Good morning. One week after Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira went missing in the Amazon, the Brazilian embassy in London told Phillips’ family that two bodies had been found yesterday, and president Jair Bolsonaro said “something wicked” had been done to them – only to be apparently contradicted by the police. But there appeared little reason for optimism.
There has been alarm over the fate of Phillips, a British journalist who was a frequent contributor to the Guardian, and Pereira, a respected advocate for the rights of Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, since their disappearance. What hopes there were for their safe return have faded in recent days.
Monday’s wrenching developments came two days after items belonging to the men were found in the Javari region, where Pereira was acting as a guide on a reporting trip for Phillips’ book.
As their loved ones face the extension of their wait for certainty about the men’s fate, today’s newsletter sets out what we know about the circumstances of their disappearance, what it tells us about Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, and what enduring value there is in the work of both men. First, here are the rest of the headlines.
Five big stories
| The EU is set to launch legal action against the UK after ministers claimed a loophole allowed them to scrap post-Brexit checks in Northern Ireland. The UK admitted it would not meet its international legal obligations but said it was relying on a principle called the “doctrine of necessity”.
| The first flight to deport refugees to Rwanda moved a step closer on Monday after judges rejected two last-ditch legal challenges. But after successful individual challenges fewer than 10 people are now due to be removed on the flight, raising the possibility that it will be cancelled.
Fears of recession have pounded stock markets around the world amid reports that the US Federal Reserve could raise interest rates by up to 0.75% this week – its biggest single hike in nearly 30 years. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P500 index fell almost 4%.
| Brexit campaigner Arron Banks has lost his libel suit against Observer and Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Banks sued Cadwalladr personally over two instances in which she claimed that he was lying about his relationship with the Russian state.
| Labour leader Keir Starmer is being investigated by parliament’s standards commissioner over allegedly breaking the rules in registering financial interests worth more than £18,000. Starmer said he is confident that he has not breached any rules.
In depth: ‘We’re sad – and incandescent with rage’
On Saturday, a group of Indigenous volunteers searching for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira in an area of flooded forest near the River Itaquaí found a blue tarpaulin tied to a tree. Nearby, reported the Guardian’s Tom Phillips, they found an item of clothing they recognised. “They’re Bruno’s! They’re Bruno’s!” they shouted.
Dom Phillips and Pereira had been travelling in the Javari region, the largest refuge for uncontacted Indigenous tribes in the world. They had been expected to arrive in the town of Atalaia do Norte after a four-day reporting trip where Pereira acted as Phillips’ guide, last Sunday. But their boat never appeared.
For the last eight days, amid frustration at the slowness of Jair Bolsonaro’s government to respond, and gratitude to the Indigenous people who led the search, their families and friends have endured a purgatorial wait for news while preparing themselves for the worst.
The search: heroism and failure
Tom Phillips travelled with two dozen volunteers, members of four Indigenous peoples from the Javari region, as they went up and down the Itaquaí river in search of clues to the men’s fates. He later tweeted: “The Indigenous people Dom and Bruno so admired are doing such incredible work in trying to track down their friends. No words to express my respect for them.”
Dom Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio and sister Sian urged the authorities to step up the search amid a growing public outcry over a slow official response. “In the forest, every second counts, every second could be the difference between life and death,” Sampaio said.
Editors from 20 major media organisations led by the Guardian and the Washington Post wrote an open letter to Jair Bolsonaro asking that he “urgently step up and fully resource the effort” to find the men.
A group of Brazilian celebrities, including football great Pelé, also joined the calls. And Indigenous leaders expressed their dismay at the lack of coordination in the search.
The context: Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and threats to the rainforest
To many in Brazil, the disappearance of the men cannot be separated from Bolsonaro’s incendiary rhetoric against journalists and Indigenous peoples. After the news of their disappearance, the far-right president said that Phillips and Pereira had been on an “an adventure that is not recommended”.
Lucy Jordan, the Brazil correspondent for Greenpeace’s journalism outlet Unearthed, wrote: “For those of us who have been following Brazil’s grim political reality for the past three years, we’re not just sad, worried and fearful. We’re also incandescent with rage.”
The men had been threatened the day before their disappearance, and a local fisherman was arrested after traces of blood were found on his boat. As well as being a haven for uncontacted tribes, the Javari region is a notoriously lawless area overrun with illegal loggers, miners and fishers as well as drug traffickers.
In this piece, Dan Collyns interviewed Scott Wallace, an expert on those tribes. He said that Bolsonaro’s government “seem to be in favour of extractive activities which end up plundering the forest“ and have “ceded these territories to criminal operations”.
Eliane Brum, a friend of Phillips who has reported on the rainforest for 25 years, wrote for the New York Times that the two men’s disappearance indicated the severity of the threat to the rainforest and its inhabitants as well as those documenting it. “Their disappearance in the Amazon highlight the dangers facing those exposing the crisis facing Brazil’s rainforest,” she said. “The global community must respond swiftly and strongly.”
