Brazil’s president said Tuesday that the South American nation will not accept $20 million in aid to fight raging wildfires in the Amazon rainforest until French President Emmanuel Macron withdraws his “insults,” Reuters reports.
Devastating fires have been burning in the Amazon for weeks now, creating an environmental emergency that has gotten international attention. Though the fires are also, to a much lesser extent, affecting portions of the Amazon rainforest in Bolivia, Brazil is getting the worst of it. Making matters worse, weak rainfall is expected over the region in the coming weeks. Brazil, for its part, said it lacks the resources to fight the fires.
As the fires are burning, the G-7 summit — a meeting of some of the world’s most economically-powerful nations — is convening, and from the summit came news that French President Emmanuel Macron has offered $20 million in aid to fight the fires.
Unfortunately, that offer of aid hasn’t sat well in Brazil, particularly with the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro.
In the first salvo of the war of words between Bolsonaro and Macron, last week Bolsonaro accused the French of “colonialism,” recalling the centuries during which European powers ruled the colonies of South America, as CNBC reported at the time. In particular, Bolsonaro noted that the offer came from a group of countries that did not include Brazil.
“The French President’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G-7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century,” he said.
Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro is meeting with governors of Amazon states now, questioning them about exactly how much of their land they cannot develop because of indigenous reserves.... pic.twitter.com/EN6ZdjzDNP— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) August 27, 2019
Then things got personal. Bolsonaro mocked Macron’s wife on Facebook and accused the French president of disrespecting Brazil’s sovereignty. Macron, in return, called Bolsonaro a liar, and said that Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president.
Now, Bolsonaro says that international aid to fight the fires is off the table unless and until Macron apologizes.
“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.”
Macron, as of this writing, has not responded.
Meanwhile, there are conflicting views on accepting international aid within the Brazilian government outside of Bolsonaro. Brazil’s environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, said the aid was “welcome.” By contrast, Bolsonaro’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni said that the offer of aid would be rejected, although Salles clarified that that was his own, personal view.