The urgency of the situation experienced by the indigenous people, defends Eliésio Marubo, is not only due to the increase in invasions and the action of organized crime. “It is also about the need to create public policies for those who live around the Indigenous Land. They need to be dealt with by the authorities so that they have alternatives and crime is no longer so prevalent. They need work, they need to develop their communities, and this is not the exclusive role of public security.”
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