Brazil research chief says sacked over Bolsonaro deforestation spat

File photo taken on September 22, 2017 showing an aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2019
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Brazil research chief says sacked over Bolsonaro deforestation spat

  • The latest data released by INPE shows that deforestation has increased 40 percent in the last two months compared to the same period a year ago

BRASILIA: The head of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said on Friday he would be sacked following a row with President Jair Bolsonaro over deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Ricardo Galvao had accused far-right Bolsonaro of “cowardice” for publicly questioning satellite data produced by the institute, known by its initials INPE, that showed Amazon rainforest deforestation had increased 88 percent on-year in June.
“My words about the president have caused annoyance, so I’m going to be fired,” said Galvao.
Two weeks ago, Bolsonaro had told reporters: “With all the devastation that you are accusing us of doing... the Amazon region would already have been extinguished.”
Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, also called on Galvao “to come to Brasilia to explain the data that was released to the press.”
The president has previously floated the idea of opening up protected rainforest areas to agriculture, a highly controversial move given the existing level of deforestation.
In his row with Galvao, Bolsonaro suggested the INPE president is “in the service of some NGOs.”
A day later, Galvao hit back, blasting Bolsonaro for making “undue accusations against people of the highest level of Brazilian science” and comparing the president’s suspicions to “a joke by a 14-year-old boy.”
Bolsonaro upped the ante on Thursday, claiming the INPE figures “don’t correspond to the truth” and were damaging to the institute and the country.

Galvao previously insisted he wouldn’t resign, but speaking on Friday he admitted he had discussed the possibility he might be fired with Minister for Science and Technology Marcos Pontes.
Galvao told the press that his dismissal wouldn’t affect INPE, an institution of international repute.
The latest data released by INPE shows that deforestation has increased 40 percent in the last two months compared to the same period a year ago.
For many years, NGOs defending the environment and the territorial rights of indigenous people have criticized the agriculture industry and major land owners for constantly trying to expand into virgin lands, including those protected by law.
Bolsonaro, though, was helped in his election last year by support from the powerful agriculture lobby.
In Europe, other organizations have used the INPE figures to question the recent free trade agreement signed between the European Union and Mercosur, the trade bloc made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
“The deforestation data reveals what we all know: that it’s advancing at a rapid rate. And that creates a problem for the government because there’s huge national and international pressure,” former deputy environment minister Joao-Paulo Capobianco told AFP.
“There’s a massive offensive from sectors that profit greatly from the occupation of the Amazon, and the president of the republic has already shown before his election that he is completely ignorant about this issue. He doesn’t consider it relevant,” Capobianco said.
Bolsonaro suffered a blow on Thursday when the Supreme Court canceled a decree transferring the right to demarcate indigenous lands from the National Indian Foundation to the Ministry of Agriculture, a bulwark of the agriculture industry’s interests.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 50 min 55 sec ago
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UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.