Fires in the Amazon: Bolsonaro minimizes and attacks the press

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro again downplayed Thursday the seriousness of the fires in the Amazon, when the temporary ban on agricultural burns came into force across the country.
I l “is not true” that the Amazon forest is “on fire,” said Mr. Bolsonaro live on Facebook, while ensuring that “the fires this year are lower than the average of recent years.” He accused the Brazilian press of “feeding” international concern about it.

The president’s statement comes as Thursday came into force the temporary ban on agricultural burns, announced to curb the spread of fires in the Amazon and try to demonstrate the responsiveness of Brazil.

But many doubt the effectiveness of this measure.

In addition, Brazil very freshly welcomed an idea put forward by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of a meeting on aid to the Amazon on the sidelines of the next General Assembly.

The entry into action of the Brazilian army last weekend has not yet had any convincing effects: more than half of the 1628 new fires recorded in 24 hours by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE ) have been in the Amazon, despite the deployment of 18 aircraft and 3900 men.

The number of fires evolved very unequally in the nine Amazon states, with sharp increases, but also sharp declines. It was not possible to attribute the latter to the intervention of the army, which does not communicate on its operations, and while rains have watered certain regions.

A first water bomber financed by the emergency aid of $ 20 million decided by the G7 took off Wednesday in Paraguay to fight against the fires of the Amazon rainforest, in coordination with Chile, announced Thursday the French Presidency .

Others were to take off soon, especially to Bolivia, a country also very affected by forest fires.

Pending a response from Mr. Bolsonaro, which created confusion over Brasilia’s willingness to accept or not the G7’s assistance, the dispatch of water bombers to Brazil was not topical.

Police on Thursday arrested three people for burning more than 5,000 hectares in a protected area of ​​the Amazonian state of Para.

Criminal organizations

The impressive images of entire areas of the rainforest devoured by the flames provoked emotion throughout the world and put Mr. Bolsonaro under pressure.

His decree suspended for two months the use of burns throughout Brazil, with some exceptions, came into force Thursday. The burning is practiced most often to make room for the agricultural crops and cattle breeding, big export sector of Brazil.

But great skepticism prevailed as to the effectiveness of this measure.

“It’s hard to believe that this will have the slightest impact on the ground,” Rodrigo Junqueira, an agronomist and spokesperson for the Socio-Environmental Institute, told AFP. “Whoever burns [the forest] without a permit will not respect” a decree.

For Daniel Azevedo Lobo, prosecutor in Rondônia, Amazonian state of north-west Brazil, “70% of deforestation is due to the activities of criminal organizations, not isolated individuals”, and “we must attack the problem at the source”.

“In Rondônia, as throughout the Amazon, there are organized groups that invade the land. They are often cutters of wood who grab these lands and cut the trees on the spot, “he says. “A lot of checks are missing in Rondônia.”

In Japan, the UN Secretary-General has called for “a meeting dedicated to the mobilization of support” to the Amazon on the sidelines of the General Assembly, from 20 to 23 September.

“The situation in the Amazon is, clearly, very serious,” said Antonio Guterres. “The international community must mobilize strongly to support the countries of the Amazon to put an end to the fires as quickly as possible, by all means possible, and then conduct a comprehensive reforestation policy.”

“The UN Secretary-General has not talked about this case with the Brazilian government, we are not aware,” said the Foreign Ministry, interviewed by AFP. “It would be important for foreign authorities to have a better understanding of Brazil’s environmental policy […] and to keep abreast of the situation in the Amazon and the measures taken to combat fires. before proposing new initiatives. “

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