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Employees of Brazilian indigenous agencies FUNAI strike after Amazon killings

Staff from FUNAI, the government agency responsible for the protection and interests of Brazil’s indigenous peoples, said working in the Amazon has become dangerous and, in some cases, deadly.

In a statement ahead of the action, the strikers called for “the immediate protection of our fellow indigenists, indigenous peoples and their leaders, organizations and territories”, and demanded the resignation of FUNAI President Marcelo Xavier.

A striking FUNAI worker told CNN he did not believe his safety was taken seriously.

“We travel in precarious boats, with no equipment like a radio or satellite phones,” the worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press. The worker complained of a “lack of basic infrastructure, means of transport, protective equipment (and) inspection teams”.

CNN has reached out to FUNAI for comment on the strikes and the demands of the workers involved in them.

Workers also criticized the investigation into the deaths of Pereira and Phillips for suffering delays and failing to focus on links between organized crime and illegal activity in the Amazon.

The Brazilian federal police say that no investigative leads have been ruled out. Several suspects have already been arrested for the murders and at least five other suspects are being investigated for their alleged involvement in the cover-up of the bodies.

Phillips and Pereira, whose killings have been condemned around the world and sparked a heated debate over the safety of the Amazon, had traveled to the remote Javari Valley before they were killed. Their boat was later found capsized with six bags of sand to make it difficult to float, according to a civilian police report.

Phillips, a veteran journalist who has reported extensively on Brazil’s most marginalized groups and the destruction criminal actors are causing in the Amazon, had traveled with Pereira to research conservation efforts in the remote Javari Valley.

Although officially protected by the government, the wild Javari Valley, like other designated indigenous lands in Brazil, is plagued by illegal mining, logging, hunting and international drug trafficking. – which often bring violence in their wake, as perpetrators clash with environmental defenders and indigenous rights activists.

Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil in land and resource conflicts in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing figures from the Pastoral Land Commission, a nonprofit organization. profit center affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Employees of Brazilian indigenous agencies FUNAI strike after Amazon killings
And in 2020, Global Witness ranked Brazil the fourth most dangerous country for environmental activism, based on documented killings of environmental activists. Almost three-quarters of those attacks in Brazil took place in the Amazon region, he said.

Brazil’s indigenous peoples have frequently been the target of such attacks and suffered campaigns of harassment. In early January, three conservationists from the same family who had developed a project to restock local water with baby turtles were found dead in the state of Pará, in northern Brazil. A police investigation is underway.

CNN’s Kara Fox and Rob Picheta contributed reporting.

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