BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday angrily denied the existence of fires in the Amazon rainforest, calling it a “lie”, despite data provided by his government. levels show thousands of fires are erupting throughout the area.
A member of the fire brigade of the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) embracing a dead anteater while trying to control hotspots in an Amazon jungle area near Apui, state of Amazonas, Brazil, August 11, 2020. REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino
Mr. Bolsonaro also denied last year that the rise in the fires sparked a wave of outcry globally, with right-wing populists at odds with French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders.
Tuesday’s presidential comments came even as Reuters witnesses in the remote Amazon town of Apui observed smoke covering the horizon in all directions during the day, and a massive fire caused the sky to fall. glowing at night.
Brazil’s Amazon fires in August hit a nine-year high in 2019, and this month looks even worse. More than 10,000 fires were recorded in the first 10 days of August, up 17 percent year-on-year, according to data from the country’s national space research agency Inpe.
But in a speech to other South American leaders on Tuesday, Bolsonaro challenged foreign representatives flying over Amazon saying air travel from the remote cities of Boa Vista to Manaus, You will not see a single fire.
“They won’t find any sparks, nor a quarter of the forest cleared,” the former military captain told a meeting of the members of the Leticia Treaty, an agreement between countries Amazon to protect the rainforest.
“The story that Amazon is on fire is a lie and we must fight it with real numbers,” he said.
Bolsonaro intervened in Inpe after it released unfavorable data on Amazon deforestation last year, firing agency head Ricardo Galvao, who defends agency figures suggesting the devastation is on. increase.
In his speech, Bolsonaro said that Brazil has shown itself to be able to protect the Amazon forest alone because much of it remains intact.
He said the Amazon is a wet forest that is self-conserving and does not catch fire. Foreign media and governments, he said, are telling a false story about Amazon.
Experts say that fire is not a natural phenomenon in the rainforest, but is usually created by humans to clear the forest for pasture.
Deforestation increased by 34.5% in the 12 months to July, compared with the same period last year. Deforestation decreased in July, the first decrease in 15 months, a point emphasized by Bolsonaro.[nL1N2F913F]
Foreign pressure is weighing on Brazil to protect the world’s largest rainforest, an important ecosystem for preserving climate change because of the large amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
Global investors managing more than $ 2 trillion have threatened to withdraw their investments from Brazil’s meat packers, grain traders and government bonds if Bolsonaro’s administration does not. take action to destroy Amazon.[nL1N2DV1BP]
Bolsonaro has sent troops to fire and deforestation since May, along with armed forces working with the Ibama environment agency to combat fires near Apui, Reuters witnesses said.
Report by Maria Carolina Marcello and Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Ueslei Marcelino and Leonardo Benassatto in Apui, Brazil; edited by Richard Pullin