BOGOTA, Colombia — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday authorized the deployment of troops to help fight wildfires in the country’s Amazon region as EU leaders warned the fires posed a danger to the entire planet and should be on the Group of Seven agenda.
The army was also ordered to prevent “environmental crimes,” daily O Globo reported. It was not yet known how many troops would be sent to the Amazon.
The president earlier signed an order for his ministers to take measures to “survey and combat fire outbreaks” in the world’s largest rainforest, according to O Globo. The goal is the “preservation and defense of the Amazon forest, our national heritage,” the order said.
Bolsonaro’s orders came amid mounting international criticism over 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.
But U.S. President Donald Trump touted his country’s trade relations with Brazil as “stronger than ever before.”
“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump tweeted after speaking with Bolsonaro. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”
Brazilian satellite data has shown that the number of wildfires in the country jumped by 83% so far in 2019 compared with 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 nongovernmental organizations 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 G-7 summit of leading industrial nations that he is hosting in Biarritz from Saturday to Monday.
Macron said on Friday that the G-7 should raise funds to reforest the Amazon.
The group should also work on more powerful fire prevention mechanisms and a better governance system involving indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations, he said in a statement published on his office’s website.
Bolsonaro had earlier rejected foreign advice, tweeting that Macron’s plans to have the G-7 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 G-7 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 (G-7) 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.
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 favor of the trade deal as long as Bolsonaro does not adhere to his country’s climate commitments.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, said Friday that the council would discuss the fires 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,” Rinne said.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were held against Bolsonaro’s environmental policies in cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Bern, Madrid, Amsterdam, Miami and Mumbai, Brazilian and Colombian media reported.
“Amazon green and free,” protesters chanted in front of the Brazilian Embassy in the Colombian capital, Bogota.
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