The Brazilian government has inhospitably rejected a 20-million-dollar aid package offered by the Group of Seven (G7) countries to help fight raging fires in the Brazilian Amazon forest.
“We appreciate it (the offer), but maybe those resources would be put to better use reforesting Europe,” said Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, during an interview with the local Globo TV news network on Monday.
The aid proposal was announced at the G7 summit that is being hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in France’s Biarritz.
“Macron can’t even prevent a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” Lorenzoni said, referring to the fire that partially damages the historical Notre-Dame cathedral in April. “What does he want to teach our country? He has plenty to take care of at home and in the French colonies.”
He said Macron’s “objective” might be “colonialism and imperialism.”
“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said.
Lorenzoni’s remarks, however, contradicted an earlier reaction to the aid offer by Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who told reporters the country would welcome the funds from the G7.
According to local reports, following Salles’ statement accepting the G7 aid, a meeting was called between Bolsonaro and his ministers that led to a change of course by the Brazilian government.
This is while Brazil has accepted help from the Israeli regime, which offered to dispatch an aircraft, according to AFP.
Tensions between Paris and Brasilia intensified after Macron tweeted that the wildfires raging in the Amazon basin amounted to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority at the G7 summit. Bolsonaro then reacted by slamming his French counterpart for having a “colonialist mentality.”
The development came while the Brazilian government has faced protests, including abroad, over its inability to prevent and extinguish the fire. After taking office, Bolsonaro lifted restrictions on land clearing, a move that has been blamed for the quick spread of the fires.
Hundreds of new fires flared up in the Amazon on Sunday and Monday, even as military aircraft dumped water over hard-hit areas.
A mere two C-130 Hercules aircraft began extinguishing fires destroying large swaths of the world’s largest rain forest on Sunday.
The Amazon rainforest is regarded as key to keeping climate change in check.
Some 1,113 new fires were ignited on Saturday and Sunday, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced on Monday.
Smoke choked Porto Velho City and forced the closure of the airport for nearly two hours.
Fires raged in the northwestern state of Rondonia, where fire-fighting efforts are concentrated.
Experts say rising land clearing during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has prompted the recurring problem this year.
Bolsonaro has ordered a probe into reports that rural producers in the northern state of Para held a “day of fire” on August 10 in a show of support for the far-right leader’s policies to weaken environmental protection monitoring.
Moreover, Brazil’s Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva claimed on Monday after meeting with the president 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. “The situation isn’t simple but it is under control.”
Seven Brazilian states, including Rondonia, have called for the Brazilian army’s help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops have been deployed to combat the fires.
1000s protest Amazon destruction as Bolsonaro’s approval rating sinks
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent days across Brazil and Europe to deplore the destruction.
And the results of a survey conducted in the past four days pointed to a sharp rise in Bolsonaro’s disapproval rating, to 53.7 percent from 28.2 percent in February, according to MDA Research. Only 41 percent approved of his performance, down from 57.5 percent.
The latest official figures show 80,626 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since at least 2013.
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