The Brazilian Bolsonaro calls that radiant Amazon fire a ‘lie’

BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday angrily denied the existence of fires in the Amazon rainforest, calling it a ‘lie’, despite data produced by his own government showing thousands of fires in run the whole region.

A Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) member of the fire department is holding a dead anteater while trying to control hotspots in an Amazon jungle treat near Apui, Amazonas State, Brazil, August 11, 2020. REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino

Bolsonaro similarly denied a spike in fires last year that provoked a worldwide outcry, with right-wing populist trading houses with French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders.

The president’s remarks on Tuesday come even as Reuters witnesses in the distance from the Amazon city of Apui observed smoke that clouded the horizon in all directions during the day and set off large fires at night.

Fires in the Amazon of Brazil for the month of August hit a nine-year high in 2019 and this month so far it looks even worse. More than 10,000 fires were recorded in the first 10 days of August, up 17% from the same period a year ago, according to data from the National Space Research Bureau Inpe.

But in a speech with other South American leaders on Tuesday, Bolsonaro challenged foreign officials to fly across the Amazon and say that traveling by air from the farthest cities of Boa Vista to Manaus would not see a single flame.

“They will not find a place of fire, nor a quarter of an acre of deforestation,” the former army captain told a meeting of members of the Leticia Pact, an agreement between Amazon countries to protect the rainforest.

“This story that the Amazon is going up in flames is a lie and we need to combat it with true numbers,” he said.

Bolsonaro intervened with Inpe, after releasing unfavorable data on Amazon deforestation last year, dismissing bureau chief Ricardo Galvao, who defends his agency’s numbers showing increasing destruction.

In his speech, Bolsonaro claimed that Brazil had shown itself that it could only protect the Amazon because the majority of the forest still remained.

He said the Amazon is a wet forest that preserves him and does not catch fire. The media and foreign governments present a false narrative about the Amazon, he said.

Experts say that fires are not a natural phenomenon in the rainforest, but are usually man-made to clear deforested land for grazing.

Deforestation rose 34.5% in the 12 months through July, compared to the same period a year ago. Forests fell in July, the first decline in 15 months, a point claimed by Bolsonaro.[nL1N2F913F]

Foreign pressure is mounting on Brazil to protect the world’s largest rainforest, an ecosystem that is essential for climate change conservation due to the large amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.

Global investors managing more than $ 2 trillion have threatened to withdraw their investments from Brazilian meat packers, grain traders and government bonds if the Bolsonaro administration does not take action to destroy Amazon.[nL1N2DV1BP]

Bolsonaro has been deploying the military since May to fight fires and deforestation, with armed forces working with environmental agency Ibama to fight fires at Apui, according to Reuters witnesses.

Report by Maria Carolina Marcello and Jake Spring; Additional Report by Ueslei Marcelino and Leonardo Benassatto in Apui, Brazil; edited by Richard Pullin

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