The leaders of the Group of Seven countries, known as G7, will meet on Saturday in southern France to address the devastating wildfire, which has prompted protest across the worldbut has yet to draw criticism from Bolsonaro’s American counterpart Donald Trump.
Amazon, which accounts for more than half of the world’s largest rainforests, has been burning in a giant inferno over the past three weeks.
Forest fires are an annual occurrence in the Amazon region – about 60 percent of which lies in Brazil. But this year’s inferno, which has engulfed an all-time high of 83 percent of the area, is said to be man-made.
Environmental organizations and researchers say the blaze was set by farmers, who want to clear the “lungs of the world” for pasture.
Bolsonaro responsible for Amazon fire: Amnesty
Amnesty International warned on Thursday that responsibility for the fires “lies squarely with President Bolsonaro and his government.”
It said that Brasilia’s “disastrous policy of opening up the rainforest for destruction (is) what has paved the way for this current crisis.”
Instead of spreading outrageous lies/denying the scale of deforestation, we urge Brazil’s President Bolsonaro to take immediate action to halt the progress of the wildfires that have been raging in the Amazon rainforest for several weeks. https://t.co/zrVKhJFe6z— Amnesty International (@amnesty) August 22, 2019
Bolsonaro, who like Trump does not believe in climate change, stands accused of encouraging the destruction of the world’s greatest tropical forest.
He has said in the past that Amazon should be “exploited” for agriculture, mining and infrastructure projects.
The US president, who is also headed to France to attend the G7 meet, has so far failed to denounce Bolsonaro’s handling of the disaster.
In a Twitter message on Friday, he offered to help Brazil to contain the raging fire.
“Just spoke with President @JairBolsonaro of Brazil,” he wrote. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand by ready to assist!”
Bolsonaro has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” for imitating the US president’s stance on climate change, among many other issues.
The both leaders have already advocated using protected natural areas for their resources prompting environmental experts to describe them both as threats to the global natural habitat.
Trump, who pulled out of the Paris agreement on climate change, has described global warming as a Chinese hoax.
EU threatens to kill trade deal
In a bid to put more pressure on Bolsonaro, European leaders have threatened to tear up a trade deal that was struck in June between the European Union (EU) and a regional South American bloc.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said they will vote against the EU-Mercosur deal — signed after 20 years of negotiations — unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honor its environmental commitments,” Varadkar said on Friday.
Brazil said at the time of the agreement that the deal would boost the economy and increase investment in the country for the next 15 years.
Anti-Bolsonaro protests gain momentum across globe
In the meantime, protesters across the world laid siege to Brazilian embassies as part of the international outrage over Bolsonaro’s failure to protect Amazon.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Brazil’s embassy, in the British capital of London on Friday, with placards reading, “The planet deserves better” and “Our house is on fire.”
Rallies were also held outside Brazil’s embassies in Mexico City and Paris, where demonstrators reportedly carried banners reading, “Fora Bolsonaro!” or “Bolsonaro, out!”
Protesters also surrounded the Brazilian consulate in Geneva while further marches were planned in other cities across the world including Adelaide, Lisbon, Stockholm, Boston and Florida.
Brazilians also staged protests on Friday to demand Bolsonaro to take action against the fire.
Protesters in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo marched and shouted “come to the street for the Amazon” and “not him” in reference to Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro to send troops to Amazon under global pressure
As protests gained momentum across the world, Bolsonari said Friday he will deploy federal troops with appropriate equipment to fight the fires.The president, however, kept blaming what he called as dryer-than-normal weather for the spike in fire outbreaks this year.
In a televised speech, he said the government was very aware of the situation and will fight “environmental crime” the same way it fights ordinary crime.
He also said that the spread of “false information” regarding the situation in northern Brazil “does not help to solve it.”
While Bolsonaro was making the announcement, thousands of people in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the capital of Brasilia were calling for the resignation of his Environment Minister Ricardo Salles.
Hundreds of protesters were also out in the streets in the Peruvian and Argentinian capitals of Lima and Buenos Aires on Friday, calling for action to save Amazon.
Brazilian demonstrators were preparing to mobilize for a weekend of protests in cities including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Curitiba, Recife and the Amazon city of Manaus.
Brazil’s indigenous calls for international help
In another related development, Brazil’s indigenous chief Raoni called for international help to put out fires raging in the region.
He also accused Bolsonaro of seeking to destroy the Amazon rainforest.
A spokeswoman for the Brasilia-based Indigenous Missionary Council, Gilberto Vieira dos Santos, asked Canada to press Brazil to change its current stance of Indigenous rights.
“The position of the Canadian government is very important,” she said. “Maybe it’s the only real pressure that can have an impact on the situation in the country.”
Another indigenous leader, Rayanne Cristine Máximo França said Bolsonaro has unleashed an assault on the community and their lands by emboldening farmers, ranchers and miners to carve deeper into the Amazon rainforest
The community said there has further been a rise in the displacement of Indigenous people from these lands.
They also accused Bolsonaro of both “genocide” and “ecocide.”
Brazilian law protects the Indigenous territories and recognizes an Indigenous right to land. But Bolsonaro, who has long made racist remarks about the community, has weakened protections and turned a blind eye to illegal logging.
This has led to increased incursions by illegal loggers and increases in illegal land seizures in Indigenous territories.
According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the protection of Indigenous rights is “key to preventing further deforestation in the Amazon.”
It also warned that the “risk of bloodshed” in the Amazon was rising, unless the Brazilian government reversed its current position and began protecting Indigenous lands.
“Since early this year, there has been a surge in the invasion of Indigenous territories,” said João Ghilherme Delgado Bieber, a consultant with Amnesty International.Br