House Dems Ask Biden To Pressure Bolsonaro Over Killings Of Dom Phillips And Bruno Pereira

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Politics

A group of 23 House Democrats sent the Biden administration a letter Tuesday morning asking it to ramp up pressure on Brazil and its right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the wake of the high-profile killings of a journalist and an Indigenous affairs expert in the Amazon Rainforest.British journalist Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, a former top official in Brazil’s main Indigenous agency, went missing on June 5 in the Vale do Javari, a vast region of the Amazon near Brazil’s borders with Peru and Colombia. Phillips was working on a book about sustainable development in the Amazon, and Pereira was an ardent defender of Indigenous rights and the environment who had faced threats in the past. They were confirmed dead nearly two weeks later, and police have arrested multiple suspects with ties to illegal fishing interests in the region. AdvertisementThe tragedy drew global attention to escalating violence in the Amazon, where land disputes between Indigenous tribes and illegal miners, fishers and loggers have exploded since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. He began rolling back protections for the forest and tribal lands within it, and has engaged in what some leaders in the region call a “broad and comprehensive anti-Indigenous project.” Indigenous leaders from the Vale do Javari are now demanding deeper probes into the killings and more accountability for Bolsonaro, and have sought to build global support for their cause in the United States and Europe.The letter, drafted by Reps. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urges the Biden administration to publicly call on Brazil to conduct an “impartial, exhaustive investigation” into criminal organizations that may have been behind the killings, which Indigenous leaders and human rights groups argue resulted from the “carte blanche” Bolsonaro has granted illegal interests to exploit the forest and target its tribes.The lawmakers also called on the administration to send a delegation to Brazil to meet with Indigenous leaders, a demand tribes have made since the White House began engaging Bolsonaro in climate and environmental negotiations last year. AdvertisementThe meetings, the lawmakers said, would allow Biden officials to understand how the administration could support Indigenous tribes and “formulate a U.S. policy agenda for addressing their concerns.” The letter said the U.S. should work closely with international organizations to “monitor and respond” to human rights violations in the Amazon.“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,” the lawmakers wrote. “Impunity is the watchword for killings in the Brazilian Amazon, and for the future of the Amazon this case cannot just fade into memory.”The list of signers includes progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). AmazonWatch and Greenpeace, two environmental groups that work in Brazil, helped organize the letter. A copy of the letter and a full list of signers is below.“President Biden and Secretary Blinken must use the full weight of U.S. diplomacy to reflect our commitment to human rights for all peoples, hold responsible perpetrators of human rights violations …

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