Brazil will reject a donation of $22.2 million to help fight the fires that have swept across the Amazon because it was not involved in the decision-making process, the country’s ambassador to France said Tuesday.
“We refuse the aid because we see interference. [It’s] help we did not ask for,” Luís Fernando Serra told French national television, adding that the terms of the offer were too “ambiguous.”
The decision escalates an international spat between Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro and the European countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron, who have pledged to fight the Amazon fires but condemned Bolsonaro’s lack of commitment to the environment.
On Monday, Bolsonaro – a climate change skeptic – questioned the aid’s “colonial mentality.”
“We cannot accept that a President, Macron, issues inappropriate and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon,” he tweeted. “Nor that he disguises his intentions behind an ‘alliance’ of the G-7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if it were a colony or no man’s land.”
Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to open the Amazon up for business and development. Since his inauguration in January, deforestation and fires in the rainforest have surged.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo urged European countries to channel aid through the United Nations Climate Convention instead of creating new initiatives.
“It is very clear, that some political channels, are trying to extrapolate real environmental concerns and use them in a fabricated ‘crisis’ as a pretext to introduce mechanisms for foreign control of the Amazon,” he tweeted.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Marina Lopes, Terrence McCoy