Brazil prosecutor-general urges more security in Vale do Javari region

The goal is to protect indigenous people and officials in the Amazon

Published in 23/06/2022 - 14:58 By Alex Rodrigues - Brasília

Officials from the office of Brazil’s prosecutor-general sent a letter to the country’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Justice and Public Safety to the director-general of the Federal Police and the government of the northern state of Amazonas requesting a larger number of security agents in the towns of Atalaia do Norte and Tabatinga.

Ordered by Brazil’s Prosecutor-General Augusto Aras, the move aims to ensure the safety of indigenous people and residents in Vale do Javari, as well as public officials working in the area. Located near the Brazilian border with Peru and Colombia, the region is home to the Vale do Javari indigenous reserve—the country’s second largest, with over 8.5 million hectares—and to the largest number of uncontacted and recently contacted indigenous peoples in the world.

Bruno Pereira, on a leave from his post as official with Brazil’s national indigenous foundation FUNAI, and British journalist Dom Phillips were ambushed and killed while traveling by boat in the region. They disappeared on June 5 while on their way from the riverside community of São Rafael to the town of Atalaia do Norte, where they were to meet with indigenous and riverside community leaders. Pereira and Phillips’s bodies were not rescued until ten days later. They were buried in a densely wooded area, some three kilometers from the Itacoaí river.

Aras traveled to Tabatinga last Sunday (Jun 19). In the town, the attorney-general met with prosecutors and indigenous representatives as well as state and federal authorities tasked with investigating the murders. On the occasion, Aras argued for probes to continue, in a bid to assess possible connections between those involved and criminal organizations operating in the Amazon.

The meetings are said to have resulted in Aras’s decision to send official letters to Justice Minister Anderson Torres, Defense Minister Paulo Sérgio Nogueira, Amazonas Governor Wilson Lima, and Federal Police Director-General Márcio Nunes de Oliveira. In them, Aras underscores the “need for urgent plans against crime in the region.” The prosecutor asks the authorities to have the security bodies under their command step up forces in Vale do Javari. Aras also asks the Federal Police to prioritize the mobilization of agents recently approved through public service examinations.

Letters were also forwarded to Minister of Communications Fábio Faria and to FUNAI president Marcelo Xavier. Aras requests Xavier to schedule a meeting later this week in Brasília to discuss “plans the institution is tasked with” implementing in the region. These, according to reports he collected during his trip to Tabatinga, “have not been carried out adequately,” he claimed. In a note released Tuesday (21), the Aras’s office says that, in addition to the lack of personnel, accounts mention the officials stationed at agency headquarters lack protective equipment and the necessary support from security forces.

The purpose of the letter to the Ministry of Communications is to request action to improve local internet and telecom services. “The precariousness of these services, essential as they are today, undermines surveillance, investigations, and communication, not to mention efforts to prevent new crimes,” the note reads.

Shortly before disclosing the requests for measures, Aras had met with the Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux. The two talked about joint action by Prosecution Service Council (CNMP) as well as the National Justice Council (CNJ) councils, chaired by the attorney-general and Justice Fux respectively. Such initiatives are said to aim to “expand efforts of repression and prevention of organized crime in the Amazon.”

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Nádia Franco

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