Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Sends in Military to Fight Amazon Rainforest Fires Amid Global Backlash

Amid global outcry over its delayed response, Brazil on Saturday deployed more than 40,000 troops as apart of an awaited military operation to battle the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest, officials said.

Brazilian military officials said they had dispatched two C-130 cargo planes with firefighting equipment and are sending nearly 44,000 troops to the Amazon area in an “unprecedented” move. As of Saturday, four Brazilian states have requested federal help to contain hundreds of fires that have been burning for several weeks, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo said Saturday. The four Brazilian states under fire siege are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins and Para.

The Amazon is often referred to as the lungs of the world and the valuable forests there are said to consume as much at 20 percent of the world’s carbon monoxide production. Satellite images released by NASA Friday show pockets of the actively burning fires and smoke in Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia.

According to The New York Times, the Brazilian chief of the Armed Forces’ Joint Staff said Saturday’s deployment is to create “a positive perception of the country.”

The plan comes a day after European leaders threatened to veto an EU trade deal with South America struck in June over Brazil’s non-response to the weeks-long environmental crisis. On social media, thousands called for a boycott of Brazilian products.

French President Emmanual Macron accused Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro of lying about his commitment to fighting climate change and launched an appeal to the other national leaders at the G-7 summit to discuss the Amazon fires.

EU Council president Donald Tusk reportedly echoed Macron’s warning to reporters at the summit Saturday, saying it would be hard to imagine European countries ratifying the trade pact with Brazil amidst the ongoing fires.

Hours after, Bolsonaroa long time, vocal critic of Brazil’s strict environmental regulations—said in a televised speech that the government would take a “zero tolerance” approach to environmental crimes and professed his “profound love and respect for the Amazon.” The far-right leader previously argued the environmental fines in the Amazon are an “industry” that should be abolished, pledged to aid industries who want access to the protected areas, and dismissed concerns about the raging fires for days.

“It shows the concern of Bolsonaro’s government about this issue,” Azevedo reportedly said. “It was a very fast response.”

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast – Pilar Melendez