Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced Tuesday that he would reconsider his rejection of €20 million ($22 million) in international aid to fight the Amazonian wildfires only if French President Emmanual Macron apologized to him first.
“First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France... he must withdraw these words then we can talk. First he withdraws, then offers (aid), then I will answer,” Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia, Reuters reported.
It is the latest in a mounting feud between the two men – the French president said earlier this week that he would move to block a free-trade agreement between Europe and South America following doubts about Bolsonaro’s dedication to climate change, Bloomberg reported at the time. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro questioned the French president’s true intentions, citing “colonialist” undertones.
“Thank you [for the offer], but perhaps these resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, Brazil’s chief of staff, told Brazil's Globo broadcast network.
“Macron can not even prevent a fire in a church that’s a World Heritage Site,” he added in a nod to the Notre Dame fire earlier this year. “And he wants to teach our country? He has a lot to look after at home and in the French colonies.”
In a tweeted reply to President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro also took aim at a so-called “fake news campaign” and highlighted his nation’s dedication to sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Amazon rainforest is burning.
Macron responded that the Amazon fires are a world issue – not just Brazil’s – as the ecosystem encompasses nine countries altogether and France has a vested interest in its colony, French Guiana. After international outrage over Bolsonaro's seemingly dismissive response to the fires, the president authorized 700 military personnel to fight fires affecting seven states and released up to 28 billion Brazilian reais ($6.8 billion) to the cause for some 44,000 troops to be deployed.
“We respect your sovereignty. It’s your country,” the AP reports Macron saying. “The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”
Politics aside, the data shows that the raging fires in one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems are a global issue. Though wildfires across the rainforest are normal for this time of year, fires have increased this year by more more than three-quarters from the same period last year for a total of more than 39,000 fires across the region – the most since records began in 2013. NASA satellite images show levels of carbon monoxide moving at an altitude of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) across the planet.