Brazil will reject an offer of $20 million in international aid for the fires that are burning across the Amazon rainforest, according to the president’s office.
The special communications office for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told CNN on Tuesday that the country would turn down the money that was pledged at the G7 summit in France on Monday.
The blazes in the Amazon have caused a public spat between Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been vocal about the need for an international response to the fires.
According to news site G1 Globo, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff suggested that the aid should be used elsewhere instead.
“We are thankful, but maybe those resources would be more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni was quoted as saying by G1 Globo late Monday night.
But on Tuesday morning, around an hour after his communications office confirmed that Brazil would reject the funding, Bolsonaro appeared to cast doubt on the matter. “Did I say that? Did I? Did Jair Bolsonaro speak?” he asked reporters outside the presidential residence, adding that he would only respond to the offer once Macron withdrew his insults of him.
The G7 is an informal grouping comprised of the world’s seven biggest economies. At the group’s annual summit, in the French resort of Biarritz on Monday, Macron announced it was making $20 million in aid available to help combat the fires.
But Bolsonaro said the idea of creating an international alliance to save the Amazon would be treating Brazil like “a colony or no man’s land,” calling it an attack on the country’s sovereignty.
Rebuffing the offer, Lorenzoni continued to criticize the French president. “Macron is unable to avoid a preventable fire in a church that is at a World Heritage Site and he wants to show us what is for our country? He has a lot to look after at home and the French colonies,” Lorenzoni said, according to G1. He was referring to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in April.
“Brazil is a democratic nation, free and never had colonial or imperialistic practices which might be (the) objective of Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni added.
Speaking alongside Macron at the G7 on Monday, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced a new two-step process for fighting the Amazon blazes.
He said the first step was to cover the emergency and collaborate with Amazonian countries in fighting the fires.
The next phase would be focused on protecting the forest’s biodiversity then working on reforestation. Piñera said this would be agreed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
“The second step would be possible because of the collaboration between the Amazonian countries and the G7 countries,” Piñera said, adding this would be done while “of course always respecting their sovereignty.”
The conflict between Macron and Bolsonaro got personal when a user post on the Brazilian president’s Facebook page compared the appearance of his wife with that of the French first lady, implying that Macron was jealous. Bolsonaro’s official account then commented: “Don’t humiliate the guy … haha.”
Macron described the remark as “extremely disrespectful.”
Bolsonaro’s government has found itself under increasing international pressure over its Amazon policies even before the major fires broke out earlier this month.
Germany and Norway both suspended their contributions to Brazil’s Amazon Fund earlier in August. Over the past decade, Norway has donated $1.2 billion to the conservation fund, which is managed by the Brazilian Development Bank. Germany has contributed $68 million.
The German Environment ministry said earlier this month it was suspending the program, and its planned donation of up to $35 million euros ($39 million), because of doubts over Brazil’s efforts to reduce deforestation.
A few days after that, Norway announced it suspended donations because the Brazilian government dissolved the fund’s steering and technical committees.