Brazilian authorities have been urged to intensify their “sluggish” search for British journalist Dom Phillips who is missing in the Amazon.
The veteran reporter, along with indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, have not been seen since Sunday (local time), when they ventured into a lawless part of jungle near the Peruvian border.
Researching a book on conservation, Mr Phillips is believed to have strayed into a region notorious for cocaine trafficking and unlawful mining, logging, hunting and fishing.
Reports suggest the pair received threats from armed men before their journey and a written warning, according to a report.
Serious concerns for their safety are held by The Guardian, a publication Mr Phillips contributed to — along with the New York Times and Washington Post.
“Overall the response from the Brazilian authorities has been at best sluggish and underwhelming,” it said in an editorial on Thursday.
Journalist's wife issued tearful plea begging for help
Soccer great Pele has also posted a video to his 9.4 million Instagram followers, showing Mr Phillips’ tearful Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, urging authorities to help find “the love of my life”.
Conceding there is a “small hope” of finding her husband, she urged for the search to be intensified on Monday.
"Even if I don't find the love of my life alive, they have to be found, please intensify their search," Ms Sampaio said.
"Before I didn't want to speak because the whole family was very surprised, we didn't know how to react. But please, I make this call to intensify the search. Thank you.”
Beside the video, Pele commended the missing men for their “fight for the preservation of the Amazon Forest”, saying he is “moved” by their plight.
In a video message from the UK, Mr Phillips' sister said she and her brother are "desperately worried".
"We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom really believed it was possible to safeguard the nature and the livelihood of the indigenous people," she said.
Amazon threats increase under Bolsonaro
Brazil initially sent around a dozen people into the expansive Javari Valley where Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira went missing, but by Tuesday that number rose to a force of 150, which includes navy and army personnel.
Under pressure, the country’s federal police chief Eduardo Alexandre Fontes gave a press conference about the search operation on Wednesday.
Federal police delegate Eduardo Exelandre said authorities are undertaking "intelligence and investigation work" as they work to determine whether a crime has taken place.
The region is home to over 20 indigenous groups, which have come under increasing threat of violence since far-right leaning President Jair Bolsonaro was elected.
President Bolsonaro has called for indigenous lands to be “exploited” by industry, and since taking office in 2019, deforestation and burning in the Amazon are at their highest levels in a decade.
He is currently pushing for a law which would allow miners to invade indigenous reservations to dig for fertiliser — supply of which has been impacted by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“This crisis between Ukraine and Russia is a good opportunity for us,” he said on Monday.
“We have a bill in Congress that will allow us to exploit those indigenous lands.”
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