Dom Phillips, 57, and Bruno Pereira, 41, were last seen on Sunday June 5 as they took a boat on an expedition to the Javari region, a hard-to-reach area of west of the Amazon, close to Peru and deemed dangerous due to the presence of all kinds of traffic.
On Monday morning, several members of the journalist’s family said they had been informed that two bodies had been found, information however denied by the Federal Police and by an association of natives who are taking part in the search.
“The research is continuing. But everything suggests that they have been harmed, human viscera were found floating on the river and brought to Brasilia to identify the DNA”, revealed the Brazilian president during a CBN radio interview.
“Given the time that has passed, already eight days, it will be very difficult to find them alive. I pray to God that this is the case, but the information we have makes us fear the opposite,” added Mr. Bolsonaro.
– Death threats –
At the same time, a lot of contradictory information was circulating around the bodies that would have been found during the search.
“We are awaiting confirmation from the Federal Police to find out whether or not it is Dom and Bruno. We remain anxious in the meantime,” Dominique Davies, Dom Phillips’ niece, told AFP on Monday morning.
The journalist’s wife made similar comments to TV Globo, saying she had been informed by the Brazilian Embassy in the United Kingdom.
But this information was categorically denied by the Federal Police, which only confirmed that “biological material” and personal effects of the two missing persons found on Sunday were being analyzed.
“The Federal Police, who are required to inform the families first (…) confirmed to us that no body had been found. We should know where the ambassador got this information,” tweeted Beatriz Matos, wife of Bruno Pereira, in the afternoon.
The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), which is also carrying out incessant searches, has also denied that any bodies have been found.
Dozens of indigenous people demonstrated on Monday demanding answers from authorities in Atalaia do Norte, the small town where Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were supposed to go on June 5.
Author of dozens of articles on threats to the environment and indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the journalist, longtime contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian, was preparing a book on the subject.
He was guided during this expedition by Bruno Pereira, father of three children, who worked for many years at Funai, the organization responsible for indigenous affairs in Brazil.
This recognized specialist was in particular in contact with isolated peoples of the Javari Valley, an immense indigenous territory under the pressure of drug traffickers, fishermen, loggers and illegal gold diggers.
His action in defense of the natives has earned him regular threats, including death, from these criminal groups.
President Bolsonaro, who has seen deforestation in the Amazon increase sharply since the start of his term in January 2019, has been criticized by relatives of the disappeared and indigenous groups for his delay in deploying the search for the two missing, hired according to him in a “not recommendable adventure”.
The Irish rock group U2 joined a protest movement of many celebrities on Monday, after the living legend of football Pelé or the singer Caetano Veloso.
“We are waiting to hear what happened to these two brave men,” bassist Adam Clayton wrote on the band’s Twitter account.
A 41-year-old man, described as a “suspect”, was taken into custody and traces of blood on his boat were also being analyzed.
Witnesses said they saw him pass at high speed on board a boat going in the same direction as the boat of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira.