Brazil rejects G7 countries offer to fight fires: Amazon fires

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019 00:00 |
Brazilian farmer Helio Do Santos at a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state on Monday. Photo/AFP

Brasília, Tuesday

Brazil on Monday rejected aid from G7 countries to fight wildfires in the Amazon, with a top official telling French President Emmanuel Macron to take care of “his home and his colonies.”

Nearly 80,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year—just over half of them in the massive Amazon basin that regulates part of Earth’s carbon cycle and climate.

G7 countries made the $20 million  (Sh2.27 billion) aid offer to fight the blazes at the Biarritz summit hosted by Macron, who insisted they should be discussed as a top priority.

“We appreciate (the offer), but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website.

“Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” he added, referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral. “What does he intend to teach our country?” The presidency said.

However, on Tuesday Bolsonaro said he was open to discussing G7 aid for fighting fires in the Amazon if his French counterpart “withdraws insults” made against him. 

“To talk or accept anything from France, with the best possible intentions, Macron has to withdraw these words, and from there we can talk,” he said.

Brazilian environment Minister Ricardo Salles had earlier on Monday told reporters they had welcomed the G7 funding to fight the fires that have swept across 950,000 hectares and prompted the deployment of the army. 

Free nation

But after a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers, the Brazilian government changed course. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said.

Although about 60 per cent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of eight other countries or territories, including the French overseas territory of Guyana on the continent’s northeast coast. Hundreds of new fires have flared up in the Brazilian part of the forest, data showed Monday. -AFP

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