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Amazon fires: Bolsonaro will take G7 aid money if Macron apologizes



Brazil’s president appeared to backtrack on his refusal to accept $20 million in G7 aid to help fight the Amazon fires, saying that he would consider accepting the money if French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes for calling him rude.

Jair Bolsonaro refused the money in a Monday tweet, saying the G7’s offer of help to “save” the Amazon made Brazil seem “as if we were a colony or no man’s land.”

His chief of staff also suggested that the G7 aid was “colonialist and imperialist,” and singled out Macron, who has been at the forefront of Western condemnation of Brazil’s response to the fires.

Brazil’s refusal of the G7’s money came as Bolsonaro and Macron — who hosted this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France — exchanged personal barbs amid their disagreement over how to handle the fires.

After Bolsonaro appeared to endorse a Facebook post mocking the age gap between 41-year-old Macron and his 66-year-old wife Brigitte over the weekend, the French president called his Brazilian counterpart’s actions “extraordinarily rude” and “sad.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14, 2017.
Reuters/Charles Platiau

Bolsonaro is now demanding that Macron retract those comments and apologize, before he considers accepting the G7’s aid.

“First of all, Mr Macron must retract the insults he gave me,” he told reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday, according to the Financial Times.

“First, he called me a liar,” he continued, referring to Macron’s accusation last week that Bolsonaro had lied about his country’s climate commitments.

“Then, the information I had is that our sovereignty is up for grabs in the Amazon,” Bolsonaro continued.

“So, before talking or accepting anything that comes out of France’s best possible intentions, he will have to take those words out and then we can talk.”

The Elysée Palace has not yet responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

A composite image of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 30, 2019, and French President Emmanuel Macron in Biarritz, France, on August 26, 2019.
Adriano Machado/Reuters; Francois Mori/AP

Here’s the full rundown of Bolsonaro and Macron’s feud:

  • On Thursday, Macron tweeted an image of the Amazon fires, saying: “Our house is burning. Literally.”
  • On Friday, he publicly opposed a free trade deal between the EU and a bloc of South American states including Brazil over Bolsonaro’s inaction over the climate change. (The EU’s ambassador in Brasilia has since told Euractiv that the deal will not be affected.)
  • On Sunday, Brazil’s education minister called Macron an “opportunistic cretin seeking the support of the French farm lobby.”
  • That same day, Bolsonaro appeared to endorse a Facebook post containing two photos — one of 41-year-old Macron and his 66-year-old wife Brigitte, and the other of 64-year-old Bolsonaro and his 37-year-old wife Michelle.
  • The caption of the post read: “Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?” To which the Brazilian president responded: “Do not humiliate (him)… man, ha ha.”
  • On Monday, Macron called Bolsonaro’s comments “extraordinarily rude,” adding: “I have great respect for the Brazilian people and can only hope they soon have a president who is up to the job.”
  • Bolsonaro refused the G7’s offer of $20 million in aid that same day. Both he and chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, likened the gesture to colonialism.
  • Lorenzoni added in a statement to Brazil’s G1 news site: “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” in reference to the Notre Dame blaze in April. “What does he intend to teach our country?”
  • Fernando Azevedo e Silva, Brazil’s defense minister, claimed on Monday that the country had the fires “under control,” without giving further details. Some of the fires had been extinguished as of Tuesday, but many remain.

Read more: Brazil has angrily attacked offers to help it put out the huge fires in the Amazon — here’s why it is pushing back against global outrage

Brazilian National Force military firefighters stand in line to board a plane to Rondonia northern Brazil, to help fight fires in the Amazon on August 24, 2019.

The fires are so severe that the Amazon is losing the equivalent of three football fields a minute, according to data from Brazilian satellites. Brazil has deployed its military to help fight the fires.

Read more: The ‘lungs of the planet’ are burning at a record rate. If too much of the Amazon disappears, that ‘dieback’ could turn the land into a savanna.

The fires are predominantly caused by deliberate human activities, with businesses like farms and logging companies burning land to clear space for commercial activities.

Bolsonaro’s election campaign last year focused heavily on characterizing the Amazon as a resource to be exploited for Brazil’s economic gain.

Brazil’s refusal of the G7 funds may also be linked to the country’s longstanding fear that other nations will try to seize it and deny Brazilians from using its natural resources, Business Insider Sinéad Baker reported.

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