RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A year after the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira deep in the Amazon rainforest, friends, relatives and admirers gathered on Monday to call for justice and protection of indigenous lands.
Phillips and Pereira vanished on June 5, 2022 on a trip to the remote Javari Valley near the border with Peru. Days later, a fisherman who had confronted indigenous patrols in the area confessed to killing them.
“This rally reaffirms our commitment to preserving Dom’s purpose. We cannot let that be forgotten,” Phillips’ brother-in-law Alessandro Sampaio told reporters at the event on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Police have said the alleged leader of a local gang planned the murders because Pereira posed a threat to its illegal fishing operation.
More demonstrations were planned later on Monday in Brasilia and other cities to pay tribute and encourage Brazilians to preserve their legacy.
The tributes came as a group of journalists aimed to complete a book about saving the Amazon that Phillips, a freelancer who wrote for the Guardian, the Washington Post and other media, was working on when he was killed at age 57.
Brazilian officials, meanwhile, promised to uphold Phillips’ and Pereira’s legacies, with Indigenous Affairs Minister Sonia Guajajara saying President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government was “united in defense of nature and the rights of Indigenous Peoples”.
“The fight continues,” Lula’s Press Minister Paulo Pimenta tweeted, adding the president would announce new measures to protect the environment later in the day. “We will not forget the legacy they left us.”
Some are calling on the government to do more to protect the Javari Valley, where drug runners and illegal poachers threaten the most isolated Indigenous groups in Brazil’s Amazon.
“Nothing has changed there. The factors that caused that sad moment are still there,” said indigenous leader Beto Marubo, a friend of Pereira, a former official of government agency Funai who was 41 when killed.
“The government has done absolutely nothing,” Marubo told Reuters.
Last month, federal police recommended misconduct charges be filed against the former head of the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai at the time, Marcelo Xavier, for failing to act on information ahead of the murders of Phillips and Pereira.
(Reporting by Pilar Olivares; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Angus MacSwan)