Massive Amazon illegal logging ring busted

Eighty-nine people were rounded up by Brazilian authorities this week as part of a massive crackdown on illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, causing a rare outbreak of hope among conservationists that the country’s government is finally taking the problem seriously. (The sweep came just weeks after the latest, very grim, data on Amazon deforestation were released.) The illegal-logging syndicate was one of the largest in the country. Among those busted were nearly 50 officials of Ibama, Brazil’s environment protection agency, including the head agency official in the state of Mato Grosso, where the bulk of illegal logging takes place. Apparently, Hugo Jose Scheuer Werle was producing documents saying trees were extracted legally in exchange for bribes; 32 of the bribers were also nailed. Said Justice Minister Thomaz Bastos, “Worse than corruption is corruption which is not punished.” Uh, right.