Brazil to create 'Amazon Council' to protect and develop the rainforest

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he will create an “Amazon Council” to protect and ensure the “sustainable development” of the world’s largest rainforest, following intense criticism of his environmental policies.

The council will be led by Brazil’s vice president, General Hamilton Mourao, Bolsonaro said on Twitter, and will coordinate “diverse actions within each ministry focused on the protection, defense and sustainable development of the Amazon.”

Bolsonaro has said previously that his government is protecting the rainforest, but he wants economic development in the Amazon to improve the lives of its 30 million inhabitants, including its indigenous tribes. Environmentalists fear that will hasten deforestation.

Under Bolsonaro, the number of fires in the Amazon reached a 10-year high last year, prompting world leaders to denounce his environmental record.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Tom Brown