World Politics

Brazil's Bolsonaro accuses French president of 'colonialist mindset' after calls for action on Amazon fires

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, during a Bloomberg Television interview in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hit back at French leader Emmanuel Macron, after he urged dialogue among G-7 leaders on the rising number of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

In a tweet Thursday, Bolsonaro accused Macron of using the "internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries" for personal political gain. He also alleged his French counterpart had used sensationalism and fake photographs to call attention to the problem.

"The Brazilian Government remains open to dialogue, based on objective data and mutual respect," Bolsonaro added. "The French President's suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G-7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century."

Bolsonaro's comments came after Macron took to Twitter to call for action from the G-7 (Group of 7) nations ahead of their summit in Biarritz, 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," he said. "It is an international crisis. Members of the G-7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency."

The G-7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. — represent 40% of global GDP (gross domestic product).

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later announced his support for Macron, saying on Twitter that he "couldn't agree more" that action was needed to reduce the rate of Amazonian fires.

"We did lots of work to protect the environment at the G-7 last year in Charlevoix, and we need to continue this weekend," he said. "We need to #ActForTheAmazon and act for our planet — our kids and grandkids are counting on us."

International attention has been drawn to the crisis in the Amazon Rainforest since Brazil's space agency, INPE, published data earlier this week showing the number of fires in the forest this year had surged by 84% compared to 2018.

According to INPE, more than 70,000 fires have been detected in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest — the highest number for the period between January and August since records began.

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Record-breaking number of fires burn in Brazil's Amazon

Smoke from the fires can be seen from space, NASA satellite imagery shows, and on Monday it caused a daytime blackout in Sao Paulo despite the city being more than 1,700 miles away from the blaze.

On Thursday, Bolsonaro accused non-governmental organizations of setting fires in the Amazon to undermine his leadership, although he admitted he had no evidence to back up his allegations.

The Brazilian leader previously faced backlash after suggesting in April that Brazil may open a protected reserve in the Amazon to mining. He said in a televised address at the time that the country should "use the riches that God gave us."

Earlier this month, former INPE chief Ricardo Galvao told reporters he had been dismissed from the space agency over data that showed an accelerated rate of deforestation in the Amazon.