Bolsonaro fuels spat with Europe, fires soar

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President Jair Bolsonaro has said that Europe has “nothing to teach” Brazil about preserving the environment, as the country aligns itself with the United States over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

The far-right leader’s comments come as the latest official data show thousands of new fires were ignited across Brazil on Thursday — the first day of a ban on burning — with most of them in the Amazon basin.

Offers of international help to combat the worst fires in the Amazon in years have been made, but the issue has provoked accusations in Brazil that foreign countries — particularly in Europe — were trying to meddle in its affairs.

Brazil has found an ally in the United States where President Donald Trump praised Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis and offered US assistance.

After meeting Trump at the White House on Friday, Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said the two countries had similar views on the fires.

The talks were also attended by Bolsonaro’s son and hopeful ambassador to US Eduardo.

“I think we’re on the same page, the governments are on the same page,” Araujo told reporters, explaining that this means pushing back against what he said was interference in Brazil’s affairs by foreign governments concerned over the rainforest’s future.

Bolsonaro has accused France and Germany of “buying” Brazil’s sovereignty after the G7 group of rich democracies offered $20 million in Amazon fire aid. He initially rejected the money unless his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron withdrew “insults” made against him.

Bolsonaro later said Brazil would accept bilateral aid to fight the fires, but has insisted the Latin American country must control the money.

“Europe has nothing to teach us about preserving the environment,” Bolsonaro said, reiterating his plan for “sustainable exploitation” of the Amazon.

On the eve of the G7 summit last week, Macron declared the forest fires, which are also affecting Bolivia, an “international crisis” and put them on the agenda of the gathering.

Macron also accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about Brazil’s climate change stance. Bolsonaro reacted furiously, accusing Macron of having a “colonialist mentality.”