Brazil President Blames NGOs for Record Amazon Wildfires 

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accused nongovernmental organizations of setting forest fires a day after the government monitoring agency said the country has seen a record number of wildfires this year.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which monitors deforestation and wildfires, said as of Tuesday, 74,155 were burning in the Amazon rainforest, an 84% increase from the same period last year. 

A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil, Aug. 20, 2019.

“Maybe — I am not affirming it — these [NGOs] are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil,” Bolsonaro told reporters.  When asked if he had evidence, he said he had “no written plan,” adding “that’s not how it’s done.”

Earlier this month, the head of the NISR was fired after he opposed the president’s claim that the agency had manipulated deforestation data to make the administration look bad.

“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.”

Conservationists have blamed Bolsonaro for the plight of the Amazon, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.

“It is very difficult to have natural fires in the Amazon; it happens, but the majority come from the hand of humans,” said Paulo Moutinho, co-founder of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute. 

He said the fires, usually set by farmers and loggers, can easily get out of hand during the dry season. 

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