As Fires Burn in the Amazon, The World's Attention Turns to Brazil

Bolsonaro's government backed into a corner over Amazon fires; Macron asked for the G7 to take action

Facing worldwide criticism, President Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) chastised his critics and created a task force to deal with the Amazon forest.

The move comes after the government doubled down on its criticism of NGOs and the President of France, entities that have criticized the government's environmental management.

Echoing a global wave fueled by the spread of images of the fire, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron published on social maws an appeal for urgent measures to defend the forest.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 28, 2019 France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka. - (Photo by Jacques Witt / POOL / AFP) - AFP

Alongside his text, he published a photo of the burning forest that is at least 15 years old, which led the Brazilian to accuse him of being "sensationalist."

Macron described the fires in the Amazon as an "international crisis" and urged his G7 colleagues (US, Germany, UK, Japan, Canada, and Italy) to discuss the issue as an emergency at the group's summit this weekend.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned and said the Amazon forest "needs to be protected."

"The French president's suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of countries in the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century," Bolsonaro responded on Twitter.

"I regret that President Macron seeks to instrumentalize an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gain."

Disagreements between the two leaders have intensified since the Brazilian threatened to leave the Paris Climate Agreement and the Frenchman responded by promising to bar the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur.

But Bolsonaro, in the face of domestic and foreign criticism, also said the government "remains open to dialogue, based on objective data and mutual respect."

It was his fourth discourse about the fires this Thursday (22). Earlier, he had asked people to report allegations of criminal burning to General Augusto Heleno's (Institutional Security) Twitter account.

In Sao Paulo for an event, the Minister of the House, Onyx Lorenzoni, said that the growing criticism from European governments to Brazilian environmental policy aims to "establish barriers to growth and trade in goods and services in Brazil."

"Why are they so interested in creating difficulties for Brazil? Brazil is a major competitor in commodities, minerals and is humanity's last major deposit in biodiversity," said Onyx.

The Minister spoke of the so-called "green barriers," sanctions or measures taken against exports of products from a country that violates environmental standards, sometimes used to cover up protectionist actions.

The demonstrations, however, transcend the political wheels. Protests before Brazilian embassies in various capitals were called for this Friday (23) and Sunday (25), echoing acts planned to happen in Brazil. Global celebrities like Madonna and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have used their networks to call for action across the Amazon.

Facing a worldwide upheaval, Bolsonaro admitted that farmers could cause the burnings, but repeated the accusation against non-governmental organizations operating in the region. "Everyone is suspicious, but the biggest suspicion is of NGOs," he told reporters in the morning.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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