The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation. Amid growing international criticism over the wildfires raging through the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday admitted farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze but told foreign powers not to interfere.
French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres both expressed concern about the fires that have reached a record number this year, devastating vast swathes of forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.
Bolsonaro responded angrily to what he regarded as meddling. “These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity. … They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty,” he said in a Facebook Live broadcast. But earlier on Thursday, he said that Brazil alone lacked the resources to control the fires.
“The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?” he asked reporters as he left the presidential residence. “We do not have the resources for that.”
Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, with 72,843 fires detected so far by Brazil’s space research center INPE, as concerns grow over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy. The surge marks an 83% increase over the same period of 2018, the agency said on Tuesday, and is the highest since records began in 2013.
Since Thursday, INPE said satellite images spotted 9,507 new forest fires in the country, mostly in the Amazon basin, home to the world’s largest tropical forest seen as vital to countering global warming.
Images show the northernmost state of Roraima covered in dark smoke. Amazonas declared an emergency in the south of the state and in its capital Manaus on Aug. 9. Acre, on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday due to the fires.
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