’Brazil can’t afford to fight Amazon fires’

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said his government lacks the resources to fight the record number of fires in the Amazon.

And he again suggested that non-governmental organisations had started fires in the rainforest, but admitted he had no evidence for this claim.

He added that his government was investigating the fires.

Earlier, Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles was heckled at a meeting on climate change.

Conservationists have blamed Brazil’s government for the Amazon’s plight.

They say Mr Bolsonaro has encouraged the clearing of land by loggers and farmers, thereby speeding up the deforestation of the rainforest.

Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space research (INPE) shows an increase of 85 per cent this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.

The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.

Answering questions from reporters on Thursday, Mr Bolsonaro said the government couldn’t simply get the ministry of the interior to send 40 men to fight a fire.

“Forty men to fight a fire? There aren’t the resources. This chaos has arrived,” he said.

On Wednesday, the president had suggested that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could have started fires as revenge for his government slashing their funding.

Asked on Thursday who was responsible for starting the fires, he responded: “The Indians, do you want me to blame the Indians? Do you want me to blame the Martians?… Everyone is a suspect, but the biggest suspects are NGOs.”

Asked if there was any proof of this, he replied: “Did I accuse NGOs directly? I just said I suspect them.”

President Bolsonaro has further angered those concerned over the spike in fires by brushing off the latest data.

He argued that it was the season of the “queimada”, when farmers’ burn land to clear it before planting but INPE has noted that the number of fires is not in line with those normally reported during the dry season.

It is not the first time Mr Bolsonaro has cast doubt on figures suggesting that the Amazon is deteriorating rapidly.

Last month, he accused INPE’s director of lying about the scale of deforestation and trying to undermine the government. It came after INPE published data showing an 88 per cent increase in deforestation in the Amazon in June compared to the same month a year ago. –BBC

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