The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has surged in the first half of the year, since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro took office on 1 January.

The Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) uses NASA Landsat satellite imaging and cutting edge technology to track deforestation in the rainforest.  Researchers found that 2,072 square kilometers had been cleared for legal or illegal agriculture just in the month of June.  These findings from INPE findings corroborate the observations collected by NGOs Imazon and ISA, and Global Forest Watch (GFW).

But these facts didn't fit with the narrative from the Bolsonaro administration in Brasilia.  

Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina said, "What we need in Brazil is to have correct and unique data.  When we have conflicting data we give ammunition to our (agribusiness) competitors."

Augusto Heleno, chief minister of the presidency's Institutional Security Cabinet, claimed:  "These deforestation rates are manipulated.  If you add up all the percentages already announced to date regarding deforestation in the Amazon, the Amazon would be already a desert."

Neither minister offered any evidence to back up their claims.

"There isn't any evidence of data manipulation by INPE," said Carlos Souza of Imazon, a Brazilian research institute.  "Deforestation has been increasing since 2012, but in the first half of Bolsonaro’s government this trend is showing acceleration in both INPE and Imazon data," he continued, "As scientists, we hypothesize that the weakening in environmental public policies, enforcement and control ends up increasing deforestation."

Souza believes the damage on the ground is actually worse than what is detected in the satellite photos.

"There is a gap between what is happening and what the satellite captures. Those on the ground can see things that have not happened yet, but which will result in deforestation.  The satellite only detects damage when it is already done."