By Danielle Wallace
Published August 24, 2019
President Trump extended an offer of aid to Brazil's president on Friday should the government of the South American nation need help containing massive forest fires sweeping across the Amazon rainforest.
Trump tweeted that he spoke with President Jair Bolsonaro and touted “very exciting” trade prospects between the U.S. and Brazil, adding that the relationship between the two nations was “perhaps stronger than ever.”
"I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand by ready to assist!" Trump said on Twitter Friday evening. Bolsonaro retweeted Trump’s message.
Nearly 40,000 fires are incinerating Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the latest outbreak in an overactive fire season that has charred 1,330 square miles of the rainforest this year. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research noted an 84 percent increase compared to this same period last year. Sao Paulo was in the dark for about one hour Monday afternoon as a result of the fires about 1,600 miles away.
On Friday, Bolsonaro announced that the Brazilian armed forces will step in to help public security agencies and public environmental agencies battle the fires. He also warned foreign powers against meddling in what he viewed as a domestic issue.
"The Brazilian Amazon is a heritage of our people, who will protect it from the threats of those who harm the forest with illegal actions and will react to those who intend to violate our sovereignty," Bolsonaro’s announcement said.
Trump is traveling to Biarritz, France, next week to participate in the G7 summit, where leaders from seven of the world’s economies will discuss global economic issues. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States are members. Climate change is on a topic on the agenda.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron, the host and leader of this year’s summit, called on G7 members to discuss Amazon fires this week. Brazil is not a member of G7 and will not be present.
“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron said. "It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days!"
Bolsonaro slammed Macron for his “misplaced colonialist mindset” for suggesting that fires in the Amazon be discussed at G7 without representation from Brazil.
Their feud carried over into Friday when Macron issued a statement, saying Bolsonaro had blatantly lied to Macron at the Osaka Summit in June over his commitment to tackling climate change, pollution and environmental destruction. Macron threatened to withdraw French support from a trade deal with South American nations and the European Union over the dispute.
Bolsonaro, who has advocated against environmental conservation policies, admitted his country may not have the resources to police an area of land greater than the size of Europe. He suggested advocacy groups were starting criminal fires in the Amazon to tarnish his name, Politico reported.
Reuters reported that farmers in Brazil — if not outright — had “tacit” encouragement from Bolsonaro who has maintained that the Amazon should be utilized for Brazil’s economy. The news agency reported that a so-called “Fire Day” was designated to show the president that farmers were eager to work.