• Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:14 pm

Brazil to accept G7 Amazon aid only if Macron withdraws 'insults'

  • Published at 10:45 am August 27th, 2019
A tract of the Amazon jungle burns as it is cleared by loggers and farmers in Porto Velho, Brazil August 24, 2019 Reuters

A $20 million pledge was made at the G7 summit in France to fight the rainforest blaze

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to retract "insults" against him before he will countenance accepting an offer of $20 million from the Group of Seven nations to fight forest fires in the Amazon.

The two leaders have become embroiled in a deeply personal and public war of words in recent days, with Bolsonaro mocking Macron's wife on Facebook and accusing the French leader of disrespecting Brazil's sovereignty. Macron called Bolsonaro a liar, and said that Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president.

The issue of whether or not to accept foreign money has also become a tricky one within Bolsonaro's government, with various cabinet members taking differing stances on the offer.

Initially, as the fires gained global headlines, Bolsonaro said Brazil did not have the resources to tackle the blazes. Then, in the wake of the G7 offer, his Environment Minister Ricardo Salles called the aid "welcome."

Hours earlier, a top Brazilian official had rejected the G7 countries' offer to combat the fires devastating the forest in Brazil and Bolivia, saying Macron should take care of "his home and his colonies."

Speaking to reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday, Bolsonaro, whose popularity has been falling domestically according to recent polls, said:

"First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France he must withdraw these words then we can talk," Bolsonaro said. "First he withdraws, then offers aid, then I will answer."

Also Read - What’s really fuelling the Amazon fires?

The French president's office declined to comment.

Macron made the offer of financial aid at the G7 summit in the southern French town of Biarritz on Monday after leaders had discussed the fires ravaging the world's largest tropical rainforest - often dubbed "the lungs of the world."

The number of blazes recorded across the Brazilian Amazon has risen 79% this year through August 25, according to Brazil's space research agency. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000sqkm burning in Bolivia, near its border with Paraguay and Brazil.

But Brazil is at the epicentre of the blazes, which Bolsonaro has blamed on environmentalists, non-government organizations and the weather. He has also said fires in the Amazon were more prevalent under previous left-wing governments.

Bolsonaro is meeting with governors of Amazonian states on Tuesday morning.

Weak rainfall is unlikely to extinguish a record number of fires raging in Brazil's Amazon anytime soon, with pockets of precipitation through September 10 expected to bring only isolated relief, according to weather data and two experts.