SOURCE: NY Times

DATE: August 2, 2019

SNIP: President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil on Friday fired the head of a government agency that had revealed a big increase in deforestation in the Amazon, with the dismissal inciting protests from environmental organizations and public workers.

The sacking of Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, a well-respected physicist, came a day after Mr. Bolsonaro angrily claimed that people within the government were damaging the country’s image abroad by disclosing the rate at which the world’s largest tropical rain forest is withering.

Mr. Bolsonaro and his minister of the environment, Ricardo Salles, on Thursday had held a news conference during which they cast doubt on his own government’s figures, which are routinely released monthly, that showed a steep rise in deforestation in the Amazon this year.

“The numbers, as I understand it, were released with the objective of harming the name of Brazil and its government,” Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters, speaking alongside Mr. Salles.

Mr. Bolsonaro often makes spurious statements.

Brazil’s portion of the Amazon lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover during the first six months of this year, a 39 percent increase over the same period last year.

Since Mr. Bolsonaro took office in January, the main agency that enforces environmental laws has taken considerably fewer enforcement actions.

Mr. Bolsonaro, a far-right former Army captain, has said protected indigenous territories should be opened up to mining and other industries. Last week, he called concerns about the environment overblown, saying the issue mattered solely to “vegans, who eat only plants.”