Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggested Wednesday that non-governmental organizations could be torching the Amazon rainforest to embarrass his government after he cut their funding.
Brazil saw over 72,000 fire outbreaks in 2019, with an 84% increase on the same period a year earlier, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research, the Guardian reported. More than half of those wildfires were in the Amazon. Bolsonaro, who was elected in 2018 and is often called the “Trump of the Tropics” for his rhetorical style, did not provide evidence to support his theory.
“On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention? To bring problems to Brazil,” the president told a steel industry congress in Brazil.
He was referring to who he believes is responsible for a spate of wildfires engulfing the Amazon rainforest.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 21, 2019
Farmers in some areas organize “fire days” to take advantage of lax regulatory enforcement, according to a local outlet. Activists argue the Brazilian president is distracting from his poor oversight. (RELATED: ‘Trump of The Tropics’ Wins Brazilian Presidential Election)
“Those who destroy the Amazon and let deforestation continue unabated are encouraged by the Bolsonaro government’s actions and policies. Since taking office, the current government has been systematically dismantling Brazil’s environmental policy,” Danicley Aguiar, a representative at Greenpeace Brazil, told reporters.
Other activists were more blunt in their assessment of Bolsonaro comments.
“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator, told reporters. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.”
The fires are canvassing the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, raising concerns that the rainforest is increasingly giving way to land-clearing operations and other activities intended to transform the land for agricultural use. One likely culprit behind the recent spate fires, beside human activity, is the fact that it is the dry season in Brazil.
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