Amazon: Bolsonaro minimizes the severity of fires and attacks the press
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro again downplayed Thursday the seriousness of the fires in the Amazon, as the temporary ban on agricultural burns in the country came into effect.
It's "not true" that the Amazon rainforest is "on fire," Bolsonaro said live on Facebook, while assuring that "the fires this year are below average in recent years". He accused the Brazilian press of "feeding" international concern about it.
The president's statement comes as Thursday came into force the temporary ban on agricultural burns, announced to curb the spread of fires in the Amazon and try to demonstrate the responsiveness of Brazil.
But many doubt the effectiveness of this measure.
In addition, Brazil very freshly welcomed an idea put forward by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of a meeting on aid to the Amazon on the sidelines of the next General Assembly.
The entry into action of the Brazilian army last weekend has not had any conclusive effects: more than half of the 1,628 new fire departures recorded in 24 hours by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE ) have been in the Amazon, despite the deployment of 18 aircraft and 3,900 men.
The number of fires evolved very unequally in the nine Amazonian states, with sharp increases but also sharp declines. It was not possible to attribute the latter to the intervention of the army, which does not communicate on its operations, and while rains have watered certain regions.
A first water bomber financed by the emergency aid of 20 million dollars decided by the G7 took off Wednesday in Paraguay to fight against the fires of the Amazon rainforest, in coordination with Chile, announced Thursday the presidency French.
Others were to take off soon, especially to Bolivia, a country also very affected by forest fires.
Pending a response from Mr. Bolsonaro, which created confusion over Brasilia's willingness to accept or not the G7's assistance, the dispatch of water bombers to Brazil was not topical.
Police on Thursday arrested three people for burning more than 5,000 hectares in a protected area of the Amazonian state of Para.
The impressive images of entire areas of the rainforest devoured by the flames provoked emotion throughout the world and put Mr. Bolsonaro under pressure.
– Criminal organizations –
His decree suspended for two months the use of burns throughout Brazil, with some exceptions, came into force Thursday. The burning is practiced most often to make room for the agricultural crops and the cattle breeding, big sector exporter of Brazil.
But great skepticism prevailed as to the effectiveness of this measure.
"It's hard to believe that this will have the slightest impact on the ground," Rodrigo Junqueira, an agronomist and spokesperson for the Socio-Environmental Institute, told AFP. "Whoever burns (the forest) without a license will not respect" a decree.
For Daniel Azevedo Lobo, prosecutor in Rondônia, Amazonian state of northwestern Brazil, "70% of deforestation is due to the activities of criminal organizations, not isolated individuals", and "we must attack the problem at the source".
"In Rondônia, as throughout the Amazon, there are organized groups that invade the land, and it is often woodcutters who grab these lands and cut the trees in," he explains. "A lot of checks are missing in Rondônia".
In Japan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has called for a "meeting dedicated to the mobilization of support" to the Amazon on the sidelines of the General Assembly, from 20 to 23 September.
"The situation in the Amazon is, clearly, very serious," said Antonio Guterres. "The international community must mobilize strongly to support the countries of the Amazon to put an end to the fires as quickly as possible, by all means possible, and then conduct a comprehensive reforestation policy."
"The UN secretary-general did not talk about this affair with the Brazilian government, we did not know about it," the Foreign Ministry told AFP. "It would be important for foreign authorities to be more familiar with Brazil's environmental policy (…) and to learn (…) about the situation in the Amazon and the measures taken to fight fires, before proposing new initiatives ".
– "Buy Brazilian sovereignty" –
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro fueled an already heated controversy with French President Emmanuel Macron asking for the second time in two days that the latter "withdraws his insults".
"We can talk to each other when he has retracted after what he said against me."
Macron accused Bolsonaro of "lying" about his environmental commitments, and said the question of the sovereignty of the Amazon, which is home to nine countries, was open.
France has been heavily attacked by the Brazilian government, and Mr Bolsonaro called Macron "colonialist" before attacking his wife Brigitte.
Jair Bolsonaro also accused France and Germany of "buying (the) Brazilian sovereignty" over the Amazon with the G7 financial aid offer.