“All operations to combat illegal deforestation in the Amazon, along with all operations to combat the fires in the Pantanal and other regions” will be stopped effective Monday, the Environmental Ministry said in a note posted Friday on its website. The decision was attributed to a federal budget freeze, which cut about 60 million reais ($11 million) from the ministry’s operations.
But after the note’s publication, Vice President Hamilton Mourao – who leads Brazil’s Amazon Council – denied the announcement, saying Environment Minister Ricardo Salles had acted out of turn. He told reporters that the funding wouldn’t be blocked and guaranteed that President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration is looking for additional resources to contain damages in the Amazon including fires.
Three hours after its original posting, the Ministry updated its note to say funding was unblocked and the fight against illegal deforestation will continue “as normal.”
The back-and-forth put on display the erratic environmental policies of the Bolsonaro administration as pressure ratchets up from international investors to protect the Amazon.
Brazil is registering accelerating deforestation in parts of the country this year, with the Pantanal wetlands — which straddle Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay — burning at a record pace. The number of fires in the 81,100 square mile region peaked in July, according to Brazil’s Spacial Research Institute.
— With assistance by Simone Preissler Iglesias