Tens of Thousands of people gathered to the streets across Brazil on Friday where they started chanting “Burn Bolsonaro and not the Amazon”, in protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s inaction in the face of massive wildfires that were devastating the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
Demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia, among other cities demanded a decisive action to protect the Amazon and denounced the far-right President, whose initial reaction to the fires was to blame them on environmentalists, Efe news reported.
After facing intense criticism from Brazilian civil society, international organizations and European governments, Bolsonaro called an urgent ministerial meeting to map out a strategy to combat the fires.
Bolsonaro has criticised the reaction of other nations, insisting wildfires “cannot be used as a pretext” for punitive sanctions.
It came after France and Ireland said they would not ratify a huge trade deal with South American nations unless Brazil does more to tackle blazes in the Amazon.
During a televised address to the nation on Friday, Bolsonaro argued that forest fires “exist in the whole world” and “cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions”.
The President, who took office in January has moved to roll back environmental protections and to dismantle barriers to development in indigenous reserves.
On Thursday, Amazon rainforest in Brazil had experienced a record amount of fires this year — more than 74,000 outbreaks so far — which was an 84 per cent increase from the same period in 2018.
The National Institute for Space Research (IPNE) said it detected more than 74,000 fires between January 1 and August 20 — the highest number since records began in 2013.
According to the agency, it observed more than 9,500 forest fires since last Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region.
Over the past week, the number of minors requiring treatment for respiratory ailments has tripled to 380 cases, according to the city authorities.
In the past week, according to the INPE, some 68 protected areas or indigenous reservations in the Amazon have been affected by fires.