Brazil’s president: Media is lying about scale of devastation in Amazon
Brazil’s president has claimed that the Amazon rainforest is not being devastated nor consumed by fire – telling world leaders that the media is lying.
Despite satellite data from the Brazilian Space Agency suggesting that fires increased by 84% in the first seven months of 2019, Jair Bolsonaro insisted that dry weather means such incidents are common at this time of year.
The right-wing president also claimed that foreign interest in the region was due to the Amazon’s mineral wealth and biodiversity, rather than the well-being of its indigenous people.
Condemning “sensationalist attacks” against his government, Mr Bolsonaro said: “It’s a fallacy to say that the Amazon is part of world heritage and wrong to say, as scientists affirm, that our rainforest are the lungs of the world.”
There has been a wealth of eyewitness and expert reports, as well as photographs and videos, showing the world’s largest tropical rainforest burning and suffering from deforestation.
Despite saying he would accept £16m of international aid to fight the Amazon fires in August, Mr Bolsonaro repeated his demand that any money donated to tackle the impact of the fires would be controlled by Brazil.
There were 30,901 separate fires recorded across the Amazon in August alone, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
In his speech, Mr Bolsonaro played down the Amazon fires and told world leaders that many blazes happen naturally, although he also acknowledged some are intentionally started.
Brazil’s president said: “The Amazon is not being devastated nor is it being consumed by fire as the media misleadingly says.”
He also urged people to visit his country and “get to know Brazil” – saying: “It’s a very different country as has been portrayed in many newspapers and television channels.”
Mr Bolsonaro’s comments came after teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders on Monday at the UN climate action summit: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
She added: “People are suffering. People are dying. Our ecosystems are collapsing.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth – how dare you?”
In an emotional and charged speech, she reprimanded those who she accused of ignoring science and are too slow in their approach to tackle the world’s contributions to climate change.
Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Bolsonaro covered a wide range of topics including the threat of religious persecution and future trade deals – and also attacked Venezuela and Cuba.