WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) and Susan Wild (PA-07) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to take steps to monitor and respond to the case of Bruno Pereira, an accomplished and respected Brazilian Indigenous rights expert, and Dom Phillips, a beloved British journalist, who went missing in the Amazon’s remote Javarí Valley region and whose remains were found following a brutal murder.
The letter was cosigned by Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Hank Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jim McGovern (MA-02), David Trone (MD-06), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Andy Levin (MI-09), and Peter Welch (D-VT).
“This human-level tragedy is a symptom of a broader assault on the Amazon rainforest, which is pushing the vast ecosystem to an ecological tipping point,” wrote the Members of Congress. “As reported in a broad range of international press outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Pos, the Amazon basin is reaching a level of deforestation that could tip the entire ecosystem into an irreversible decline. The climate implications of such a scenario are horrifying. While other governments are also responsible for what happens, some 60% of the Amazon is within Brazil’s borders and subject to Bolsonaro’s current assault. The situation only continues to deteriorate.”
The Members call for the prosecution of all those involved in the killing of Bruno and Dom, as well as for the Biden Administration to meet with representatives of local indigenous peoples, formulate a U.S policy agenda for addressing their concerns, and coordinate closely with other governments, international experts, and international organizations. Specifically, the representatives ask the Administration to:
- Publicly call for prosecutions of all those involved in this crime and an impartial, exhaustive investigation into the circumstances of the killing – focusing not just on the assailants, but also on any other relevant individuals and organizations;
- Meet with representatives of local indigenous peoples, to hear their concerns and request for support;
- Commit to a long-term follow-up on the security situation of Indigenous peoples of the Javarí region, and support efforts for collective protection of their territories such as the Indigenous patrols;
- Send a high-level delegation to Brazil to meet with representatives of local indigenous peoples and formulate a U.S. policy agenda for addressing their concerns: and
- Coordinate closely with other governments, international experts, and international organizations (including relevant United Nations human rights bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) to monitor and respond to the ongoing situation.
Outside groups also urged the Biden administration to act:
Eliesio Marubo, Indigenous lawyer and attorney for The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA):
“Support of US Congresspeople through this letter is vital so that we can continue to pressure the Brazilian government to protect the Javari Valley. They must prevent more of our fellow fighters from being assassinated and the perpetrators from going unpunished. President Joe Biden said that protecting the Amazon would guide his administration’s environmental policy, so we hope that this letter will lead to concrete measures in defense of the forest and its people.”
Andrew Miller, Advocacy Director Amazon Watch:
“The Biden Administration must move rhetoric about the importance of environmental defenders into concrete action. Following up on the killing of Bruno and Dom will be crucial, in addition to diplomatic and political support for the crucial work that Univaja continues under serious threat. In addition to behind-the-scenes work, the State Department should make public statements to let the world know the protection of local activists is a true priority.”
Diana Ruiz, Head of Forests at Greenpeace USA:
“Climate justice depends on swift action to stop human rights abuses and attacks on environmental human rights defenders and the rampant environmental destruction that is taking hold in Brazil. The murders of Bruno and Dom expose the grave danger that Indigenous Peoples and environmental defenders face when they stand up against illegal mining, logging, and powerful interests of criminal networks. The US has a responsibility to act as time is of the essence for Indigenous Peoples of Javari Valley and those who work and advocate for their protection.”
Daniel Cerqueira, Director of the Human Rights and Natural Resources program at the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF):
“Bolsonaro has reversed most of the federal policies and dismantled the state entities in charge of preserving the territories of indigenous people in voluntary isolation. His disdain for the lives of indigenous people has converted the Amazon region into a safe haven for criminal networks that profit from environmental destruction. Brazil has become a pariah state in the eyes of the international community under Bolsonaro.”
The full letter can be found here.