Why Is Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Rejecting $22 Million in Aid to Fight Fires in the Amazon?
The Amazon is on fire. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is more concerned with his grudge against French President Emmanuel Macron.
On Monday, Macron led world leaders at the G7 summit in France in approving a $22.2 million aid package to assist Brazil in fighting the blazes that have been decimating the world’s largest forest this month. Bolsonaro was not happy. He really didn’t appreciate the tone with which it was offered. Or something.
“We cannot accept that [Macron] unleashes improper and unreasonable attacks on the Amazon, nor disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of countries for the G7 to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or no man’s land,” the Brazilian president wrote on Twitter. “Other heads of state sympathize with Brazil, after all respect for the sovereignty of any country is the least that can be expected in a civilized world.”
Macron has been a vocal critic of Bolsonaro’s negligence of environmental issues and middling response to the fires. Bolsonaro has in turn accused Macron of harboring a “colonialist mindset” while implying that he’s worried the agricultural opportunities that would be created by the decimated forest would be a threat to France’s farming interests. Macron hasn’t been deterred, and on Monday even floated the idea that an international agreement to protect the forest could be “a real possibility if a sovereign state took concrete actions that clearly went against the interest of the planet,” according to the Washington Post.
Not long after Bolsonaro lashed out at Macron on Monday, his chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, confirmed to a French television station that Brazil would be rejecting the offer of aid. He even invoked the fire that destroyed much of Notre Dame in April to get a dig in on Macron. “Thanks, but perhaps these resources are more relevant to reforesting Europe,” he said. “Can Macron not even prevent a predictable fire in a church that is a World Heritage Site and wants to teach what for our country? He has a lot to look after at home and in the French colonies.”
Twenty-two million dollars is an extremely small amount to combat such a devastating blaze, but one would think Brazil would gladly welcome all the help it could get, and that the need to extinguish the fires would trump whatever misplaced insecurities Bolsonaro has about maintaining his nation’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Bolsonaro’s pettiness brings to mind that of his good friend in the White House. On Tuesday, President Trump affirmed his support for his fellow climate change denier. “I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil,” he wrote on Twitter. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”
Bolsonaro was pleased.
– Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump. We're fighting the wildfires with great success. Brazil is and will always be an international reference in sustainable development. The fake news campaign built against our sovereignty will not work. The US can always count on Brazil. 👍 https://t.co/ZicUKsYGcx
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) August 27, 2019
But accepting $22 million in aid is the easiest possible thing Bolsonaro could do if he were serious about combating the fires, and he won’t even do that. Not unless Macron apologizes, anyway. “To speak or accept anything from France, even with their very best intentions, he will have to withdraw his words, and then we can talk,” he told reporters. “First he withdraws them, then he makes the offer, and then I’ll answer.”
There have been 39,601 this year in the Amazon, a 77 percent increase from 2018. The rainforest supplies 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.