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International 28 Aug, 2019 Follow News


I don’t know if Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, plays the fiddle, but the burning of the Amazon rainforest and his handling of the crisis bear stark and troubling comparison to Rome’s Emperor Nero.


It might even be worse - and in some respects it already is.


The Amazon rainforest is regarded as the lungs of the world.


So, it's understandable that if there’s a crisis as serious as the burning swathes of its pristine jungle, the world would be concerned.


The G7 group of leading global clearly is. The matter dominated this year’s summit in Biarritz, France.


There’s no question of President Bolsanaro’s culpability and complicity in this crisis.


He has actively encouraged the clearing of huge swathes of the Amazon for farming and industrial exploitation.


The resulting deforestation has been a trigger point for wildfires, some started deliberately by farmers and now burning ut of control.


In an alarming turn of events, President Bosanaro has rejected an offer of a $US22 million grant from the G7 group of nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to help battles the blazes.


Wildfires said to be the worst on record have been scorching huge swathes of the Amazon region causing untold ecological damage.


Over 9,000 fires are burning, covering an area about half the size of Brazil.


Not only are they destroying the biodiversity of the area, but are disrupting the way of life of the region's indigenous peoples, and having a wider global contributory effect to climate change.


In the strangest of paradoxes, many of the indigenous farmers are fire-starters themselves, clearing and burning land for farming - with the approval of the Bolsonaro government.


The resulting deforestation which has ballooned since Mr Bolsano took power has been accompanied by industrial exploitation - much of illegal - but ignored by the authorities.


Mining and logging are two of the main ventures and companies have been venturing deeper and deeper into the forest.


Money and politics in Brazil are at the centre of what global leaders and environmentalists are calling an outrage and are demanding a halt to the policies driving the practices.


But the right-wing populist president, known for his bellicose pronouncements, has been quite literally bulldozing his way past local and global opposition to his policy of opening up the Amazon.


His claims of pushing an economic agenda, especially by freeing of lands for small farmers have met severe criticism both at home and overseas.


Amidst growing tension over challenges to his policies Mr Bolsonaro recently fired one of his main environmental advisors.


But pressure is growing on President Bolsonaro, a close ally of the US’s Donald Trump - who is also pursuing questionable environmental policies.


When the matter of the Amazon wildfires came up during the G7 summit, President Trump, who had previously pulled the US of the Paris Climate Change Accord, was noticeably absent.


But, like the Amazon fires so far, the global pressure on President Bolsonaro is unrelenting and the issue of the Amazon wildfires has - pardon the pun - spread like wildfire.


It’s now global headline news and can even be seen from space...by Brazil’s own space agency which, ironically, has resulted in President Bolsonaro sacking the head of the science agency for cautioning about the environment and climate change risks posed by his government’s policies.


That President Bolsonaro is rejecting the G7 offer of aid to help put out the fires is no alarming.


What’s even more alarming is his gas-lighting of the issue in Trumpian fashion.


His government’s response to the offer of $22 million - around half of which is pledged by the UK - is to claim that “maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe”.


There is also much hostility between President Bolsonaro and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in particular.


Mr Macron has been an outspoken critic of the Brazilian president’s environmental policies.


Adding fuel to an already flammable situation, Mr Bolsonaro is accused of mocking the French president’s wife on social media, and has accused the French leader of having a “colonialist” attitude towards Brazil.


In an encouraging sign, the Brazilian government has bowed somewhat to international pressure in the past few days.


It has announced that it’s sending thousands of fire-fighters to battle the blazes, and would be clamping down on illegal operations in the Amazon.


President Bolsonaro has also given what appears to have been a hint that he might accept the G7 aid after all…albeit on his own ‘Trumpian’ terms.


"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,” he has stated.


In the meantime, the Brazilan government has accepted a donation of 4US 5 million from the Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio to help with fighting the Amazon fires.


Might he have had a stronger argument if he’d just complained that one person’s offer of assistance was 25 per cent of the combined offer of the seven riches countries on the planet?


It may take some time yet before the fires and the diplomatic spat are extinguished.

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