Brazilian cops crack down on Amazon logging gang

In a burst of dawn raids, Brazilian police busted an Amazon logging gang yesterday. Some 400 agents fanned out across five Amazon states and arrested at least 34 people accused of forging and selling permits that facilitated the transport of millions of dollars worth of illegally logged hardwood timber. It marked the fifth large-scale police action to combat illegal logging in the Amazon since Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assumed office in 2003, part of a crackdown the government says has slashed deforestation in the Amazon by half this year. “We’ve cut the backbones of these gangs,” said Environment Minister Marina Silva. Conservation activists, though, attribute much of the decline in illegal logging to a slump in the price of soybeans, which has made it less profitable to clear rainforest land for farming; activists fear that logging levels will rise again when soybean prices do.