Brazil searches for missing journalist, indigenous expert
(June 8, 2022)
Three days after journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira disappeared in the remote Javari Valley in Brazil’s Amazon, there is growing concern that they were attacked. If there had been a problem with their transportation or equipment, residents say, the men would have been found by now. Western Amazonas state is a lawless region pervaded by violent criminals, reports the Washington Post.
An indigenous source interviewed by Amazônia Real claims that were victims of an ambush in the remote Javari valley area of the Amazon. The witness has been part of a team of 13 indigenous guards who traveled with Phillips and Araújo. The group started a search after the two disappeared on Sunday.
The source interviewed by Amazônia Real , who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear for his life, as he himself has also been receiving threats, said there are local residents who collaborate with criminal groups operating in the territory, which is near the Peruvian border.
Local Indigenous activists said the pair received threats last week for their work in the remote region, which has seen a surge of illegal logging, gold mining, poaching and drug trafficking, reports AFP. Rights groups and the mens’ families pleaded for authorities to accelerate the search operation, yesterday.
Family and Indigenous rights groups have criticized the official search as too slow and too meager. An Indigenous rights group said, that it filed a joint judicial action with the federal public defenders office to request more help, reports the Washington Post.
Brazilian police have opened a criminal probe and interviewed at least four witnesses believed to be among the last to have seen Phillips and Araújo, reports Reuters.
Yesterday Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has often disparaged journalism and has enthusiastically supported extraction projects in the Amazon, appeared to cast blame on the missing men, reports the Washington Post. “Two people in a boat, in a completely wild region like this, is an adventure that isn’t recommendable for one to do,” he said. “Anything could happen — an accident could happen, they could have been executed — anything.”
Bolsonaro at the Summit
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cast doubt on U.S. President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory yesterday, just two days before the two leaders will meet for the first time at the Summit of the Americas. Bolsonaro said in a TV interview that he still harbored suspicions about Biden’s victory and praised former president Donald Trump’s administration, reports Reuters.
Bolsonaro used the opportunity to again raise unsubstantiated doubts regarding the legitimacy of Brazil’s electronic voting system ahead of October’s presidential election. “We don’t want that to happen in Brazil,” he said. (Reuters)
Bolsonaro had threatened to skip this week’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, promising to attend only in exchange for a private meeting with Biden and guarantees the U.S. leader would refrain from criticism over deforestation in the Amazon or warnings about his questioning of the Brazilian electoral system’s reliability, reports the Associated Press. (See May 26’s post.)
For Bolsonaro the encounter is a way to bolster his diplomatic credentials ahead of the elections, a response to criticisms that his anti-environmental policies have left Brazil isolated on the global stage, reports the Financial Times.
Brazilian activists and a group of international organizations protested Bolsonaro’s presence in Los Angeles yesterday with LED screens circulating on a truck, with messages that included “Don’t trust Bolsonaro” and “Bolsonaro loves Trump.” (Folha de S. Paulo)
Summit of the Americas
U.S. President Joe Biden will officially inaugurate the Summit of the Americas today, though events have been ongoing since Monday. However, his agenda on trade and migration has overshadowed by diplomatic sparring between countries in the region. Experts doubt the summit will lead to relevant breakthroughs, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday’s post.)
Yesterday U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the launch of a $50-million Central American Service Corps, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to create paid community service jobs for young people. (Los Angeles Times)
She also announced several other funding initiatives, including nearly $2 billion in new private investment in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. And a women’s empowerment program to connect 1.4 million women to the financial system and digital economy, and a program to train 500,000 women and girls in job skills. (Los Angeles Times)
Mexican President Andrés López Obrador accused three U.S. senators —Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bob Menendez — of wielding power to continue the United States' embargo on Cuba. (Reuters)
Mexican doctors and other health care workers are increasingly being ensnared in violence as criminal organizations across the country seize more territory. The situation has created a severe doctor shortage in parts of Mexico where the dangers are most pronounced, reports the New York Times.
Polling for the second round of Colombia’s presidential race shows a technical tie between Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández. Support for Hernández is dropping among former Fajardo and Fico supporters, notes the Latin America Risk Report.
A Guatemalan judge ordered the trial of Virginia Laparra, the former number-two attorney in the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI), accused of false testimony and abuse of authority for reporting a judge five years ago on suspicions that he leaked sealed case information to a colleague, reports El Faro English.
It’s the latest in an ongoing persecution of independent judges and prosecutors in Guatemala that already pushed two-dozen anti-corruption operators into exile. Likely upcoming targets include the human rights ombudsman and three of the country’s most influential judges, reports El Faro.
Italian oil company Eni SpA and Spain's Repsol SA could begin shipping Venezuelan oil to Europe as soon as next month to make up for Russian crude, resuming oil-for-debt swaps halted two years ago due to U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. (Reuters)
The Bank of Jamaica is preparing to issue a nationwide digital currency following recent approval from legislators, reports the Associated Press.