BRAZIL - Brazil's federal environmental agency Ibama has ordered its employees to cease all contact with journalists after Reuters reported that thousands of rainforest wood cargos were exported without Ibama's approval.
Citing two sources with "direct knowledge of the matter," Reuters said that the lack of proper authorization proved a higher likelihood that the exxported wood was harvested illegally from the Amazon.
After customs officials in Europe and the United States alerted Brazil of the issue, the president of the Brazilian environment agency known as Ibama changed regulations to do away with previously required export authorizations, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
The changes made by Ibama President Eduardo Bim overruled a technical opinion by five Ibama analysts who argued the export approvals should remain in place.
The two Ibama sources, who have both worked directly on wood inspection and spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about professional repercussions, said the changes further weaken Brazil’s ability to control the export of illegally deforested wood.
Ibama responded to questions from Reuters with a detailed technical description of the current process for exporting wood, not mentioning the previous need for a separate authorization from the agency. See the full report here.
The day after the report was published, Ibama said that all contact with journalists must be conducted through its press office. Department heads must enforce this rule and report any knowledge of contact with journalists to company executives.
Deforestation in Brazil's rainforests is at the highest level in 11 years. The issue is political as many scientists and activists blame President Jair Bolsonaro's development plans as emboldening illegal loggers. Bolsonaro says blaming him is unfair.
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