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Amazon fires: Brazil rejects G7 donation, calls move ‘colonialist’

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Brazil’s administration has rejected a $20 million emergency fund from the G7 to fight fires in the Amazon, calling it “colonialist and imperialist.”

The move comes amid a fracas between Emmanuel Macron, president of G7 host France, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over how to address the fires, which climaxed on Monday with Bolsonaro mocking Macron’s wife.

Earlier that day Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, also said Brazil is rejecting the G7’s money, and accused France of reviving colonialist tendencies.

“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni told Brazilian news site G1.

An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers on August 23, 2019.
REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Bolsonaro echoed the sentiment in a tweet on Monday, saying the G7’s intervention to “save” the Amazon makes Brazil seem “as if we were a colony or no man’s land.”

Scientists have recorded more than 76,000 fires in Brazil so far this year. Since August 15, more than 9,500 new forest fires have started— an 83% increase year-on-year.

The fires were predominantly caused by Brazilian farmers during deforestation, a move that Bolsonaro has supported in the past.

Read more: Striking photos show the devastation wreaked by record-breaking fires in the Amazon rainforest

Tract of the Amazon jungle burns as it is cleared by loggers and farmers in Porto Velho
Reuters

Fernando Azevedo e Silva, Brazil’s defense minister, claimed on Monday that the country had the fires “under control,” without giving further details.

“It has been exaggerated a little that the situation was out of control — it wasn’t,” he said, according to France 24. “The situation isn’t simple but it is under control.”

As of Tuesday, some of the fires have been extinguished, but many remain. The Brazilian military have been dispatched to deal with the fires.

The G7’s $20 million donation was intended to finance fire-fighting aircraft, France 24 reported, citing a source close to the French presidency.

Read more: Amazon fires created a smoke eclipse in the skies above Brazil’s largest city, 2,000 miles away

Macron has lambasted Bolsonaro for his indifference over the fires.

“The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance,” he said on Monday. “But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”

The leaders’ feud started last Thursday after Macron tweeted a photo of the Amazon fires on Thursday with the caption: “Our house is burning. Literally.”

On Sunday, Brazilian education minister Abraham Weintraub, called Macron an “opportunistic cretin seeking the support of the French farm lobby.”

The fires are so severe that the Amazon is losing the equivalent of three football fields per minute, according to data from Brazilian satellites.

The UK has independently pledged $12 million in aid, and Canada $11 million. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance group has donated $5 million.

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