Bolsonaro steps up action as EU says Amazon fires are global issue

BOGOTA/BERLIN, dpa correspondents (dpa)– Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he was considering sending the army to help fight wildfires raging in the Amazon region as EU leaders warned the fires posed a danger to the entire planet and should be on the Group of Seven (G7) agenda.
His "tendency" was to take the decision to send the army, news portal G1 quoted Bolsonaro as saying.
The president also signed an order for his ministers to take measures to "survey and combat fire outbreaks" in the world's largest rainforest, G1 reported. The goal is the "preservation and defence of the Amazon forest, our national heritage," according to the order.

Bolsonaro's order came as international criticism mounted of his failure to protect the rainforest, dubbed "the lungs of the planet," the preservation of which is considered key to fighting climate change.
France and Ireland on Friday said they would block a European Union trade deal with the South American Mercosur group of countries over Brazil's policies.
Brazilian satellite data has shown that the number of wildfires in the country jumped by 83 per cent so far in 2019 compared to the corresponding period last year. More than half of the fires have occurred in the Amazon.
Many of the blazes are believed to have been started by farmers opening the way for grazing areas after Bolsonaro pledged to open more of the rainforest to agriculture and mining. Bolsonaro has accused NGOs of starting some the blazes, but not cited any evidence.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday that the fires should be on the agenda for the G7 summit of leading industrial nations that he is hosting in Biarritz from Saturday to Monday.
Bolsonaro in a tweet rejected foreign advice, saying Brazil remained "open to dialogue" but that Macron's plans to have the G7 discuss the fires represented "a colonialist way of thinking."
On Friday, Bolsonaro said Brazil had the "arduous mission" of defending the Amazon and that its "enemies" were waging "an information war against the truth," national news agency Agencia Brasil reported.
The president had already said last week that other countries had launched an information war to make Brazil "lose sovereignty over that area," according to Agencia Brasil.
Macron's proposal to place the Amazon fires on the G7 agenda received support from Germany. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel was convinced that "the acute emergency in the Amazon rainforest should be on the [G7] agenda."
The Elysee Palace in Paris also confirmed that France would oppose the EU-Mercosur trade deal. News agency AFP reported that Macron believed the actions of recent weeks showed Bolsonaro "had lied to him" about his climate commitments during the G20 summit in Osaka in June.
Bolsonaro "has decided not to respect his climate commitments nor to act on biodiversity issues," the agency quoted the Elysee Palace as saying.
The free trade agreement with Mercosur, which was reached in late June, still needs to be ratified by member states of both blocs.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar backed the move, announcing that his country would not vote in favour of the trade deal as long as Bolsonaro does not adhere to his country's climate commitments. 
Merkel's spokesman did not mention the trade deal in his briefing, but Germany's opposition Green Party followed suit. The summit "should make a stand for ending the Mercosur agreement," Annalena Baerbock, one of the Green Party's leaders, told dpa. 
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, said Friday that the fires in the Amazon were a "threat to [the] whole planet" and that he was "worried" about Brazil's attitude.
Rinne said the EU council would discuss the matter and that he had also been in contact with the European Commission. "We must find out whether there is something the Europeans have, something to offer to Brazil, to help prevent this kind of fire in the future," the Finnish premier said.
Demonstrations were meanwhile held against Bolsonaro's environmental policies in cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Bern, Amsterdam, Miami and Mumbai, Brazilian and Colombian media reported.
"Bolsonaro, your development policies destroy life," read a placard held up by a protester in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
"Amazon green and free," protesters chanted in front of the Brazilian embassy in the Colombian capital, Bogota.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" by the fires in a tweet on Thursday.
"In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity," he added.

Friday, August 23rd 2019
dpa correspondents (dpa)

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