Mon, 23 Sep 2019

BRASILIA, Brazil - Under increasing international pressure to contain the record numbers of fires in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said he might send the military to battle the blazes.

"That's the plan," Al Jazeera quoted Bolsonaro as saying, but without offering any details about when they may be deployed.

The Brazilian President has garnered global criticisms over his policies that views rainforest protection as an obstacle to his country's economic development.

Small numbers of demonstrators gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions in Paris, London and Geneva to urge Brazil to do more to fight the fires.

Neighbouring Bolivia and Paraguay have also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields and, in many cases, got out of control in high winds after being set by residents clearing land for farming.

About 7,500 square kilometres (2,900 square miles) of land has been affected in Bolivia, according to Defence Minister Javier Zavaleta.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has called the wildfires an international crisis and said the leaders of the Group of 7 nations should hold urgent discussions about them at their summit in France this weekend.

"Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% 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!" Macron tweeted a few hours earlier.

Ahead of the G7 summit, Macron's office issued a statement questioning Bolsonaro's trustworthiness.

Brazilian statements and decisions indicate Bolsonaro "has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity," the statement said.

Following this, France has threatened to block a European Union trade deal with several South American states, including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Bolsonaro has accused Macron of politicising the issue, and his government said European countries are exaggerating Brazil's environmental problems to disrupt its commercial interests. Bolsonaro has said he wants to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms.

Members in indigenous communities where the fires are raging have told Al Jazeera some families have "lost everything".

Images on social media showing the magnitude of the fires have prompted global outrage, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday saying he was "deeply concerned".

"In the midst of the global crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity," he said on Twitter, referring to the Amazon rainforest, which is often referred to as the "lungs of the planet".

"The Amazon must be protected," he said. (ANI)

(Photo credit: This natural-color image of smoke and fires in several states within Brazil including Amazonas, Mato Grosso, and Rondonia was collected by NOAA/NASA's Suomi NPP using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument on August 20, 2019).

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