Brazil arrests dozens in Amazon logging ring

Police stormed a dozen sawmills in Brazil's Amazon rainforest in a raid on Tuesday (June 2).

They arrested about 30 people accused of involvement in an illegal logging ring.

They say a criminal group behind those arrested spans a web of loggers, sawmill workers, furniture-makers, and drivers, as well as public officials taking bribes.

A Reuters photographer witnessed armed police confiscating industrial saws and truckloads of lumber, totalling more than a thousand cubic meters of wood.

The sawmills were located near Manaus, the state capital of Amazonas, Brazil's largest rainforest state.

Police said in a statement the criminal ring linked to the raids has cut down some 9,000 trees that were each over 100 years old in the span of 10 months.

Deforestation has devastated the region, hitting an 11-year high in 2019. It has continued to climb in 2020, rising 55% between January and April as compared to a year ago.

About 99% of deforestation in Brazil last year was illegal, according to the deforestation mapping initiative.

Environmental advocates blame the policies of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office last year, for emboldening illegal loggers, miners, and land speculators to destroy the forest.

Bolsonaro has called for the development of the Amazon to lift its people out of poverty and says he is being unfairly demonized.