When the seven richest countries in the world came up with a pitiful $22 million to tackle the fires burning in the Amazon, it was easy to scoff at the size of their emergency fund. That the aid would turn out to be too much for Brazil, and not too little, was perhaps a little harder to predict.
But so it is: The offer was exactly $22 million too high in the eyes of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who rejected it entirely. In a series of tweets sent off on Aug. 26, the same day the fund was offered, Bolsonaro accused the G7 of treating Brazil “as if it were a colony or nobody’s land” by extending support. Emmanuel Macron’s expressions of concern about the Amazon, Bolsonaro said, showed no respect for Brazil’s sovereignty.
In an interview with GloboNews, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni didn’t hold back his snark. “Macron can’t even prevent a predictable fire in a church that is a world heritage site and wants to teach what to our country?” he said. “He has a lot to look after at home and in the French colonies.”
Environmental experts have noted that Brazil’s intervention so far has been far from proportionate to the scale of the emergency. Only after prolonged global criticism did the country deploy 44,000 troops to tackle the fires. The president initially spread unfounded theories about the origin of the fires, blaming them on NGOs wanting to put the government in a bad light.
Bolsonaro’s administration has also deliberately undermined laws and agencies meant to protect the Amazon from deforestation. It has received support from the cattle farming industry—which is likely responsible for blazes set to clear land—as well as other industries, like mining, which benefit from rainforest destruction.
Macron has threatened to halt the trade deal between the European Union and Brazil if the country doesn’t act on the Amazon fires. His position has the support of Ireland.