“Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron tweeted, adding that the Amazon produced 20% of the world’s oxygen.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist who bristles at the idea of foreign interference in the Brazilian Amazon, took exception to his French counterpart’s comments.
“I regret that president Macron seeks to take advantage of what is a domestic Brazilian issue and of other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,” Bolsonaro tweeted, targeting what he called Macron’s “sensationalist tone”.
In a second tweet, he said: “The French president’s suggestion that Amazonian matters be discussed at the G7 without the involvement of countries of the region recalls the colonialist mindset that is unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Later Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araújo weighed in with a thread on Twitter, condemning the “savage and unfair” international campaign against his nation.
Araújo claimed the campaign was being waged “because President Bolsonaro’s government is rebuilding Brazil.”
“The ‘environmental crisis’ appears to be the last weapon left in the arsenal of leftist lies to smother this fact,” he added.
Earlier one of Bolsonaro’s top foreign advisers also tweeted a reprimand to foreign meddlers. “God does not like liars,” Filipe Martins wrote in a series of posts rebutting international criticism.
Bolsonaro’s politician son, Eduardo, continued the offensive, tweeting a YouTube video called “Macron is an idiot” to his 1.6m followers.
But international concern continued to be expressed over the scale of the fires. The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said he was “deeply concerned” about their effect on the global climate crisis: “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity.”
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the fires were being “aided and abetted by the Brazilian government”. The burning of the rainforest was “an act of shocking environmental vandalism with global consequences”.
Celebrities, including Madonna, also weighed in on Thursday. “The Fires Are Raging and The Amazonia continues to burn,” she tweeted.
“It is devastating to see our world suffer,” the British Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton wrote on Instagram.
The footballer Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted about the urgency of the Amazon fires, saying it’s “our responsibility to help save the planet”.
Brazil has had more than 72,000 fires this year, an 84% increase on the same period in 2018, says the country’s National Institute for Space Research. More than half were in the Amazon.
There was a sharp rise in deforestation during July, which has been followed by extensive burning in August. Local newspapers say farmers in some regions are organising “fire days” to take advantage of weaker enforcement by the authorities.
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, on Thursday said he had spoken to Bolsonaro and would send three “brigades of specialists in forest fires and environmental research, who will help mitigate the tragedy in the Amazon rainforest.”
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