Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are responsible for the recent spate of forest fires across the Amazon in a bid to undermine his administration and wider political agenda.
Bolsonaro made the comments amid data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (NISR), which monitors deforestation and wildfires, showing that around 74,000 fires have occurred across the Amazon rainforest in 2019, an 84 percent increase from the same period in 2018.
“On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention?” Bolsonaro said at a steel industry congress in Brasilia. “Maybe — I am not affirming it — these (NGOs) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil. This is the war we are facing.”
When asked if he could provide evidence for his allegations he said, “Did I accuse NGOs directly? I just said I suspect them.”
The claim also comes a month after Bolsonaro fired the head of the NISR for denying his claim that the agency had manipulated deforestation data to discredit his administration.
Bolsonaro is a fierce supporter of agribusiness and has proposed using some of the Amazon rainforests for economic development. As such, he is facing fierce criticism from environmental groups who fear he will undermine the country’s environmental standards. During his presidential campaign, he repeatedly threatened to leave the Paris Climate Accord, although he has not yet
“Those who destroy the Amazon and let deforestation continue unabated are encouraged by the Bolsonaro government’s actions and policies. Since taking office, the current government has been systematically dismantling Brazil’s environmental policy,” said Danicley Aguiar, of Greenpeace Brazil in a statement.
On Thursday, the Brazilian president retweeted a thread by his presidential adviser Filipe Martins, who argued “there’s a reason why Brazil has the best environmental credentials and the best-preserved forests in the word” because “we know how to protect and take care of what is ours.”
He continued, “Brazil is the most successful country in the world in preserving the primeval forests within its borders” and “our environmental legislation is also one of the most stringent in the world.
“If you are wondering who is going to save the Amazon, here’s a very straightforward answer for you: it’s not the empty, hysterical and misleading rhetoric of the mainstream media, transnational bureaucrats and NGOs, but the sovereign action of Brazil,” he concluded.