Brazil says Amazon deforestation rising

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Destruction of the Amazon is again on the upswing despite a recent crackdown on illegal logging, Brazil’s new environment minister said Wednesday.

Carlos Minc said official calculations of how much rain forest has been cut down would be released Monday by the National Space Research Institute.

“It will be bad news. It will be data showing an increase in deforestation,” Minc said in an interview on Globo TV.

Minc took his post last week after veteran rain forest defender Marina Silva surprised the nation by stepping down, citing “stagnation” in the fight to preserve the world’s largest remaining tropical wilderness.

Deforestation in the Amazon had declined for three consecutive years until earlier this year when preliminary satellite data detected a spike.

In response to the increase, the government sent environmental agents and elite federal police units to crack down on illegal logging in the jungle region.

The crackdown was met with violent protests as it shut down dozens of illegal sawmills and led to seizure of 15,500 tons of illegally logged wood.

Earlier this month, the country’s Justice Ministry said the operation had reduced deforestation by 80 percent between February and March.

But environmentalists said such month-to-month comparisons are unreliable.

Aides at Minc’s office said he wasn’t immediately available to comment on how his data differed with the Justice Ministry’s.

The Brazilian Amazon, covers about 1.6 million square miles (4.1 million square kilometers) or nearly 60 percent of the country. About 20 percent of the forest has already been razed.