Dom and Bruno
The two men had taken a series of trips together over the last four years, as Pereira (above), 41, helped the 57-year-old Phillips with his research for a book about sustainable development in the rainforest.
“They hunkered together in canoes and strung their hammocks next to each other between ancient trees,” Andrew Downie and Tom Phillips wrote yesterday in a piece about their bond. “They shared meals out of cans, nudged one another at the silent passing of a monkey or crocodile, and when one of them fell face first into the murky waters of a river or swamp, the other was there to haul him out.”
Pereira, a father of two small children, has been seen as one of the leading advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil. After many years working to help Indigenous communities defend themselves and protect their lands, he was fired from Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, Funai, after Bolsonaro became president in 2019. He said he was removed after his team destroyed an illegal mining base on an Indigenous reservation.
Andrew Downie and Caio Barretto Briso write that Pereira “faced regular threats but with a serenity based in the knowledge he was doing crucial work for peoples he loved and respected”. One friend of his tells them: “The Funai explorers don’t like to be called heroes. But there’s no way to agree with that modesty. These people are heroes and Bruno is one of them.”
Phillips (above) became a foreign correspondent after spending his early working life in London as a music journalist immersed in rave culture. He edited Mixmag for much of the 1990s (and helped popularise the term “progressive house”).
Later, Andrew Downie wrote in this tribute, he was “one of the most stylish writers” among foreign correspondents in Brazil, where he met his wife Alessandra, and hoped to adopt children. Lucy Jordan called him “a dogged, sharp-eyed journalist and an incredibly kind man” who “takes on risky assignments because he believes the stories he tells matter that much.”
Among the many remarkable stories he told was the one that formed his relationship with Pereira. In a 2019 piece for the Guardian, Phillips and photojournalist Gary Calton followed an expedition led by the Indigenous advocate, travelling more than 1,000km over 17 days to investigate a sighting of an uncontacted tribe over fears they could come into conflict with a nearby village.
The piece begins as Pereira “cracks open the boiled skull of a monkey with a spoon and eats its brains for breakfast” – but he and Phillips recede to allow an attentive, intimate portrait of the jungle, and the Indigenous people, instead:
Pereira told him: “It’s not about us. The Indigenous are the heroes.”
What else we’ve been reading
This Thursday, Archie and I will be hosting First Edition Live, where we will be discussing the most pressing issues and top stories with experts – starting with the future of the Conservative party. We’ll be joined by columnist Gaby Hinsliff and Salma Shah, former adviser to the health secretary, Sajid Javid – and we need your questions. What would you like to know about the crisis in government, and how it’s playing out both in Downing Street and the Blue Wall? Hit reply to this email to let us know.
Watch live here and on theguardian.com from 7pm, Thursday 16 June (you can also hit the notification bell on YouTube to get a reminder when the stream starts). See you there.
| An entertaining fourth day of the second test between England and New Zealand saw England reach a first innings total of 539 before reducing their opponents to 224-7. New Zealand are 238 ahead going into the final day.
| Australia reached the World Cup finals in Qatar later this year after a penalty shootout victory over Peru in the qualifying playoff. Andrew Redmayne saved the crucial penalty after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.
| Phil Mickelson has expressed his “deepest sympathy” to those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, after a group representing families and survivors joined stinging criticism of his decision to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
The front pages
The Guardian’s front page this morning has “EU to fight UK in court over bid to scrap Brexit checks”; in the Financial Times that renders as “Brussels threatens legal action on bid to tear up NI protocol”; while the Times’ headline is “EU pledges legal action over Brexit ‘violation’”. The Metro says “Clear for take-off” after court bids to stop the first Rwanda deportation flight were rejected. The i says “Church versus Boris Johnson: bishop tells PM Rwanda flight ‘shames UK’”. But the Daily Mail hails the verdicts as coming from the “The court of common sense” – though it moans that few if any will actually be deported on Tuesday. “Wills: it’s Andrew or me” – that’s the Mirror, claimed the second in line blocked his uncle from the Garter Day parade. The Express has that one too: “Andrew’s rift with royals deepens over his ‘birthright’”. “Wills’ house of Windsor” – the Sun says the Cambridges are moving into the four-bedder Adelaide Cottage on the royal estate. The Telegraph says “No tax cuts until inflation cools off”.
Today in Focus
Five years on from the the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the community is grappling with what should happen to the ruined building and the need for a fitting memorial.
Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson
Mënik is one of about 2,500 endangered languages around the world and is spoken by fewer than 4,000 people in Senegal. Even within the country, the language and the people it’s attached to are often forgotten. Benoit Fader Keita, a musician who speaks Mënik, is on a mission to use techno to save his mother tongue from extinction, performing all over the continent of Africa and soon in Europe. “If I don’t sing about these stories, they will disappear,” Keita says.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )