A group of Brazilian celebrities, led by three-time World Cup winner Pele, have joined calls for authorities to step up their search for a British journalist and defender of the Brazilian indigenous people missing in the Amazon rainforest.
Pele, 81, considered one of the greatest players of all time, retweeted a video made by Phillips’ wife calling for more urgency in the search for her husband and Bruno Pereira.
“The fight to preserve the Amazon and indigenous groups belongs to all of us,” the former Santos legend wrote on Twitter.
“I am touched by the disappearance of Dom Phillips and Bruno Ferreira, who have dedicated their lives to this cause. I join the many voices calling for the search to be intensified.”
His words came as authorities in the remote region on the Brazilian border with Peru announced that they had arrested a man in connection with the two men’s disappearances.
The suspect was named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira. He reportedly threatened Phillips, Pereira and a group of 13 indigenous people on Saturday morning while they were traveling in the Valle de Javari region.
A witness to the confrontation told the Guardian that da Costa and two other armed men threatened the group as they were stopping by the Itaqui River in the state of Amazonas.
It was not clear the charges against him.
Pereira, 41, a longtime defender of indigenous tribes in a vast and remote forest area, has received death threats for his work helping to protect indigenous groups from drug dealers, illegal miners, loggers and poachers who covet land in an area rich in natural resources. .
He and Phillips were last seen on Sunday morning as they traveled by boat through the Javari region of Amazonas state. They were returning from a two-day press trip but did not arrive as scheduled in Atalaya de Norte.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to the Guardian, The Washington Post and other international publications, was researching a book on sustainable development in the region.
He received a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation to write the book, and was aiming to have it finished by the end of this year.
On Tuesday, his wife, Alessandra Sampaio, made an emotional plea to the authorities to speed up her search, and with the case making headlines in Brazil, she was joined by figures from the world of sports, culture and media.
Dr. Drauzio Varela, a public health expert and broadcaster, one of Brazil’s most beloved personalities, described Phillips as “extremely dangerous” and said, “We need to clarify what happened.”
“The whole world is watching us and we need to find out what happened and those responsible, if they are present, should face exemplary punishments,” he said in a video message.
In addition to Pele, Everton and Brazil striker Richarlison retweeted the emotional video of Phillips’ wife, and Walter Casagrande, a former Brazilian player who is now a well-known presenter, provided his recorded message of support for two people he said were dedicated to protecting himself. Human rights and the environment.
“They are friends of our indigenous people and we cannot remain calm,” said the former Corinthians, Porto and Torino striker. “It is the responsibility of the government to step up the research…This is a very serious issue.”
Singer Gaby Amarantos made a similar video, and Sonia Guajajara, the indigenous leader recently named one of Time magazine’s 2022 most influential people, raised the issue with US climate envoy John Kerry on a visit to New York.
In Britain, the shadow foreign secretary, David Lamy, urged the Brazilian authorities to “do everything in their power to find them as soon as possible, and urged the Foreign Office to use all diplomatic channels at their disposal”.