Brazil rejects G-7 aid offer as Amazon fires rage

A Brazilian farmer and his dog walking through a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest. More than 82,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year.
A Brazilian farmer and his dog walking through a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest. More than 82,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BRASILIA • Brazil has rejected aid from G-7 countries to fight wildfires in the Amazon, with a top official telling French President Emmanuel Macron to take care of “his home and his colonies”.

More than 82,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year – just over half of them in the massive Amazon basin that regulates part of the earth’s carbon cycle and climate.

The Group of Seven (G-7) countries made the US$20 million (S$27.8 million) aid offer at the Biarritz summit hosted by Mr Macron.

“We appreciate (the offer), but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Mr Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website on Monday.

“Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” he added, referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral. “What does he intend to teach our country?” The presidency later confirmed the remarks.

Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles had told reporters they welcomed the G-7 funding to fight the fires that have swept across 950,000ha and prompted the deployment of the army.

But after a meeting between Mr Bolsonaro and his ministers, the Brazilian government changed course. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Mr Lorenzoni said.

Hundreds of new fires have flared up in the Brazilian part of the forest, data showed on Monday, even as military aircraft dumped water over hard-hit areas.

A Hercules C-130 aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force waiting to collect giant water bags to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, in the state of Rondonia, one of the states most affected by the wildfire crisis. About 60 per cent of the Amazon is in
Tanks, but no thanks, Brazil tells G-7: A Hercules C-130 aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force waiting to collect giant water bags to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, in the state of Rondonia, one of the states most affected by the wildfire crisis. About 60 per cent of the Amazon is in Brazil and since the beginning of this year, more than 82,000 fires have occurred, according to Brazil's space research agency. More than half are in the Amazon rainforest. Brazil yesterday rejected an offer from G-7 nations of US$20 million (S$28 million) to fight the fires that have flared during the current dry season, fuelled in part by drought and clearing and burning by cattle ranchers and soya bean farmers. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline 'Brazil rejects G-7 aid offer as Amazon fires rage'. Print Edition | Subscribe