EU threatens trade retaliation over Amazon fires
BRASILIA, Aug 24: President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday authorized the deployment of Brazil's armed forces to help combat fires raging in the Amazon rainforest, as a growing global outcry over the blazes sparks protests and threatens a huge trade deal.
Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised "zero tolerance" for environmental crimes and pledged "strong action" to control fires -- many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government's disdain for environmental oversight.
"Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can't be used as pretext for possible international sanctions," he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.
Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron -- who's about to host the Group of Seven summit -- accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country's commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union's trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.
"Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before," Trump said in the tweet. "I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!"
European leaders on Friday threatened to tear up a trade deal with South America, reflecting growing international anger at Brazil as a record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest intensified an unfolding environmental crisis.
Forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for more than half of the world's largest rainforest, have surged in number by 83% this year, according to government data, destroying vast swathes of a vital bulwark against global climate change.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for G7 leaders to discuss the environmental crisis in Brazil at a summit this weekend in the French coastal resort of Biarritz. Both France and Ireland threatened to oppose an EU trade deal struck in June with a regional South American bloc following Brazil's response.
Plumes of thick smoke rose into the sky above dense forest in the northwestern state of Rondonia, where bright orange flames from various fires were visible for kilometers (miles). -AFP