Just over a month after British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered on the outskirts of the Vale do Javari indigenous reserve, armed gold miners threatened employees of the Brazilian Indigenous Foundation (Funai) operating in the same area.
According to local indigenous rights group Univaja, two armed men confronted staff at one of Funai’s floating surveillance bases on Friday, located at the entrance to the protected Vale do Javari indigenous land. “The men asked how many employees (among them, Matis indigenous people) were working at the base, with the clear intention of harassing the employees,” Univaja said, in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Univaja’s primary fear was that the floating base in question is anchored close to the whereabouts of so-called “isolated” indigenous communities, who choose to live without contact from the outside world. The Vale do Javari is believed to be home to the world’s largest concentration of isolated and uncontacted communities.
In recent years, with the weakening of environmental controls and enforcement, the Vale do Javari has been plagued by criminal activities such as illegal mining, poaching, and drug trafficking.
Between February and March, Funai found 19 illegal gold-mining barges on the Jandiatuba River. They reported the location of these structures to the authorities and said they were manned by armed individuals.
In its statement, Univaja asked the federal government to create an emergency protection plan for the Vale do Javari and reinforce the protection of Funai’s bases. The organization also calls for police surveillance on the Itaquaí River, where Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were murdered at the start of June.