Brazil announces South American meeting on Amazon - GulfToday

Brazil announces South American meeting on Amazon


Smokes billow from forest fires in Altamira, Para state, Brazil. Agence France-Presse

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that South American countries would meet to determine a common policy in defense of the Amazon rainforest, and took another swipe at France for an offer of $20 million in aid.

In an indication that Bolsonaro, a far-right conservative, is forging closer ties with neighbouring countries than European nations, he also accepted Chile’s offer of four aircraft to help fight the fires sweeping through the world’s largest rainforest.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said a meeting with regional neighbours except Venezuela to discuss a common policy in defense of the Amazon will be held on Sept. 6 in the Colombian city of Leticia.

Pinera offered his full backing to Bolsonaro, saying the sovereignty of the nations that share the Amazon had to be respected, while Bolsonaro said Brazil’s sovereignty had “no price, not even $20 trillion.” That was a reference to an offer of $20 million aid announced by French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit of the G7 wealthy nations in Biarritz over the weekend, which Bolsonaro dismissed as an insulting attempt to “buy” Brazil’s sovereignty. Macron has accused Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, of lying about climate change.

“The French government called me a liar. Only after it has recanted what it said about me... and the Brazilian people, who do not accept this diminution of the Amazon’s sovereignty... if so, then we can talk again,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who shares Bolsonaro’s skepticism of environmental concerns and has been at the forefront of the Brazilian government’s response to the Amazon crisis, remained in the Armed Forces Hospital in Brasilia on Wednesday.

Salles, 44, was admitted to the hospital’s emergency unit on Tuesday after complaining of not feeling well, the hospital said in a statement. Hospital staff opted to carry out “routine examinations,” and he is in stable condition, it said.

Scorched forests, government inaction and presidential insults — fires in the Amazon rainforest are having a disastrous effect on Brazil’s international image, analysts warn.

“This is the worst crisis Brazil has had for its image in 50 years,” former government minister Rubens Ricupero told O Globo newspaper.

The daily Folha de S.Paulo lamented “the worst disaster in the history of Brazilian diplomacy in decades.” “We find ourselves alone and ashamed,” it said.

While a stronghold of internet support remains for President Jair Bolsonaro, another part of the Twitterverse has unleashed its fury against the far right leader. He has been sharply condemned by both the Brazilian and international press for his handling of record-setting fires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest over the last week.

“With his gaffes, idiocy, chauvinism, ignorance... Bolsonaro is building his image in the world and destroying Brazil’s,” one Twitter user charged.

The fires took on an international dimension over the weekend, as French President Emmanuel Macron tackled the topic on Twitter during the G7 summit and said “our house is burning.” The sumiteers also discussed the fires at the meeting in Biarritz.

Caving in to pressure, Bolsonaro called a crisis meeting that same night to mobilize the military against the fires.

Macron and Bolsonaro have repeatedly butted heads over the issue, sometimes deviating from the point at hand. Macron called Bolsonaro’s comments implying that French first lady Brigitte Macron was not attractive “extraordinarily rude” while Bolsonaro accused Macron of treating Brazil with a “colonialist mentality.” As Macron wished for a Brazilian president who could “behave himself properly,” government ministers in the South American country upped their scorn for France and Bolsonaro demanded the French president apologize, to no avail.

“I have never seen a Brazilian president express himself in such a way,” said Gaspard Estrada, a Latin American expert at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. “That will leave a mark.” And although the spat with France was the most visible, Brazil also found itself in hot water with much of the rest of the international community over the Amazon crisis.

Robert Muggah, from a Rio de Janeiro think tank called the Igarape Institute, pointed out other actors with whom Brazil has clashed. “

 Agence France-Presse

Related articles