In a news conference Wednesday, Amazonas state security secretary general Carlos Alberto Mansur said the suspect remains under investigation in police custody.
Mansur said the man was arrested after being found in possession of “a lot of drugs” and ammunition used for illegal hunting.
Authorities said Wednesday they were pursuing several lines of investigation, including homicide, and added they still “can’t rule out anything.”
Mansur noted that five other people have also been questioned by police in connection with the disappearance of Phillips and Pereira, who had traveled to the region to conduct research for a book project on conservation efforts in the region.
Phillips and Pereira have been missing for more than 72 hours, according to the Coordination of the Indigenous Organization. The organization, known as UNIVAJA, said satellite information showed the pair’s last known location in the São Rafael community early on Sunday morning, where they were expected to meet a local leader who never showed up.
A “dangerous” region
On Wednesday, Federal Police Superintendent Fontes described the area where Phillips and Pereira went missing as “complicated” and “dangerous.”
“In this region, violence is advancing in an increasingly uncontrolled manner in the context of the invasion of indigenous lands and lands that belong to the state, repression of the freedom of the press and the work of journalists,” UNIVAJA said in a statement.
In 2018, Phillips reported on the threats posed by illegal mining and cattle ranchers to uncontacted indigenous groups there, with Pereira at the heart of that article.
Survival International, an NGO that advocates for indigenous peoples, said Pereira had previously received “many threats” as a result of his work as an “ally of the Indigenous struggle.”
Tara Subramaniam wrote from Washington, DC. Camilo Rocha and Marcia Reverdosa reported from Sao Paulo, Brazil.