With the Amazon rainforests on fire, prime minister António Costa has refused to join calls to ‘sanction’ Brazil over the crisis.
Brazil needs solidarity, not sanctions, he told reporters at Fatacil in Lagoa over the weekend – stressing calls to pull the plug on trade deals between the European Union and Mercosul (the bloc of South American countries that includes Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay) “should not be confused with the drama underway in Amazonia right now”.
France, Ireland and Luxembourg – along with certain political voices like PAN in Portugal – have called for the blocking of the trade deals as a way of forcing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro to change his stance on matters environmental.
French president Emanuel Macron has been particularly scathing in his opinion of Bolsonaro’s (in)action over this year’s 83% increase in fires in a region that stands as this embattled planet’s “green lung”.
Amazonia has been ablaze for the best part of three weeks now, with many devastated areas reduced to the point where Nature will never be able to regenerate the rainforests that act as a vital ‘carbon sink’.
Flying over the worst affected areas today, CNN reporters said: “In some places it is so bad that you can’t see how bad it is…”
None of the 43,000 troops pledged by Bolsonaro are in sight, said the report, though world leaders at the G7 summit in Biarritz have this morning pledged 22 million dollars to provide logistical and financial support.
President Macron says the money will be made available immediately, while French soldiers are also due to be drafted in “within the next few hours” (see update below).
As Portugal’s prime minister stressed in Lagoa, the Mercosul trade deals have taken 20 years to negotiate and are “very important for the Portuguese economy”.
It would be “a tragedy” to see them used them as some kind of bargaining chip to force Bolsonaro’s hand, he said, admitting that the move would play into the hands of certain countries that never supported the deals in the first place.
President Marcelo also has given his view on the crisis, describing his “profound awareness” of the seriousness of the fires. He told reporters that “like any citizen of the world” he “cannot be indifferent to what is happening”.
The consequences of the world’s ‘most urgent environmental crisis’ will only come clear over time, but it is well-documented that Jair Bolsonaro has defended the exploration of Amazonia and been a thorn in the side of environmental groups trying to protect it.
According to PAN, Bolsonaro’s abysmal record on environmental protection should be enough to call off any trip that may be scheduled to Portugal in 2020.
Such a trip was mooted by Bolsonaro’s minister for foreign relations, Ernesto Araújo at the XXIV meeting of CPLP (Portuguese-speaking) countries in Cape Verde last month (click here).
According to latest reports, Jair Bolsonaro has ‘refused’ the offer of G7 aid on the basis that France and the other countries involved (Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdon and the US) are ‘treating Brazil as if it was a colony’.
Bolsonaro’s chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni is quoted as telling Brazilian news website G1: “We appreciate (the offer) but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe”.
“Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” Lorenzoni added, alluding to the blaze that devastated Notre Dame cathedral in April. “What does he intend to teach our country?
“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron.”