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Bolsonaro: Macron shows 'colonialist mindset' by urging G7 to act on Amazon fires

By Daniel Uria & Darryl Coote
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Bolsonaro: Macron shows 'colonialist mindset' by urging G7 to act on Amazon fires
Porto Velho firefighters battle a fire in the Amazon in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Porto Velho firefighters/EPA-EFE

Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro condemned his French counterpart's suggestion for the Group of 7 nations to discuss the Amazon wildfires as "colonialist" as no country in the Amazon basin would be present during the talks.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised Bolsonaro's ire Thursday when he called on the G7 nations to discuss the ongoing wildfires at their upcoming summit in France this weekend.

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"Our house is burning. Literally," Macron said in a tweet. "The Amazon rain forest -- the lungs which produces 20 percent 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!"

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Bolsonaro, Brazil's right-wing president, responded via Twitter that he is "open to dialogue based on objective data and mutual respect" while charging Macron of trying to use the wildfires for "personal political gains."

"The French president's suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century," he said.

The G7 countries consist of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States.

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The comments follow Brazil's space research center this week reporting an 80 percent increase in wildfires in the rainforest compared to the same period last year.

The center counted almost 73,000 fires.

The fires are so large that Copernicus, the European Union's Atmosphere Monitoring Service, released images showing smoke and pollutants from the fire were drifting across much of the continent.

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Amnesty International urged the Brazilian president on Thursday to take action, saying the responsibility lies with him as he has implemented measures to weaken deforestation protections of the Amazon in the name of industry.

"Instead of spreading outrageous lies or denying the scale of deforestation taking place, we urge the president to take immediate action to halt the progress of these fires," the international human rights group said in a statement. "This is essential to protect people's right to a healthy environment, as well as their right to health given the impact on air quality over wide swathes of Brazil and neighboring countries."

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Meanwhile, Bolsonaro told reporters that his government does not have the resources to combat the wildfires.

Bolsonaro said he doesn't have the ability for the Interior Ministry to send a team to the rainforest to combat the fires spreading throughout more than half of the Amazon region.

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

Bolsonaro said he believes the fires are manmade but denied "directly" accusing non-governmental organizations of starting them in retaliation for his decision to cut their funding.

"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," he said.

He also said the government lacks the resources to monitor or combat any groups that may be setting the fires.

"The Amazon is bigger than Europe," he said. "How will you fight criminal fires in such an area?"

Norway and Germany have suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil due to the way Bolsonaro handled those projects, however, the president has said that funding isn't needed.

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