Brazil photographer Salgado blames government actions for Amazon crimes

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By Sergio Queiroz

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian government actions such as removing protections for indigenous territories and not doing enough to stem violent crime in the Amazon created the conditions that led to the recent murders of a journalist and indigenous expert, photographer Sebastiao Salgado said.

The 78-year-old photographer, best known for his stunning landscapes, was in Rio de Janeiro to open his new exhibit "Amazônia." He spent seven years living among 12 indigenous communities in the rainforest to take the photos.

Last month, he was also part of a group of Brazilians convened by a judicial council to monitor search efforts after British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira disappeared in the Amazon.

Pereira and Phillips vanished on June 5 in the remote Javari Valley. Their remains were found two weeks later after a fisherman who had clashed with Pereira confessed to their murder. Other suspects have also been arrested.

"I personally blame the government directly for the killing of Bruno and Dom," said Salgado.

He cited the dismantling of indigenous protections under President Jair Bolsonaro and said the government had "allowed the penetration of violent criminality into the forest."

A Brazilian government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Salgado also criticized the government for not doing enough to curb deforestation.

In the first six months of 2022, a record 3,988 square km (1,540 square miles) were destroyed in the Amazon rainforest, an area five times the size of New York City, according to government data.

"If we destroy it as we are destroying it now, the Amazon becomes a carbon bomb," Salgado said.

(Reporting by Sergio Queiroz; Writing by Peter Frontini; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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