Following a public spat with President Jair Bolsonaro over deforestation statistics,the head of Brazil’s space research agency INPE, Ricardo Galvao, is set to leave his job, the science ministry informed Friday.
According to preliminary data produced by INPE in June 2019, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest jumped 88 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
The latest available Records from July 1 to July 25 show a deforested area 1,864 square kilometers long, more than triple the size that the one of July last year.
In June, Bolsonaro described these numbers as a lie and personally attacked Galvao, who he said might be “in service to some NGO.”
On Thursday, he said Galvao would be fired if he was found to have breached his confidence.
Galvao dismissed Bolsonaro’s criticism as “bar talk” and “a joke of a 14-year-old boy that is not suitable for a president of Brazil” in an interview on July 20 with national broadcaster Globo. At the time, Galvao said he would not resign.
However, on Friday, Galvao told reporters, as he left a meeting with the science minister, that his position was no longer tenable, according to a recording broadcast on CBN.
“I will be dismissed,” he said.
A science ministry spokesperson said it was unclear if Galvao had resigned or been fired. A representative for INPE declined to comment.
Bolsonaro’s office and Galvao did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The opposition leader in the lower house of Congress, Alessandro Molon, said Galvao’s departure was a sign of an increasingly authoritarian president.
“He doesn’t accept being contradicted, even when there are scientific facts to prove he is wrong, as in the case of the INPE space agency and Amazon deforestation data,” he said.
On Thursday, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told reporters during a briefing alongside Bolsonaro that the preliminary data produced by the system, known as DETER, contained errors. Some of the deforestation picked up in June had actually occurred earlier, and certain areas had been counted twice, he said.
The 88 percent increase reported was a distortion of the data, he said, but offered no alternative figures.
INPE released a statement on the same day, saying it was confident in the quality of DETER data.