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Amazon fires a ‘lie’ says Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro

The far-right leader has faced international condemnation for presiding over huge fires and rising deforestation in the Amazon — criticism he took issue with in a speech to a video conference of countries that share the world’s biggest rainforest.

SNS | New Delhi |

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday said it is a “lie” that fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest, despite data from his own government showing the number of blazes is rising.

The far-right leader has faced international condemnation for presiding over huge fires and rising deforestation in the Amazon — criticism he took issue with in a speech to a video conference of countries that share the world’s biggest rainforest.

Bolsonaro further said, “Tropical rainforest doesn’t catch fire. So this story that the Amazon is burning is a lie, and we have to fight it with real numbers”.

According to the experts, the fires are typically not sparked naturally, but set by humans to clear land illegally for farming and ranching.

In 2019, massive fires devastated the Amazon from May to October, sending a thick haze of black smoke all the way to Sao Paulo, thousands of kilometers away.

More than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest last year.

He said that was producing results, pointing to a more than 25-percent reduction in deforestation year-on-year last month.

“We are making big, enormous efforts to fight fires and deforestation, but even so, we are criticized,” he told the meeting of the Leticia Pact, a group launched last year to protect the Amazon.

His government has been accused of cherry-picking data by trumpeting the July drop in deforestation.

Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric since coming to power in January has been blamed for harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes, accused non-governmental organizations of deliberately starting the fires after their funding was cut.

The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.

Environmental specialists had earlier said that the fires are coming amid increasing deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July took place at a rate four times that of the same month in 2018, according to data from INPE.