French President Emmanuel Macron announced on August 26th that the G7 had agreed to pledge over $22 million towards Brazilian fire-fighting efforts in the Amazon, with France in particular willing to immediately transfer funds as necessary. The money would primarily enable Brazil to purchase more planes for combatting the many forest fires raging within its borders. Brazil is not the sole intended beneficiary of the funds, but rather the money is available for those South American countries that include the Amazon within their borders, such as Colombia, Belize, and Peru.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro initially responded with recalcitrance and offence, insinuating that Macron insulted the sovereignty of Brazil and the authority of its executive in rendering a condescending offer for funds. The following day, he softened his position slightly, permitting the international donation only on the condition that Macron himself apologize for his “insults.” Bolsonaro reportedly met with the Colombian President, as the Amazon reaches into its borders as well, which contrasts with his ire towards countries supposedly unaffected by the Amazon’s decimation which were audacious enough to interfere in an internal matter. Donald Trump is the only G7 member to have come out in support of Bolsonaro.
In a now translated tweet, Bolsonaro admonished, “We cannot accept that a president, Macron, unleashes unreasonable and gratuitous attacks on the Amazon, nor disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the countries. G-7 to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or no man’s land.” Despite Bolsonaro’s accusations that the G7 is condescendingly superseding the authorities of Brazil and treating the country as a deserted land owned by all, the true source of his frustration appears to be Macron himself, who earlier accused Bolsonaro of lying about his environmental policy obligations. Macron then signaled that France no longer supported the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement.
Bolsonaro’s offended depiction of the G7 offer clearly possesses little connection with the actual offer made. Signaling a willingness to extend a relatively small portion of money towards a nation’s disaster relief efforts in no way signifies an attempt to impugn the legitimacy of said nation or its leaders, except perhaps insofar as Bolsonaro is aware of the inadequacy of his response to the blazes thus far. His election and presidency are widely regarded as a pivot away from environmentalism and the protection of indigenous and natural land. The fires themselves are often deliberate blazes, rather than incidental accidents or direct consequences of climate change, set for the purposes of clearing land.
The practice itself is not new, but the rate at which it has occurred has skyrocketed, with an 84% increase in fires occurring between January and August, according to the National Institute For Space Research. Bolsonaro fired the head of the agency, Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, for defending this data. Bolsonaro also did not relent on using the military to combat the fires until August 25th, albeit not before accusing environmental groups of setting the fires to smear his name. The G7 offer was at worst an indirect indictment of Bolsonaro’s relative complacency, but it hardly constituted a “gratuitous” attack or the reduction of Brazil to a mere “colony.” However much Bolsonaro wishes to confine the Amazon to an internal Brazilian affair, the consequences of its partial or complete destruction do not remain within South America.
France and Brazil are already experiencing tensions over the aforementioned EU-Mercosur agreement, Bolsonaro clearly seeks some mild reparation for the perceived insults from Macron; he has since insulted Macron’s wife on Twitter, resulting in the hashtag #DesculpaBrigitte used by Brazilians apologizing for their own president. The slights and bickering continue as the Amazon still burns. Only recently has Brazil has finally banned legal burns for a 60-day period as of August 29th.
Neither the Amazonian rainforest nor its environmental impact reside solely within the borders of Brazil. The G7 conference did not violate any nation’s sovereignty in making an offer of funds; all countries are impacted by the Amazon, and it is entirely sensible to offer restitution to those most directly tasked with saving it. Likewise, the world at large has every right to demand a more direct response from Bolsonaro, whose callous disregard for environmental protection has emboldened this wave of deleterious flames.
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