Jair Bolsonaro Demands Macron Withdraw ‘Insults’ Over Amazon Fires

The feud between the Brazilian and French presidents continue over the G7 aid package for fighting wildfires raging in Amazon rainforest. Brazil’s far-right president Mr. Jair Bolsonaro and his patrons have escalated the row over the Amazon with Emmanuel Macron by criticizing the French president’s “lamentable colonialist stance” world’s biggest rainforest continues to burn.

Earlier, Brazil stated its intention to reject the $20m (£16m) G7 fund announced by Macron to fight the fires. Mr. Bolsonaro attacked Macron’s criticism of his environmental record and flaunted Donald Trump’s far-right administration and support.

Bolsonaro spoke at a summit of governors from the nine states that make up the Brazilian Amazon, “We have nothing against the G7. We have something against one of the G7’s presidents”.

Brazil’s President said he had been cheered by the US president’s tweet in which he acknowledged that Bolsonaro was “working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil”.

Bolsonaro responded by tweeting, “Thank you, President Trump. We’re fighting the wildfires with great success. The fake news campaign built against our sovereignty will not work.”

Macron has not been too kind to Bolsonaro, a rightwing nationalist who has been accused of greenlighting a new age of environmental destruction and is held responsible for the scale of this year’s Amazon burning season.
Last week, Macron instigated a diplomatic skirmish with Bolsonaro when he as host of the G& summit, called for emergency talks on the Amazon. Bolsonaro distastefully responded to this move by mocking the appearance of France’s first lady, Brigitte Macron, on Facebook. Soon after Bolsonaro rude insults, Brazilians took to Twitter to apologize to Macron’s wife Brigitte.

This Monday, Macron condemned Bolsonaro’s “extraordinarily rude” attack on his wife and expressed his hope that Brazil would soon have a worthier leader in office.
Bolsonaro retaliated on Tuesday by condemning Macron’s alleged meddling in Brazilian affairs and insisted he would only deliberate on the G7’s Amazon aid package if Macron withdrew his “insults”. Bolsonaro’s ministers followed suit. His hawkish institutional security chief, Gen Augusto Heleno, adopted a particularly hard line by attacking “Macron’s lamentable colonialist stance”.

Heleno, the former head of the Brazil-led United Nations stabilization mission in Haiti, told the gathering of governors. “Ninety percent of [former] French colonies are in a deplorable state. Wherever they went they left a trail of destruction, chaos and misery. They shouldn’t be giving anyone advice. This is a joke.”

The governor of the Amazon state of Mato Grosso, Mauro Mendes, accused Macron of “surfing on the ashes” of the Amazon conflagration for political and economic purposes.

Mendes claimed, “Macron isn’t worried about our environment. He’s worried about creating mechanisms to introduce possible barriers [to Brazilian products]”.

The Amazon assembly in Brasília was basically convened to discuss responses to the blazing forest fires currently sweeping through the rainforests in Brazil.

But Bolsonaro used the meeting to repeatedly deride environmentalists and the supposed “psychotic” demarcation of indigenous reserves, claiming both had cramped Brazil’s economy.

He said, “This environmental question has to be dealt with rationally and not with the almost savagery that it has been throughout previous governments. We cannot allow a country as rich as ours to be in the situation it finds itself in.” He even vowed to “take the decisions that need to be taken” to turbo-charge development of the Amazon.

Bolsonaro implied that indigenous reserves had been formed by previous governments as a part of a foreign conspiracy intended to hinder Brazil’s economic development.

He complained, “Indians don’t do lobbying. They don’t speak our language. And somehow they’ve ended up with 14% of our national territory. One of the aims is to make us unworkable.”

Bolsonaro continued his tirade by accusing Brazilian journalists of waging  “a massive, anti-patriotic, sell-out campaign” against his government by reporting on the Amazon fires. Several of the gathered Amazon governors cheered Bolsonaro’s stance.

The governor of Rondônia state and Bolsonaro’s ally, Marcos Rocha, said: “We have always had presidents who thought about environmental protection. Today, we have a president who thinks about protection but who puts human development first.”

Nevertheless, there was also some pushback.

The governor of Mato Grosso state, Mendes, said he was “very worried” about how Brazilian farmers might be affected by the negative international reaction to the crisis by noting that, “Sixty percent of our GDP comes from our exports”.

Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, cautioned against rebuffing foreign aid mechanisms like the Amazon Fund as countries like Norway and Germany had recently suspended contributions due to Bolsonaro’s environmental policies.

Barbalho also warned that Bolsonaro’s open clash with Macron was just a distraction while Brazil should be endeavoring to avoid a costly boycott of Brazilian products.

He elaborated, “I think we are wasting too much time on Macron. We should take care of our own country and get on with our own lives. we should be taking care of our own problems and showing our environment diplomacy to the world, which is essential to agribusiness.”

The Communist party governor of Maranhão, Flávio Dino, also opposed rejecting the much-needed international support for environmental protection by saying, “We cannot tear up money – tearing up money is not sensible” . The staunch critic of Bolsonaro, had earlier called the Brazilian president as the “insane” leader of a “minority sect” and warned against the “satanization” of environmental NGOs, who were accused, without evidence, by Bolsonaro of starting this year’s fires and vowed to expel from the Amazon.

Dino urged Bolsonaro to show “moderation” by stating, “It isn’t by setting NGOs on fire that we are going to save the Amazon”.

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