Brazil’s government has said it will reject an offer of aid worth millions of dollars from G7 countries to help fight raging fires in the Amazon rainforest.
Brazilian officials gave no reason for turning down the money. But President Jair Bolsonaro has accused France of treating Brazil like a colony. His defence minister said the fires in the Amazon were not out of control. Commenting on the G7 offer of aid, Mr Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the Globo news website: “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe.” “Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” Mr Lorenzoni added, in a reference to the fire that hit Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April.
Amid the apparent u-turn, new data released on Monday showed that hundreds of new fires have flared up in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest in recent days. Some 1,113 new fires were ignited across Saturday and Sunday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which monitors deforestation.
Despite the rise, Brazil’s Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva claimed on Monday that the fires in the Amazon were “under control.”It has been exaggerated a little that the situation was out of control – it wasn’t,” he said. About 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil; the vast forest also spans parts of Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru and Suriname.
Fires are common during Brazil’s dry season, but the numbers have surged this year.
INPE has spotted more than 77,000 wildfires in Brazil since the beginning of January, a record since the institute began keeping track in 2013 and a more than 80 percent bump on the number for the same period last year.
The French leader has called the blazes an “international crisis” and threatened to block a landmark European Union trade deal brokered with South American bloc Mercosur unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest. The pact requires the Latin American giant to abide by the Paris climate accord, which Bolsonaro has threatened to leave and also aims to end illegal deforestation, including in the Brazilian Amazon. Ireland has also threatened to tear up the EU-Mercosur deal, 20 years in the making, over the crisis. Bolsonaro, who initially questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, on Monday, accused the French leader of launching “ludicrous and unnecessary attacks” on the Amazon region.
Questioning the offer of G7 aid, Bolsonaro said: “Does anyone help anyone, if it is not a poor person, without something in return? Why do they have an eye on the Amazon? What have they wanted there for so long?”