As fires rage in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil has rejected as much as $20 million in international aid.
According to GI Globo, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said he would not accept the money pledged by French President Emmanual Macron and the G7 countries unless the French leader apologizes for what Bolsonaro perceived as insults. As the fires rage, Macron has become one of the most vocal leaders to place the blame for them on the environmental policies of the Brazilian government.
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Brazil, French leaders in a public spat
The public spat between Bolsonaro and Macron stems from Macron's call to create an international alliance to save the Amazon rainforest. Bolsonaro called it an attack on the sovereignty of Brazil and that it treats the country like "a colony or no man's land," reported CNN.
“First of all, Mr. Macron must remove the insults you have done to me. First, he called me a liar. And then, information I had, that our sovereignty is open in the Amazon,” said Bolsonaro, according to GI Globo. "To talk or accept anything from France that is of the best possible intent, he will have to remove those words and then we can talk."
Bolsanaro's government facing criticism over its handling of the Amazon
Bolsanro's government has been facing criticism and international pressure over policies pertaining to the Amazon, one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet. While forest fires are a normal occurrence in the Amazon during the dry season that stretches from July to October, environmentalists worry human activity is making the fires worse. The Earth Alliance, the non-profit founded by Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio that pledged an initial $5 million to fight the fires, pointed to large-scale cattle operations and feed crops as well as logging as the primary drivers for deforestation in the Amazon.
France isn't alone in criticizing how Brazil handles the Amazon under Bolsonaro's leadership. Germany and Norway have reportedly suspended contributions to Brazil's Amazon Fund over concerns Brazil isn't doing enough to curb deforestation. Germany had planned to donate $39 million.
As it stands more than 72,000 fires have been reported so far in 2019, which is up from 40,000 fires Brazil's National Institute for Space Research recorded at this point last year. NASA said it amounts to an 84% increase in the number of fires from a year ago. A surge in deforestation leads to a drier region. With less rain, when the fires break out on dry grasslands, it's almost impossible to control them.