SAO PAOLO, Brazil — New logging permits were
suspended Friday in a huge Amazon state where the rain forest is being cleared
at an ever increasing rate, a day after police launched a crackdown on official
Gov. Blairo Maggi of Mato Grosso also ousted his
environmental chief, who was arrested and accused of involvement in the
corruption ring, according to a statement on the state government Web site.
Maggi is the world's largest soy farmer, and is often accused by
environmentalists of ignoring illegal logging. He acted after federal police
made 90 arrests government officials and businessmen connected to loggers. Among
those arrested was Moacir Pires, the head of Brazil's federal environmental
protection agency in Mato Grosso.
Authorities allege those arrested were
responsible for the illegal clearing of 119,000 acres of Amazon rainforest over
the past two years, much of it on Indian reservations and in national parks.
Officials in the state twice the size of Sweden now will evaluate
pending logging licenses individually before giving approval, and are planning
to revamp the state agency that oversees the environment.
came just weeks after the government said the Amazon rainforest was disappearing
at an alarming rate -- shrinking by 10,000 square miles in the 12-month period
ending last August.
Almost half the destruction occurred in Mato Grosso,
an interior central Brazilian state where the forest has been cut down at
accelerating rates as farmers clear land to make way for soy and cattle.
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