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/AP/ The Amazon is being deforested more than three times as fast as last year, Brazilian officials said Monday, acknowledging a sharp reversal after three years of declines in the deforestation rate.

Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc said upcoming nationwide elections are partly to blame, with mayors in the Amazon region turning a blind eye to illegal logging in hopes of gaining votes locally.

Non-government environmentalists blame the global spike in food prices for encouraging soy farmers and cattle ranchers to clear land for crops and grazing.

Elections no doubt play a part, but "the tendency of deforestation rising is deeply related to the fact that food prices are going up," said Paulo Adario, who coordinates Greenpeace's Amazon campaign.

"When you have elections, the appetite of authorities to enforce laws is reduced," Adario said. "But the federal government has to step in and do its job."

Amazon destruction jumped 228 percent in August when compared to the same month a year ago, according to a report from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Some 756 square kilometers (292 square miles) of Amazon was destroyed last month, compared to 230 square kilometers (89 square miles) in August 2007.

The institute uses satellite imagery to track illegal logging It said the destruction was likely even worse than its figures show, since no information was available for about 26 percent of the Amazon covered by clouds.
Nick: JirkaPraha, 30.9.2008 08:52:06
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