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LATIN AMERICA | 02-08-2019 17:34

Brazil's space research chief says he was sacked over Bolsonaro deforestation spat

Ricardo Galvao told the press that "My words about the president have caused annoyance, so I'm going to be fired."

The head of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research said Friday he was going to 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 INPE institute 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 his 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 the 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 alone.

– AFP 

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