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Hours after Brazil rejected foreign aid of $20 million to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has reversed its stance, saying it will consider accepting the funds.
Hours after Brazil rejected foreign aid of $20 million to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, president Jair Bolsonaro’s government has reversed its stance, saying it will consider accepting the funds.
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The Amazon rainforest in Brazil has been under the spotlight as a result of fires blazing across its landscape, which have now reached over 80,000 in number, already a 79 percent increase from 2018.
In an effort to help Brazil, the largest South American country, fight these fires, nations at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in France agreed to an aid package of $20 million, an amount environmental campaigners deemed “chump change”.
But, amidst a rift with countries in Europe, the Brazilian government rejected the offer on Tuesday as it had not been included in the decision-making process, asking French President Emmanuel Macron to take care of “his home and his colonies”.
Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, brought up the blaze at the Notre Dame cathedral in April, saying, “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?”
He added that the funds should be used to reforest Europe. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron.”
In a meeting with the nine states making up the Brazilian Amazon, President Bolsonaro said, “We have nothing against the G7. We have something against one of the G7’s presidents.” He said he was cheered by US President Donald Trump, who had tweeted his support of Bolsonaro’s efforts in fighting the fires.
But, hours later, Bolsonaro seemed to take a U-turn on his stand, announcing that he might revisit Brazil’s rejection. His acceptance of the offer, however, rode on resolving his dispute with Macron, clarifying that he would not make a final decision until the French President withdrew his insults and apologised for his remarks challenging Bolsonaro’s credibility.
“Before speaking or accepting anything from France, even if it comes from the best possible intentions, he must retract his words. Then we can talk," he said.
Brazil’s presidential spokesperson Otavio Rego Barros further made it clear that the acceptance of the funds hinge on their government’s ability to administrate the aid.
First Published: Aug 28, 2019 4:40 PM IST