FUNAI Brazilian indigenous contract workers strike after Amazon killings

FUNAI Brazilian indigenous contract workers strike after Amazon killings

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

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

A striking FUNAI worker told CNN he felt his safety was not being taken seriously.

“We travel in precarious boats with no equipment like radio or satellite phone,” the worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the press. The worker complained of a “lack of basic infrastructure, transportation, protective gear (and) inspection staff.”

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

Workers also criticized the investigation into the deaths of Pereira and Phillips for suffering delays and not focusing on links between organized crime and illegal activity in the Amazon.

Brazil’s federal police say no line of investigation has been shut down. Several suspects have already been arrested in the killings and at least five other suspects are being investigated for allegedly helping hide the bodies.

Phillips and Pereira, whose killings have been condemned around the world and sparked heated debate over the safety of the Amazon, had traveled to the remote Javari Valley before their assassination. Their boat was later found capsized with six sandbags to make swimming difficult, according to a civilian police report.

Phillips, a veteran journalist who has covered extensively on Brazil’s most marginalized groups and the devastation wrought by criminal actors in the Amazon, had traveled with Pereira to investigate conservation efforts in the remote Javari Valley.

Though formally 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 – often sparking violence when perpetrators clash with environmentalists and activists for indigenous rights.

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

Defending the Amazon is a dangerous endeavor.  Critics say Bolsonaro is making it worse
And in 2020, Global Witness ranked Brazil as 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, it said.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil have been frequent targets of such attacks and have suffered from campaigns of harassment. In early January, three environmentalists from the same family who developed a project to repopulate local waters with baby turtles were found dead in the northern state of Pará. A police investigation is underway.

CNN’s Kara Fox and Rob Picheta contributed coverage.

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