Friend of Bruno Pereira, indigenist assumes surveillance against invaders in Javari

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Unijava (União dos Povos Indígenas do Vale do Javari) will resume the work of indigenous surveillance teams and chose indigenist Carlos Travassos to assume the actions that Bruno Pereira was developing with local populations in part of the Amazon.

The indigenist and British journalist Dom Phillips, who was traveling through the region to write a book, were murdered in Vale do Javari in June this year. Bruno and the region’s indigenous people were tracking crimes in progress on the valley’s protected lands and had received death threats.

Three men became defendants on charges of double murder and concealment of bodies. They are: Amarildo Oliveira, the Pelado; Jefferson da Silva Lima, the Pelado da Dinha; and Oseney de Oliveira, known as Dos Santos. There are even more suspects involved in the crime.

Ruben Villar, known as Colombia, is under investigation for allegedly funding an armed criminal association that would engage in illegal fishing in the Javari Valley. The Federal Police have already pointed out that he is suspected of being involved in the deaths of Bruno and Dom.

Colombia was arrested after spontaneously presenting himself to the PF with false documents to claim that he had nothing to do with crime and drug trafficking. After posting a R$15,000 bail, he was released this week and will wear an electronic anklet.

Travassos, who knew Bruno and exchanged information with him on indigenous issues, says he wants to carry on his friend’s legacy in Vale do Javari.

“It’s important that we honor his work by continuing,” says Travassos.

The indigenist who will provide technical advice to Unijava worked for nine years at Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio) and was once part of the Vale do Javari Ethnoenvironmental Protection Front, an arm that helps in locating and protecting isolated indigenous populations.

Therefore, he has experience with isolated and recent contact indigenous people, something important in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land, the second largest in Brazil and considered the place with the highest concentration of these groups in the world.

In recent years, Travassos has been responsible for providing technical assistance to the Guardians of the Forest of the Guajajara people of the Arariboia Indigenous Land, in Maranhão. Guardians are indigenous groups known for their dedication to the surveillance and protection of their lands, and eventually even trying to arrest invaders—basically, the self-defense of the territory. The indigenist helped, among other things, in the training of guardians and planning of actions.

At Javari, Travassos will play a similar role in helping to protect the territory and manage information about invaders in the protected area.

“Both realities are very dangerous. You have a difficulty for public security institutions to act within indigenous lands”, he tells Sheet mischievous “In terms of violence, it’s quite complicated.”

The indigenist recalls the five guardians murdered in Maranhão since 2015, among them Paulo Paulino Guajajara, in 2019, and the deaths in Javari of Funai collaborator Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, of the Vale do Javari Ethnoenvironmental Protection Front, in 2019, and of Bruno Pereira.

Despite the violence common to both, the locations have considerably different situations, according to the indigenist.

In the case of the indigenous land where he worked in Maranhão, Travassos points out that the area is “surrounded” by numerous invasions from all sides and that this already leads to very strong environmental and sociocultural impacts.

“Let’s say that it would be the portrait of Javari in I don’t know how many years. But I hope not”, he says.

Among the complexities in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land are the proximity to the triple border with Peru and Colombia, the presence of drug trafficking and a much greater difficulty in reaching the points of invasion, compared to the reality experienced by Travassos in Maranhão.

Considering the violence in the Javari region, the indigenist points out that, for security reasons, there is constant contact with the authorities and care during displacements. In addition, Travassos is always in the company of other people.

Even with the problems and the heavy crime perpetrated in Javari against Bruno and Dom, the authorities’ attention to the place is fleeting, says Travassos. “The risk of losing control, the relative control of the territory is very high,” he says.

Despite this, the recent murders and the current situation may eventually lead to, in fact, a greater state presence and, in addition, the strengthening of indigenous institutions.

“More young people appear, more warriors who want to participate in protecting the indigenous land”, says Travassos, who says that the criminals’ attempt to prevail in the region after Bruno’s death will not be successful. “If they think they’re going to weaken us, we’re going to get stronger.”

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