Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has turned down a G7 aid offer to fight the fires that are raging in the Amazon forest. Bolsonaro noted that Brazil will only accept the aid if he receives a direct apology from French President Emmanuel Macron for calling him a “liar.”
The aid, totaling to nearly $22 million, was approved by the G7 and announced by Macron during a summit in France.
According to satellite data, the Amazon is currently seeing a record number of fires. The government there had noted earlier that all efforts were being explored in fighting them. Brazilian ministers also said that they didn’t need any external help. But it seems like the issue is getting out of hand.
The personal row between Macron and Bolsonaro started off last week when the French president said that his Brazilian counterpart had “lied” to him at the G20 summit in Japan. Macron said that Bolsonaro didn’t respect his climate commitments by failing to pursue biodiversity after he was elected president. The French president even threatened that Paris won’t approve a big trade deal with South American nations if Brazil doesn’t do more to fight fires in the Amazon.
The comments didn’t go down well in Brazil. Speaking during a press conference in the capital Brasilia, Bolsonaro insisted to reporters that Macron must “withdraw the insults that he made to my person” before any aid can be allowed into the country. Bolsonaro also accused Macron of questioning the sovereignty of Brazil over the Amazon forest.
This latest spat between the two presidents is merely a reflection of the huge difference in their political views. While Bolsonaro is largely considered an extreme far-right leader, Macron is the exact opposite. During his election as French president, he had to beat off a rising far-right in the country.
But the backlash towards Macron didn’t come from Bolsonaro alone. Some officials within his government also mocked the French President over his calls for greater protection of the Amazon. One even suggested that Macron was not in a position to “give lessons” about controlling fires when you consider he couldn’t “avoid a predictable fire” in the Notre Dame Cathedral. Despite this rhetoric, it’s abundantly clear that Brazil needs outside help to deal with the fires.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world. It is estimated that over 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced there. It is therefore within the shared interest of global leaders to make sure that the forest is preserved in the best way possible. Although wildfires are not uncommon in the Amazon during the dry season, satellite images seen so far appear to suggest that this year the frequency has significantly shot up.
Analysts estimate that there have been 80% more fires in the Amazon in 2019 compared to last year. Bolsonaro’s government has also taken a very lax approach in protecting the environment and this has been partly blamed for the recent spike in wildfires.