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News > Brazil

Brazil: Bolsonaro Blames the Amazon Fires on Environmentalists

  • Representation of satellite images about the fire in the Amazon basin, August 21, 2019 at noon.

    Representation of satellite images about the fire in the Amazon basin, August 21, 2019 at noon. | Photo: Screenshot from Windy.com

Published 21 August 2019

According to the far-right president, environmental NGOs are going to the Amazon to 'set fire' to the forest.

After blaming the fires on the drought, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday that environmental charities are behind the forest fires hitting the Amazon Basin because they have lost international financing and want to hit him. The far-right politician, however, provided no evidence of his allegations.


Amazon Burns at Historic Rate, Bolsonaro Says Drought

"Bolsonaro said 'everything indicates' that NGOs are going to the Amazon to 'set fire' to forests," local media Publico reported.

"When asked if he had evidence to support the accusation, he replied that he had 'nothing written' since 'this is not how these things are done', 'the crime exists'... 'these people are losing money'". 

According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) data, the cumulative number of forest fires increased by 70 percent between January and August 2019 compared to the same period of 2018.

About 52 percent of those fires occurred in the Amazon and the 31 percent in El Cerrado, which is a vast tropical savanna extending over the states of Goias, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Minas Gerais.

In absolute terms, the greatest number of outbreaks happened in the state of Mato Grosso (13,109) and in the state of Para (7,975).

On August 2, Bolsonaro fired Ricardo Galvao, the INPE director, claiming that the data of this scientific institution were at the service of some NGOs and exaggerated the deforestation of the Amazon basin.

“The leader of any country should be aware that in scientific matters there is no authority above the sovereignty of science,” Galvao said on Thusday and commented that Bolsonaro's attacks on data showing deforestation spikes have “backfired on the government.”

The rejection of Bolsonaro's unsubstantiated accusations and attitude against science has received criticism from all over the world.

“It’s very worrying having the President interfering in scientific matters and saying that INPE’s data were lies,” Philip Fearnside, a National Institute for Amazonian Research (NIAR) ecologist, told Earth & Space Science News. “This is something that intimidates scientists all over the country and all of the institutions."

The INPE deforestation program received financing from the Amazon Fund (Fundo Amazonia), an international financing mechanism which is no longer supported by Germany and Norway. For they cut their support as a way to protest against the destruction of the Brazilian ecosystems.

Unlike what the current Brazilian government says, the INPE historical data show that the annual increase in fire sources at the Amazon reached 36 percent in August 2005.

Thirteen years later, in August 2018, before the far-right former capitan became president of Brazil, such figure had decreased at 20 percent. Currently, fire outbreaks increased by 65 percent in just the first 20 days of August 2019."

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