For weeks, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been bemoaning his inability to do anything about the fires in the Amazon. After all, it’s a big area, he has limited funds, and … large shrug. But with the forest that’s been called “the lungs of the world” burning at thousands of sites, the leaders of the G-7 summit offered up $20 million to Bolsonaro expressly to address fighting those fires. And naturally, Bolsonaro is turning them down.
Instead, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff suggested, Europe could use that money to plant trees on its own territory and stop “interfering” with Brazil. Because the fires in Brazil are no accident. They’re not the result of a particularly dry summer. They were not caused by a mad run of thunderstorms. They were set by ranchers and farmers out to turn the world’s most diverse environment into miserable farmland that will last only a season or two before turning into eroded scrub, and by loggers clear-cutting their way to some of the most valuable trees on earth. And it’s all happening with not just Bolsonaro’s indifference, but his approval.
Bolsonaro ran on a program of opening up the rainforest to destruction. He told his supporters to call him “Captain Chainsaw.” He promised to ignore both the ownership of land that had been purchased by conservation groups and the laws that set aside large areas of land for the dozens of indigenous tribal peoples in the area. He’s keeping that promise. For the “Donald Trump of Brazil,” the pall of smoke that’s hanging over São Paulo smells like victory.
As the BBC reports, since Bolsonaro took control, fines for environmental crimes of all sorts have plummeted. Just as the Donald Trump of that other beleaguered nation has allowed mining companies to evade paying for environmental and safety violations, Bolsonaro is showing the fire-starters that they have his support in the most direct way—at the cash drawer. In just one year, the number of fires started in the Amazon is up 84%. The amount of fines levied for those fires is down by a third.
According to CNN, Bolsonaro dismissed calls for international cooperation in attempting to save the Amazon region as treating Brazil “like a colony.” Instead, he will continue his policy of deliberately allowing the destruction of the forest, and the genocide of the people who live there.
If there wasn’t already enough evidence that Bolsonaro is cut from the same vile bolt of cloth as Donald Trump, after French President Emmanuel Macron called for Brazil to accept the aid and to bring the issue before the United Nations, the Brazilian leader took to Facebook on Tuesday to make a comment about how much more attractive his wife is than the first lady of France.
The refusal to accept the funds from the G-7 comes as many other funds have either been suspended or dissolved. NGOs and conservation groups that have used funds to purchase land in the region for years have found the boundaries of the land they supposedly own repeatedly ignored, and Bolsonaro has actively attacked these groups as interfering in Brazil. The Amazon Fund, managed by Brazil, was receiving funds from several European governments, but those payments have been halted under suspicions that little or none of the money was actually going to protect the forest or its people. Taking another cue from Trump, Bolsonaro has dismissed the Amazon Fund’s scientific advisory board and steering committee.