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Speaking to Brazilian news website G1 on Monday, Bolsonaro’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni accused French President Emmanuel Macron of hypocrisy over his stance on the Amazon fires.
“Thanks, but perhaps these resources are more relevant to reforesting Europe,” Lorenzoni said. “Macron cannot even prevent a predictable fire in a church (Notre Dame Cathedral) that is a World Heritage Site, and (he) wants to teach lessons to our country?”
He added that Brazil could teach “any nation” how to protect their native forests, according to a translation of the interview.
Despite publicly rejecting the G-7 fund, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that Brazil may accept the aid if Macron withdraws his “insults” regarding the issue, Reuters reported.
The two leaders have been embroiled in a spat that was sparked by Macron’s calls for international action on the crisis, with Bolsonaro attacking Macron last week for displaying a “misplaced colonialist mindset.”
On Monday, Bolsonaro said on Twitter that Brazil could not accept Macron’s “unreasonable attacks” on the Amazon, adding that “the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the G-7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon” treated Brazil like a colony.
He also claimed that other heads of state sympathized with Brazil, and that Colombian President Ivan Duque agreed with him that the countries making up the Amazon needed a joint plan on the crisis to “guarantee our sovereignty and natural wealth.”
Macron announced on Monday that the G-7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. — would pledge $22 million to help reduce the fires in the Amazon.
The French president has publicly pushed for international action in the Amazon, after satellite data from Brazil’s space agency showed last week that fires are burning in the Amazon at a record rate. The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year surged by 84% from the same period in 2018.
On Monday evening local time, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement criticizing the G-7 initiative, Brazilian news site Globo reported.
“The Brazilian Government reminds those who are considering launching such initiatives that there are already several instruments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to finance deforestation reduction and reforestation activities,” the statement said.
“France — and other countries that may support its ideas — are expected to engage seriously in discussions within the UNFCCC, rather than launching redundant initiatives, with amounts well below their international commitments.”
Brazil’s rejection of the fund came even though Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told reporters in Sao Paulo on Monday that the G-7 financial aid was welcome, according to Reuters.
Bolsonaro, who has faced criticism for his environmental policies, previously said it was difficult to curb increasing deforestation with limited resources. However, on Saturday, he said he would send the army to fight the fires, sharing a video of the air force extinguishing flames in the Amazon.
Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio also announced on Monday that Earth Alliance, the environmental charity that he co-chairs, would donate $5 million to the efforts in the Amazon. Earth Alliance is also collecting additional donations online.
The Amazon rainforest covers land in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it makes up half of the world’s remaining tropical forests.