As Amazon burns, Brazilian president tells rest of world not to interfere

By Anthony Boadle and Stephen Eisenhammer

Amid growing international criticism over the wildfires raging through the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday admitted farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest alight but told foreign powers not to interfere.

French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres both took to Twitter to express their concern about the fires which have reached a record number this year, devastating vast swathes of forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.

Bolsonaro responded angrily to what he regarded as meddling.

"These countries that send money here, they don't send it out of charity... They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty," he said in a Facebook Live broadcast.

However, earlier on Thursday, he said that Brazil alone lacked the resources to control the fires.

"The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?," he asked reporters as he left the presidential residence. "We do not have the resources for that."

Fires in the Amazon have surged 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures show.

Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.

In that, they may have had at least tacit encouragement from the firebrand right-wing president, who took power in January. Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining, agricultural and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.

On Wednesday, he blamed non-governmental organizations for setting the fires, without providing evidence, but appeared to row back on Thursday, when he said for the first time that farmers could be behind them.

Macron took to Twitter to call the Amazon fires an"international crisis" that should be discussed by the G7 summit that will begin on Saturday in Biarritz, France. The Group of Seven rich countries does not include Brazil.

Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" by the fires, adding"we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity."

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said they were investigating a spike in deforestation and wildfires raging in the Amazon state of Pará to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections.

Prosecutors said they would look into an ad that they said was published in a local newspaper encouraging farmers to participate in a "Fire Day," in which they would burn large areas of forest "to show Bolsonaro their willingness to work."

Brazil is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon, 60% of which lies in the country.

Earlier this month, Norway and Germany suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Bolsonaro.

At the time, when asked about the loss of German funding, Bolsonaro said, "Brazil does not need that."

Others were less sanguine.

Brazil's lower house speaker, Rodrigo Maia, said on Twitter he would create "an external committee" to monitor the burning of the rainforest. He also vowed to form a group "to evaluate the situation and propose solutions to the government."

The Bishops Conference for Latin America expressed concern about the "tragedy," and on Thursday called on countries to take immediate action to protect the rainforest and nearby communities.

"We urge the governments of the Amazon countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the world's lungs," it said.

Wildfires are also raging in Bolivia, where officials estimate that an area the size of Delaware has burned in recent days.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Notre Dame got millionaires digging deep into their pockets and global coverage.

The Earth's lungs are in jeopardy and people just shrug their shoulders.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Brazil still needs to go a looong way in many aspects...

having this character as president also doesn,t help...

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If 20% of the world's oxygen is produced in the Amazon, will there come a point when the planet, perhaps through the UN, will have to invade some of these places. We're not there yet, but if you're slowly being choked to death, well, then you either take action yourself or die, right?

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I do not think people just shrug their shoulders. But it seems newspaper around the world are more focused on the local problem than this issue. Less commentsbait, I guess. It is something were you end up feeling so powerless. There is tread about it on Twitter, it seems (be careful the picture are messed up, possibly partly because the lack of current media coverage and pictures related).

Before thinking of invading, I guess countries should start producing their own oxygen, I know said like that it is strange. What I mean is that we are limited against anti-ecology creeps. So countries and their population conscious of the problem should aim at implanting as many measure as they can on their ground as long as kept pushing diplomatic talk and providing help when needed. That is kind of crazy or something like that, is like having someone taking benefit of destroying when someone else take the trouble of fixing which benefit also the one destroying. We share the house.

I hope something can be done to stop it. It seems Bolivia also need help. Colombia is doing is best and is offering help. T-T

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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