Bolsonaro says Amazon fires a 'lie', Brazil's government data shows otherwise


Summary generated on August 12, 2020

    Farm workers try to put out an illegal fire which burned part of the Amazon rainforest reserve and was spreading to their land north of Sinop, in Mato Grosso State, Brazil.

    The far-right leader has faced international condemnation for presiding over huge fires and rising deforestation in the Amazon - criticism he took issue with in a speech to a video conference of countries that share the world's biggest rainforest.

    Satellite data from Brazil's national space agency, INPE, show the number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon last month rose 28 percent from July 2019, to 6,803.

    Experts say the fires are typically not sparked naturally, but set by humans to clear land illegally for farming and ranching.

    Last year, huge fires devastated the Amazon from May to October, sending a thick haze of black smoke all the way to Sao Paulo, thousands of kilometers away.

    The fires triggered worldwide alarm over a forest seen as vital to curbing climate change.

    Experts warn this year's dry season, which is just getting started, could see even more fires.

    The scrutiny is pressuring Bolsonaro, who has called for protected Amazon lands to be opened up to mining and agriculture.

    He has deployed the army to the Amazon basin, 60 percent of which is in Brazil, to fight fires and deforestation, declared a ban on agricultural fires and launched a task force to combat the problem.

    He said that was producing results, pointing to a more than 25-percent reduction in deforestation year-on-year last month.

    His government has been accused of cherry-picking data by trumpeting the July drop in deforestation.

    Despite the one-month decline, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon set a new record high in the first seven months of the year, according to INPE data.