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Team of Writers Unite to Complete Dom Phillips’ Amazon Book

Friends and colleagues of the late British journalist Dom Phillips have joined forces to preserve his legacy and complete the book he was working on before his tragic murder in the Brazilian Amazon forest. Phillips and his Brazilian companion, Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, were killed while investigating criminal activities in the remote Javari valley, nestled along Brazil’s border with Peru and Colombia. Now, a group of dedicated writers from Brazil, the US, and the UK are determined to ensure that Phillips’ important work documenting the stories of Amazon defenders lives on.

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Completing this book is a testament to his unwavering dedication to journalism and his mission to save the Amazon forest. His tragic death not only amplifies the urgency of his work but also highlights the importance of defending the rainforest and its Indigenous communities. By finishing the book, the team hopes that the world stays informed and inspired to protect this vital ecosystem.

The Significance of the Unfinished Amazon Book

Dom Phillips had been working on a book titled “How to Save the Amazon: Ask the People Who Know”. It is a character-driven and extensively researched account aimed at informing and mobilizing readers about the critical state of the Amazon. At a time when the fate of the Amazon is at the forefront of Brazil’s political landscape, getting this book out there is more important than ever. It sheds light on the battles being fought within the country and the threats posed to the rainforest and its Indigenous inhabitants.

Javari valley is inhabited by the Marubo people and six other contacted Indigenous groups, as well as 16 isolated tribes. Throughout history, the valley has been subjected to the arrival of outsiders seeking to exploit its natural resources, leading to conflicts and misfortune. Currently, criminal activities in the region include illegal commercial fishing, hunting, logging, and gold mining operations. These activities are carried out by organized crime networks that smuggle drugs across the deadly borders of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.

The extraction of large amounts of game meat and fish each week contributes to food scarcity among the Indigenous communities. These criminal operations threaten the delicate balance of the ecosystem and the traditional way of life that the Indigenous peoples have sustained for centuries.

The Killings of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

The murders of Bruno and Dom on June 5, 2022, in the Javari valley appear to be connected to these organized crime networks. Bruno was working with the valley’s Indigenous association, Univaja, to protect the territory and its peoples. He had invited Dom to witness the situation and bring international attention to the issue.

The murders were the consequences of non-environmental friendly policies pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been criticized for lawlessness and violence in the region. According to reports, 3 men have been charged with the murder of Dom and Bruno. The suspects were fishing illegally and allegedly shot the pair when Bruno asked Dom to take a picture of their boat. Critics of Bolsonaro’s government say that he has cut resources from indigenous and environmental agencies and “surrendered the Amazon to crooks”.

The tragedy was followed by a global outcry and influential leaders from all over the world demanded swift action from the government. However, in the subsequent elections, Bolsonaro lost and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected as the new president, and Univaja, representing several Indigenous peoples in the Javari valley, was invited to be part of his transition team. Practical proposals were made to reclaim the Javari from the criminals.

Brazil Owes Dom and Bruno

While a federal police team was sent to the region, it lacked the necessary resources to effectively operate in such a challenging area. Indigenous leaders are calling for comprehensive and coordinated action involving environmental agencies like Ibama, as well as the army, navy, and other security forces. They emphasize the need for tangible actions to reclaim the Javari from the criminals, rather than just good intentions.

However, the threats persist and indigenous leaders, journalists, and experts still require security forces to travel with them due to credible death threats. The remote nature of the Javari valley and the lack of attention from the Brazilian government add to the challenges faced by those fighting against criminal activities and striving to preserve the region’s unique ecosystem and cultural heritage. The deaths of Bruno and Dom have become part of the oral history of the Javari valley, with a concern that Brazil may forget or betray their legacy.

Who are the Suspects?

Such concerns were amplified when a prominent news program in Brazil gave a platform to the main murder suspect, Ruben Villar. He made unfounded allegations against Bruno during a court hearing and claimed that Bruno shot first. Such actions contribute to the climate of impunity and hinder justice for the victims.

According to reports, Villar is a Colombian national and operates an illicit fishing operation in the Javari Valley. The second suspect, Janio Freitas de Souza, is believed to have played a role within Villar’s criminal organization and is also in police custody. Third suspect Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira is an illegal fisherman who subsequently confessed to the killings of Dom and Bruno. He shares the cell with Villar.

The Team of Dedicated Writers

The team of experienced Amazon writers includes global environment writer for the Guardian and co-founder of the Amazon-based news site Sumaúma, Jonathan Watts, along with Eliane Brum, Tom Phillips, Jon Lee Anderson, Katia Brasil, and Andrew Fishman. They will retrace Dom Phillips’ steps, using his partially completed manuscript, extensive notes, and research to write the remaining chapters of the book.

Dom Phillips’ untimely death occurred while he was bravely documenting the struggles of Amazon defenders who risk their lives to protect the region. Leaving his book unfinished would mean conceding victory to those responsible for destroying the Amazon, which goes against everything Dom stood for as a journalist. By completing the book, the team aims to honor his legacy and continue the fight for environmental conservation.

The writers have reportedly secured initial funding for the project and has joined forces with Dom Phillips’ family to raise an additional 16,000 USD. This funding will support reporting trips to the Amazon and cover the necessary work required to complete the manuscript. The collective effort of journalists, friends, and family is a testament to the enduring impact of Dom’s life’s work and the ongoing commitment to protect the Amazon.

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The purpose of my writing is to record the same voices that are repressed by manual systems.
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