Amazon Fires turn personal: Brazil demands apology before accepting aid
The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has refused to accept international aid to deal with the devastating fires that have ravaged the Amazon rainforest for weeks. Reportedly, Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that he would accept the aid, worth $20 million, only if the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, apologizes for his "offensive" comments. The two have been feuding in recent weeks. Here's what happened.
Macron hosted the G-7 Summit in France where the Group of Seven countries- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States- pledged $20 million to help fight the Amazon wildfires and reforestation. Separately, Britain and Canada pledged $12 million and $11 million aid respectively. Macron said the aid was for the nine countries in the Amazon region, including French Guiana.
However, Bolsonaro refused to accept the aid until Macron apologized. He said that the French President has to retract some of his comments "and then we can speak," the Associated Press reported. Bolsonaro also accused Macron of having ulterior motives and treating Brazil like a colony. Bolsonaro's chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni told G1 that the aid "would be more relevant to reforest Europe."
On his part, Macron had assured Bolsonaro that the international aid comes with good intentions. He said, "We respect your sovereignty. It's your country." He added, "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. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything."
Notably, Macron has been critical of Bolsonaro amid the fires. Last week, he called Bolsonaro a liar over his pledge to protect biodiversity. Bolsonaro's policies are often blamed for the fires. According to France 24, a French presidential official said, "Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the G20 Summit."
Further, on Sunday, Bolsonaro responded to a Facebook post from one of his supporters comparing the looks of his wife Michelle, and Macron's wife Brigitte. Reportedly, Bolsonaro commented in Portuguese, "don't humiliate the guy... haha." Macron responded to the "disrespectful" remarks" saying, "I have great respect for Brazilian people and can only hope they soon have a president who is up to the job."
The Amazon rainforest has been burning at a record rate with 74,000 fires in Brazil alone this year, already double the fires recorded in 2018. While Bolsonaro blamed NGOs for setting the fires (without proof), many find blame in the Brazilian President, whose policies have allowed deforestation for cattle farming and agriculture. He also criticized Brazil's indigenous protection policies, saying they impede Brazil's development.