News ID: 69692
Publish Date : 24 August 2019 - 22:06
LONDON (Dispatches) -- World leaders and rights advocates are joining a chorus of global pressure on Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has failed to take action against the devastating blaze in the Amazon rainforest.
Amazon, which accounts for more than half of the world's largest rainforests, has been burning in a giant inferno over the past three weeks.
Forest fires are an annual occurrence in the Amazon region – about 60 percent of which lies in Brazil. But this year’s inferno, which has engulfed an all-time high of 83 percent of the area, is said to be man-made.
Environmental organizations and researchers say the blaze was set by farmers, who want to clear the "lungs of the world” for pasture.
Amnesty International warned on Thursday that responsibility for the fires "lies squarely with President Bolsonaro and his government.”
It said that Brasilia’s "disastrous policy of opening up the rainforest for destruction (is) what has paved the way for this current crisis."
Bolsonaro, who like Trump does not believe in climate change, stands accused of encouraging the destruction of the world’s greatest tropical forest. He has said in the past that Amazon should be "exploited” for agriculture, mining and infrastructure projects.
The U.S. president, who headed to France to attend a G7 meeting, has so far failed to denounce Bolsonaro’s handling of the disaster.
Bolsonaro has been dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics,” for imitating the U.S. president’s stance on climate change, among many other issues.
Both leaders have already advocated using protected natural areas for their resources, prompting environmental experts to describe them both as threats to the global natural habitat.
Trump, who pulled out of the Paris agreement on climate change, has described global warming as a Chinese hoax.
In a bid to put more pressure on Bolsonaro, European leaders have threatened to tear up a trade deal that was struck in June between the European Union and a regional South American bloc.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said they will vote against the EU-Mercosur deal — signed after 20 years of negotiations — unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest.
In the meantime, protesters across the world laid siege to Brazilian embassies as part of the international outrage over Bolsonaro’s failure to protect Amazon.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Brazil’s embassy in London Friday, with placards reading, "The planet deserves better” and "Our house is on fire.”
Rallies were also held outside Brazil’s embassies in Mexico City and Paris, where demonstrators reportedly carried banners reading, "Fora Bolsonaro!” or "Bolsonaro, out!”
Protesters also surrounded the Brazilian consulate in Geneva while further marches were planned in other cities across the world including Adelaide, Lisbon, Stockholm, Boston and Florida.
Brazilians also staged protests to demand Bolsonaro to take action against the fire. Protesters in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo marched and shouted "come to the street for the Amazon" and "not him" in reference to Bolsonaro.
Bolsonari said Friday he will deploy federal troops with appropriate equipment to fight the fires. The president, however, kept blaming what he called as dryer-than-normal weather for the spike in fire outbreaks this year.
Brazilian demonstrators were preparing to mobilize for a weekend of protests in cities including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Curitiba, Recife and the Amazon city of Manaus.
Brazil's indigenous chief Raoni called for international help to put out fires raging in the region. He also accused Bolsonaro of seeking to destroy the Amazon rainforest.
Brazilian law protects the Indigenous territories and recognizes an Indigenous right to land. But Bolsonaro, who has long made racist remarks about the community, has weakened protections and turned a blind eye to illegal logging.
This has led to increased incursions by illegal loggers and increases in illegal land seizures in Indigenous territories.
According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the protection of Indigenous rights is "key to preventing further deforestation in the Amazon".
It also warned that the "risk of bloodshed" in the Amazon was rising, unless the Brazilian government reversed its current position and began protecting Indigenous lands.
"Since early this year, there has been a surge in the invasion of Indigenous territories," said Joao Ghilherme Delgado Bieber, a consultant with Amnesty International.

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