Devastation has been making its way through Brazil, particularly through the Amazon, in the form of forest fires. About 60% of the Amazon region is in Brazil while the rest of it spans across several countries – Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru and Suriname.
In the face of this tragedy as well as the dire way that the lack of the Amazon could affect the entire planet, many countries have pledged foreign aid to Brazil to help combat the fires in the rainforest.
G-7 as a group has offered $40 million, $20 million of which is from the group, $12 million from the UK, and $11 million from Canada.
However, President Jair Bolsonaro has brazenly turned down the offer of help, specifically because he has taken offence with the French President Emmanuel Macron.
Brazilian governors are urging their President to take the money, but Bolsonaro says the only way he’ll accept it is if Macro apologizes for what he said. The governor of Maranhão state in northeastern Brazil, Flávio Dino, said that he and his colleagues have strongly advised Bolsonaro to take the donations.
"It's not the moment to turn down money," Dino said the governors told the president, according to the BBC.
Following Dino’s comments, Rego Barros, the presidential spokesperson said that Bolsonaro and his government are "open to receiving financial support from organizations and countries. ... This money, when it enters the country, will have the total governance of the Brazilian people."
What Bolsonaro's government said at first was that they would not accept foreign aid as they saw it as "interference." Brazil's ambassador to France, Fernando Serra, told French media, "[It’s] help we didn’t ask for. The G-7 help was decided without Brazil.”
What’s gotten Bolsonaro so offended was comments that were made by Macro, in particular, at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, southwest France, over the weekend.
During the discussion where heads of state and government pledged tens of millions of dollars to help fight the fires, France's Macron was critical of Bolsonaro’s leadership. Macro is concerned not only for Brazil, but also the whole world. He noted that they cannot allow Bolsonaro to ruin the entire globe.
“We respect your sovereignty. It’s your country," he said, noting the Amazon is "the lungs of the planet."
“The Amazon forest is a subject for the whole planet. We can help you reforest. We can find the means for your economic development that respects the natural balance. But we cannot allow you to destroy everything," Macron said.
Bolsonaro took offense at Macron’s comments, noting that they were "unreasonable attacks on the Amazon." He also accused the French president of hiding behind the idea of an "alliance" among the G-7 countries, "as if [Brazil] were a colony or a no man's land."
Later on, he said the only way he’d consider accepting the monetary help was if Macron apologized for these comments.
Besides this offer of support from G-7, several other groups have contributed to the Amazon, such as Earth Alliance, an environmental foundation recently founded and backed by Leonardo DiCaprio and some firefighting aid offered by Ottawa.
Several of the fires causing the ruin of the rainforest seem to have been set in already deforested areas to clear land for farming, but Bolsonaro says he is committed to protecting the Amazon and will prosecute anyone involved in illegal fires.