President Jair Bolsonaro, who is very much like the Donald Trump of Brazil, appears to have capitulated to mounting international pressure over the wildfires currently destroying the Amazon.
Starting Saturday, Bolsonaro will send troops to fight the blazes for at least a month, according to a presidential decree obtained by CNN. Additionally, Brazil’s environmental agency, IBAMA, will send hundreds of temporary firefighters.
About 44,000 troops will be sent to six Brazilian states, according to the Associated Press, citing Brazil’s defense minister.
This doesn’t mean that Bolsonaro, who disingenuously blamed NGOs for setting the fires when all evidence points to farmers and ranchers, has had a change of heart. More likely, the Brazilian president was prompted by international pressure, with the Amazon fires slated to be a main topic of discussion at the G7 summit that began Saturday in France.
In addition to NGOs, Bolsonaro also had blamed warmer weather for the spread of the fires, a claim experts rejected.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, called the blazes, which represent an 80-85% increase over the number of fires that spread across the country last year, an “international crisis.”
“Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron tweeted ahead of the summit. “The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also called for “international action to protect the world’s rainforests,” a spokesperson told CNN. The spokesperson added that Johnson would call for measures to fight climate change at the G7.
Europe has threatened economic sanctions, including blocking a trade deal between the European Union and Brazil, if Bolsonaro fails to take action on the fires, CNN reported.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said that Europe would continue to support the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, but Brazil “must want this assistance, and not counteract it with a national policy of increased clearance.”
While Europe was dialing up the pressure, Trump was taking a different approach, praising the future of trade prospects between the two nations. “Just spoke with President @JairBolsonaro of Brazil. Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”
Bolsonaro’s son Carlos responded with “Hugs from Brazil!”
Meanwhile, despite his apparent willingness to authorize troops to be sent to the Amazon, Bolsonaro remained stubbornly antagonistic, another Trumpian trait.
“I regret that President Macron is seeking to instrumentalize an internal issue in Brazil and in other Amazonian countries for personal political gains,” he tweeted earlier.
He did, however, call the Amazon on Friday “an essential part of our history, our territory and everything that makes us feel,” according to CNN.
“Being Brazilian, our wealth is invaluable both in terms of biodiversity and natural resources,” he added.
It’s too bad he didn’t think that way earlier, when he called for the mass destruction of the Amazon, which contains 10% of the Earth’s biodiversity, in the name of “progress.”
This post was updated with the number of troops to be deployed.