Brasilia: Brazil’s administration has rejected a $20 million emergency fund from the G7 group of wealthy nations to fight fires in the Amazon, calling it “colonialist and imperialist.”
The move comes amid a fracas between French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country hosted this year’s G7 meetings, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over how to address the fires, a dispute that climaxed Monday with Bolsonaro mocking Macron’s wife.
Earlier that day Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, also said Brazil was rejecting the G7’s money and accused France of reviving colonialist tendencies.
“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni told the Brazilian news site G1.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
Bolsonaro echoed the sentiment in a tweet Monday, saying the G7’s intervention to “save” the Amazon made Brazil seem “as if we were a colony or no man’s land.”
Scientists have recorded more than 76,000 fires in Brazil this year. More than 9,500 new forest fires have started since August 15, an 83% increase year-on-year.
The fires were predominantly caused by Brazilian farmers as part of deforestation, a move Bolsonaro has supported in the past.
Fernando Azevedo e Silva, Brazil’s defense minister, claimed on Monday that the country had the fires “under control,” without giving further details.
“It has been exaggerated a little that the situation was out of control — it wasn’t,” he said, according to France 24. “The situation isn’t simple but it is under control.”
Some of the fires had been extinguished as of Tuesday, but many remain. The Brazilian military have been dispatched to deal with the fires.
The G7’s $20 million donation was intended to finance fire-fighting aircraft, France 24 reported, citing a source close to the French presidency.
Macron has lambasted Bolsonaro for his apparent indifference over the fires.
“The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet,” he said Monday. “We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”
The leaders’ feud started Thursday after Macron tweeted a photo of the Amazon fires with the caption: “Our house is burning. Literally.”
On Sunday, Brazil’s education minister, Abraham Weintraub, called Macron an “opportunistic cretin seeking the support of the French farm lobby.”
The fires are so severe that the Amazon is losing the equivalent of three football fields a minute, according to data from Brazilian satellites.
The UK has independently pledged $12 million in aid, and Canada $11 million. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance group has donated $5 million.