Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday that he may use his country’s military to battle the record number of wildfires burning out of control in the Amazon rainforest — where an indigenous tribe vowed to do anything and everything to save their home.
“That’s the plan,” Bolsonaro told reporters as the 75,000 fires — up 85 percent from the same period last year according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research– continued to ravage the rainforest, where they’ve been raging since January.
Bolsonaro didn’t offer specifics about his plan yet, but did hint that action by the military — which regards the so called “lungs of the Earth” as its chief responsibility — could be imminent.
The fires have destroyed 7,192 square miles of rainforest in the first seven months of 2019–doubling the area destroyed just two years ago, according to the institute. Bolsonaro, who is backed by the country’s beef caucus, has resisted fighting the blazes, sparked by loggers and ranchers clearing land for cattle.
His decision to act comes as foreign leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, turned the heat up on him for not doing more to contain the widespread deforestation.
Both France and Ireland have said that they wouldn’t ratify a huge Europen Union trade deal with Brazil and other Southern America countries unless a serious commitment is made to tackle the devastating wildfires.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, said that he’s “truly worried about the attitude Brazil seems to have adopted right now regarding” fires in the Amazon.”
“Brazilian rainforests are vital for the world’s climate” and Brazil should do whatever it can to stop the blazes,” Rinne said.
Merkel also called the fires an “acute emergency” while Macron accused Bolsonaro of deciding “to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity.”
The French leader said the raging fires were an international crisis and called on the leaders of the Group of 7 nations to address them at their summit in France this weekend.
“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest — the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron tweeted Thursday.
Bolsonaro ripped international outrage as symptomatic of a modern day “colonialist mentality.”
He’s been defiant that the media is exaggerating reports, fired back in a tweet: “I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries. The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem.”
Meanwhile Friday, a B747-400 SuperTanker arrived in Bolivia on Friday to help to fight the fires. The U.S.-based aircraft has the ability to spew nearly 20,000 gallons of a fire retardant chemical.
And leaders of Brazil’s indigenous Mura tribe have also offered to defend the world’s largest rainforest.
“It’s destruction,” leader Raimundo Mura told the BBC. “What we want for this place, all our efforts, if needed, I’ll give my last drop of blood for this forest.”
With Post wires
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