Monday 26 August 2019

International community begins to send support to the Amazon after Brazil makes concessions on outside interference.

The international community has begun to send aid to the Amazon Basin after the Brazilian Government conceded that it is obliged to fight the fires there and that it needs help to do so. More fires have been recorded in the Amazon Basin this year than ever before, around 75 000 according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, around twice as many as were recorded in 2018, most of them set by companies wishing to exploit the land for agriculture, cattle rearing or mining, yet the government of President Jair Bolsonaro has issued less than 7000 fines, a roughly 30% drop on last year. This has drawn widespread condemnation from both inside and outside the country, particularly after the former director of the National Institute for Space Research, Ricardo Galvão, was fired for releasing figures on the fire with which President Bolsonaro disagreed.

A forest fire burning in the Brazilian state of Rondonia on 23 August 2019. AFP/Getty Images.

Matters came to a head earlier this month when French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a trade deal between the EU and South American nations unless Brazil addresses the situation, prompting Bolsonaro to accuse him of colonial interference. However, despite support for Brazil's position by the governments of Britain and the United States, the French President was able to move the situation to the top of the agenda at a meeting of the G7 Group of Nations, eventually causing the Bolsonaro Government to make concessions and agree to send 44 000 troops to the Amazon Basin to fight the fires, in return for US$22 million in aid from the G7 nations to pay for fire-fighting planes, of which Brazil currently only has two.

A fire burning in the Brazilian Amazon. Getty Images.

While the deployment of troops to fight the fires has been seen as an improvement to the situation internationally, it has been viewed with some suspicion by communities living within the region, many of whom recall Bolsonaro made pledges to support the expansion of logging and agriculture in the Amazon, and fear that the troops could easily be used against political opponents in the region. The French Government has also offered to send troops to the region, though it is unclear if this offer will be accepted.

A burning Palm in the Brazilian Amazon. WWF.

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