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Jair Bolsonaro blames NGOs for Amazon fires without evidence

Christian Fernsby |
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has made unfounded accusations that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are to setting forest fires in the Amazon deliberately.

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Topics: BOLSONARO    AMAZON    FIRES   

Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, with 72,843 fires detected so far by Brazil's space research center INPE, as concerns grow over right-wing Mr Bolsonaro's environmental policies.

The surge marks an 83 per cent increase over the same period of 2018, the agency said on Tuesday, and is the highest since records began in 2013.

"Everything indicates" that NGOs were going to the Amazon to "set fire" to the forest, Mr Bolsonaro said in a Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday morning. When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had "no written plan," adding "that's not how it's done."

The former army captain turned politician said the slashing of NGO funding by his government could be a motive.

"Crime exists," he said. "These people are missing the money."

Environmental and climate experts labeled his claims a "smoke screen" to hide his government's dismantling of protections for the world's largest tropical rainforest. They said farmers clearing land were responsible for the uptick in fires.

"This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement," said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil's public policy coordinator. "Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy."

Politicians in the country also came out against Mr Bolsonaros comments. Former Environment Minister Marina Silva accused Mr Bolsonaro of spreading “fake news and sensationalism” on Twitter Wednesday evening.

“This irresponsible attitude only aggravates the environmental emergency in Brazil,” she wrote.

Congressman Nilto Tatto, leader of the lower house environment caucus, said Mr Bolsonaro's "stunning" attack on NGOs was an attempt to obscure his administration's destruction of 30 years of Brazilian environmental protections.


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