Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro blamed ongoing fires in the Amazon Rainforest on conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday, claiming the fires “make [him] want to cry” and that Bolsonaro is “destroying humanity.”
Fires have been raging in the rainforest for the past month in Brazil and Bolivia. Socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales loosened restrictions on manmade clearing fires to boost agriculture in his country, while Bolsonaro responded to the fires by recently banning slash and burn practices. In his televised diatribe, Maduro did not mention Bolivia or Morales, instead pillorying the “fascist” Bolsonaro.
“[Bolsonaro] has authorized the indiscriminate burning of the Amazon to hand it over to landowners, to the landholding oligarchy in Brazil and has destroyed the Amazon,” Maduro alleged.
“He has destroyed the Amazon, which is the whole world’s lung … the destruction in Brazil is impressive, truly painful, it makes you want to cry when you look on, impotently, at how the neo-liberal fascist right from within Brazil destroys our sister nation,” Maduro continued.
Maduro then offered unspecified aid to help with the fires, though his socialist policies have collapsed the Venezuelan economy and left what was once the wealthiest nation in the region destitute.
Venezuela’s illegitimate socialist regime – replaced constitutionally in January by President Juan Guaidó but still in power through brute force – was not invited to attend a meeting last week of Amazonian nations to discuss how to curtail the fires, which have expanded much further than they did a year ago but have not reached the peak levels seen in the beginning of the century. Morales condemned the move, insisting the Bolivarian socialists should attend because Venezuela possesses a significant chunk of the Amazon Rainforest and should have a say. Morales did not mention the possibility of inviting Guaidó to send a representative to the meeting.
“Above all our ideological differences are the interests of Mother Earth,” Morales said.
Venezuela is not in the scope of the current fires, but Maduro has allowed other environmental disasters to develop in his country. Illegal gold mining, for example, has greatly increased since Maduro passed a law in 2016 that expanded government corporations’ and foreign entities’ ability to mine for gold in the country. The Spanish newspaper El País reported last week that as many as 85 percent of the areas in which illegal mining is occurring in the entirety of the Amazon Rainforest are located within Venezuela. Only about six percent of the rainforest is located within Venezuela; over half of it is in Brazil.
Colombia and Bolivia attended the recent meeting on handling the fires, but President Bolsonaro was unable to do so due to a scheduled surgery to continue the extensive repair necessary for his digestive system following an assassination attempted a year ago. A self-described socialist stabbed Bolsonaro in public during a presidential campaign rally, causing major damage to his intestinal tract. The scheduled surgery was his fourth since the stabbing.
Bolsonaro has responded to the fires by banning farmers from burning down forest areas to plant crops, a common practice this time of year as it is the Southern Hemisphere’s spring. He has inspired the ire of the left, however, for noting that the current scope of the fires is still under the peaks of the early 2000s.
Experts cite satellite evidence to note that the fires are at their highest levels since 2010.
In neighboring Bolivia, Morales is also struggling to limit the fires, particularly given that he enacted executive policies to facilitate the use of fires to clear land for planting crops. Bolivia has lost an area nearly the size of New Jersey to the fires, according to Reuters, in the past month. Bolivian officials have also documented an increase in the number of fire epicenters within their borders; according to a BBC report published Wednesday, the number of fire centers skyrocketed between the past two days from 800 fires to over 3,000.