Rio De Janeiro, Oct 6 (AP/UNB) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has instructed federal police and the navy to join an investigation of oil spills that have contaminated parts of the northeast coast in recent weeks.
The order, published in an official gazette on Saturday, escalates a probe into the pollution that environmental officials say has affected coastal waters and dozens of beaches.
Authorities say they have not determined the origin of the oil, which has killed some turtles and forced bathers and fishermen to stay away from contaminated areas.
State oil company Petrobras has conducted an analysis and says the spilled oil isn't the type that it produces.
Bolsonaro is urging security forces involved in the investigation to provide a preliminary assessment early next week.
Sao Paulo, Oct 5 (AP/UNB) — Brazil's tourism minister committed electoral crimes during last year's general elections, police said Friday.
Prosecutors endorsed the police findings, opening the way for a judge to decide whether the case against the minister, Marcelo Alvaro Antonio, should go to trial.
Antonio was leading President Jair Bolsonaro's party in Minas Gerais state during the 2018 election. Police say Antonio abused a law requiring parties to have women make up at least 30 percent of their candidates.
Testimonies suggest many women on the far-right party slate were basically fake candidates who received no campaign funds or promotion.
Some received small amounts and then had to return them to party coffers, police said.
Antonio said in a statement that he trusts "truth will prevail in the case."
The minister has denied any wrongdoing since the first of many complaints about the issue appeared in March.
He could face several years of jail time if the case against him goes to trial and he is convicted.
Bolsonaro's spokesman said the Brazilian president will not fire the embattled minister. Bolsonaro campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.
Rio De Janeiro, Oct 5 (AP/UNB) — Brazilian police say three people were killed in a turf battle between criminal gangs in Rio de Janeiro.
Authorities said Friday that six people were also injured in the shootouts that broke out Thursday evening in the city's Pedreira slum.
Seven buses were burned during the violence, which forced pedestrians to seek cover in a nearby subway station.
Wilson Witzel, governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, says armed gangs use civilians as a "shield" and that authorities will not relent in efforts to fight crime.
Witzel, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, has faced criticism for an increase in deaths during police operations. He defends police tactics, saying they must have a freer hand to fight high levels of violent crime.
Rio De Janeiro, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — New satellite images published Monday by the European Space Agency show an increase in air pollution in the Brazilian Amazon while fires burned in the region last month.
Several maps showed more carbon monoxide and other pollutants in August than in the previous month, when there were fewer fires.
The agency said fires released carbon dioxide once stored in the Amazon forests back into the atmosphere, potentially having an impact on the global climate and health.
Burning continues in the Amazon despite a 60-day ban on land-clearing fires that was announced last month by President Jair Bolsonaro.
Data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed the number of fires in all of Brazil has surpassed 100,000 so far this year, up 45 percent compared to the same period in 2018.
Renata Libonati, a professor in the department of meteorology at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, said that aside from gases, the burning of forests also released particles into the atmosphere.
Health experts say studies show that air pollution, whether it is small particles or gases, leads to an increase in cardiovascular conditions and lung problems, especially among young children and the elderly.
In Porto Velho, the capital of Brazil's Amazon state of Rondonia, lingering smoke has reportedly caused an increase in such respiratory problems. The number of people treated for respiratory issues increased sharply in August at the Cosme e Damia Children's hospital.
But small particles can also be transported by winds in cities that are not immediately close to where the fires are taking place.
"The impact of the fires goes far beyond where the forests are burning," Libonati told The Associated Press.
The lack of rain during the current dry season in the Amazon region makes things worse, she said, as rain can help stop the progress of particle pollution.
Brazil's Health Ministry shared last week a list of recommendations for those living in areas close to the fires, saying people should "avoid staying near places where the fires are happening," wear masks and eye protection outdoors and favor air conditioning, especially in kindergartens, schools and hospitals.
Last month, Bolsonaro sent the army to help combat the fires. A team of 11 Israeli firefighters was also deployed Sunday in the state of Rondonia to help state and federal forces, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in the Amazonian state of Para, about 250 illegal miners, known as "garimpeiros," blocked a federal highway Monday demanding that the government legalize mining activities, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported.
The group, working for wildcat mines in the region, also asked for an end to on-the-ground operations by environmental protection bodies that have the authority to burn equipment allegedly belonging to illegal miners.
Rio De Janeiro, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Brazil on Thursday banned most legal fires for land-clearing for 60 days in an attempt to stop the burning that has devastated parts of the Amazon region.
The decree prohibiting the fires was signed by President Jair Bolsonaro and followed international criticism of his handling of the environmental crisis.
The period of the new ban coincides with the dry season, when most fires are usually set. The decree allows fires in some cases, including those deemed healthy for plant life and if set by indigenous people who engage in subsistence farming.
"I think this should have happened a long time ago," said Waldeglace Sousa Mota, a worker at the airport in the Amazon city of Porto Velho.
"I think it will bring relief during this time," she said of the ban.
More people, particularly children and the elderly, have been suffering respiratory problems in Porto Velho, where smoke from the fires has often shrouded the sky in past weeks.
The 60-day ban will help curb the burning but its effect could be "very limited" if people ignore it as the peak burning season starts, said Xiangming Xiao, a plant biologist at the University of Oklahoma who studies deforestation in the Amazon. Most fires in Brazil are set in late August, September and early October, he said.
"Both legal and illegal fire events occurred in Brazil. It will be very challenging to identify and separate them," he said in an email to The Associated Press.
Brazil's forest code normally allows farmers and others to set some fires as long as they have licenses from environmental authorities.
This year, however, there was a sharp increase in nationwide fires over the same period in 2018, raising concerns that people were emboldened to burn more after Bolsonaro said rainforest protections were blocking economic development.
Bolsonaro suggested —without citing evidence — that environmental groups were setting illegal fires to try to destabilize his government and sparred with French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders who questioned his commitment to protecting the Amazon ecosystem.
The acrimony sidelined a pledge of $20 million from the Group of Seven nations to help protect rainforest in the Amazon. Much of the burned land had already been deforested, but the location of many fires next to intact forest reflected the increased threat of deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest is vital for the planet's health in part because it drains heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.