Brazil Takes Action Against Fires in the Amazon

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Brazil takes action against fires in the Amazon

Demonstrations took place in various cities in Brazil In defence of the “lung of the planet” where fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest

Under international pressure, Brazil finally came into action Sunday 25th August 2019 in the Amazon, two C-130 Hercules aircraft dropping the first tens of thousands of litres of water over the rainforest where the number of fires progressed.

Demonstrations took place in various Brazilian cities in defense of the “lung of the planet”, while the G7 countries announced aid to the Amazon “as soon as possible”.

President Jair Bolsonaro, to whom the American ally offered his help, thanked in a tweet not the G7 but “dozens of heads of state who (…) will help us overcome the crisis that has not interest only for those who want to weaken Brazil.

In this regard, he announced in the evening that he had accepted Israel’s proposal to provide a plane for firefighting.

Aerial view of burned areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, on August 24, 2019 in northwestern Brazil.
Aerial view of burned areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, on August 24, 2019 in northwestern Brazil. (© AFP / CARLOS FABAL)

Shortly after, while the Bolsonarist sphere was unleashed on Twitter against Emmanuel Macron, the Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub treated the French president as “opportunistic cretin”, who was at the forefront in the pressure on Jair Bolsonaro to act in the Amazon.

In the capital Brasilia, some forty people demonstrated against Mr. Macron in front of the French Embassy.

“We are destroying nature”

In Rio de Janeiro, some 2,000 people protested in the Ipanema neighbourhood, two days after protests in Europe. “Bolsonaro goes away, Amazon remains! They chanted.

A protester was equipped with a gas mask, disguised as a tree with foliage provided, stuffed animals and a placard clamouring: “Long live nature! ”

“We are destroying nature,” Teresa Correa of ​​the Amazonian state of Para told AFP .

“The situation has worsened since Bolsonaro became president (in January), he wants to destroy everything”

Aerial view of a truck carrying tree trunks in a deforestation zone in Boca do Acre, Brazil, August 24, 2019.
Aerial view of a truck carrying tree trunks in a deforestation zone in Boca do Acre, Brazil, August 24, 2019. (© AFP / LULA SAMPAIO)

First concrete action of the government: two C-130 Hercules able to drop 12 000 liters of water and retarding product were deployed by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), announced the Ministry of Defense.

These water bombers operate at low altitude from Porto Velho, the state capital of Rondônia (north-west), who woke up under a disturbing smoke cover.

“I have been living here for 20 years and I have seen a lot of fires,” Welis da Claiana, a resident of this city, told AFP , “but I have never seen anything like it”.

The number of fires increased by 1,130 throughout Brazil in 24 hours, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE). The latest figures on Saturday night show 79,513 forest fires since the beginning of the year in this country, including just over half in the Amazon.

43,000 soldiers

Above Rondônia, a frontier state of Bolivia, forest fires send columns of fumes with their huge amounts of carbon, AFP journalists said.

Sometimes, a single tree standing in the middle of a landscape of ashes, but totally calcined, testifies to the destruction on the march in the biggest rainforest of the planet.

So far, seven states, including Rondônia, have appealed to the army. Some 43,000 Amazon-based troops are available to fight fires, said Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva.

The governors of the affected states urgently requested “material support” from Jair Bolsonaro, who accused them this week of “complicity” with the perpetrators of “arson”.

The government has released emergency funds of 38 million reais (8.2 million euros) for firefighting operations carried out by the Ministry of Defense.

The Minister of Justice and Public Security, Sergio Moro, has given the green light to the deployment of police officers against the illegal destruction of forests in the Amazon.

The accelerated deforestation under the government of Jair Bolsonaro, which encourages cattle farming and cattle rearing in the Amazon, correlated with the dry season, explains the extent of these fires.

“Political use”

These caused a strong emotion on the international scene. On Sunday, Pope Francis said he was “worried” about “this vital lung for our planet”.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz (southwestern France), the seven most industrialized Western countries agreed on Sunday to “help countries hit by fires as quickly as possible”. About 60% of the Amazon is in Brazilian territory.

Read also: At G7 in Biarritz, Trump shows his complicity with Johnson on Brexit

“There is a real convergence to say” we all agree to help as soon as possible the countries “that are struck by these fires,” said Emmanuel Macron.

On Saturday, President Bolsonaro posted a video on Twitter in which he claims “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and says:

“We will act firmly to control fires in the Amazon.”

However, he assures that the “fires this year are not more than the average of those of the last 15 years” and criticizes “the political use of these fires” and “misinformation”.

A few days ago, he provoked an uproar by evoking his “suspicions” about an NGO’s responsibility in the fires.

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