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Brazil leader criticizes agency over deforestation report

July 21, 2019
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro leaves after the group photo at the Mercosur Summit in Santa Fe, Argentina, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The South American trading bloc that includes founding members Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, is one of the world's largest. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro leaves after the group photo at the Mercosur Summit in Santa Fe, Argentina, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The South American trading bloc that includes founding members Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, is one of the world's largest. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro again criticized a state agency that monitors the Amazon, saying Sunday that its latest report on increased deforestation damages Brazil’s reputation amid what he says is an “environmental psychosis” overseas about environmental protection in South America’s biggest nation.

The INPE agency says preliminary satellite data indicate more than 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) of forest were lost during the first half of July, an increase of 68% from the loss in the same period last year.

Bolsonaro said the agency should coordinate such reports with higher officials in the administration, which supports loosening regulations on use of the Amazon. “But to publish them in one simple way, as it was done, leaves Brazil in a complicated situation,” the far-right president told the G1 news site.

His government has drawn criticism from environmentalists, and Norway and Germany have raised the possibility of cancelling the Amazon Fund, which was created in 2008 to raise donations to help Brazil fight deforestation in the Amazon.

Brazilian Cabinet ministers have recently back at the critics, and in a recent exchange with a foreign journalist Bolsonaro said: “The Amazon is Brazil’s not yours. You destroyed your ecosystems, and only are claiming from us.”

The president’s comments Sunday about INPE came two days after he questioned the reliability of the agency’s data and said he felt the body was working “at the service of some non-governmental organization” and not for Brazil.

Agency head Ricard Galvao disputed both points in an interview published Saturday by the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo.

Galvao said it was offensive to suggest the data are manipulated, noting the numbers are made public and published in international scientific journals.

He also said he works for no one but Brazil.

“I never had any relationship with any non-governmental organization. I never received payments from outside. I never received anything other than my salary as a public servant,” he said.

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