The Brazilian government yesterday rejected £18million in aid from G7 countries to help tackle fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
It is the latest deterioration in a running feud between Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and French president Emmanuel Macron, with recent jibes over the Notre Dame inferno and Macron’s wife, Brigitte.
Macron provoked a furious response for his ‘colonialist mentality’ when he declared an international emergency before the weekend’s Biarritz summit.
And yesterday’s offer was met with a top Brazilian official telling Macron he should take care of ‘his home and his colonies.’
Although more than 80,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year, the majority in the Amazon, Bolsonaro has accused Macron of sensationalism.
A fire burns along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil’s Amazon on Monday
French President Emmanuel Macron came out in defence of his wife Brigitte yesterday after Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro made ‘extraordinarily rude’ comments
Macron had earlier called the Brazilian leader ‘extraordinarily rude’ after Bolsonaro endorsed a derogatory Facebook post about Brigitte Macron’s appearance.
A Brazilian posted a meme comparing the appearance of Mrs Macron, 66, and Brazil’s 37-year-old first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.
It had the tagline: ‘Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?’
Bolsonaro replied: ‘Don’t humiliate the guy, ha ha,’ referring to Macron.
Bolsonaro has reacted furiously to the French president attempting to get involved in his country’s internal affairs
When asked about the post at the G7 summit, Macron replied: ‘He said very disrespectful things about my wife, I have great respect for the Brazilian people and can only hope they soon have a president who is up to the job …
‘What can I say? It’s sad. It’s sad for him firstly, and for Brazilians …
‘I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president.’
But further stinging barbs were fired across the Atlantic later in the day when Bolsonaro’s chief of staff rebuked the French president for his failure to prevent the Notre Dame fire in April.
‘We appreciate (the offer), but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,’ Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website.
‘Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,’ he added, referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral. ‘What does he intend to teach our country?’
The French president has threatened to block a huge new trade deal between the European Union and Latin America unless his Brazilian counterpart takes serious steps to protect the fast-shrinking forest from logging and mining.
In another sign of tension, Bolsonaro skipped a meeting last month with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, saying that he had instead gone to the hairdresser.
Mr Macron (left, wife Brigitte) said Bolsonaro’s (right) comments were ‘extraordinarily rude’, adding: ‘What can I say? It’s sad. It’s sad for him firstly, and for Brazilians’
Bolsonaro, pictured with his wife, has shared or made several controversial posts on social media in recent weeks including retweeted a video showing violent yellow-vest protests in France headlined ‘Macron is an idiot’, calling it ‘a message’ to the French leader, on Friday
Brazilian environment Minister Ricardo Salles told reporters on Monday they had welcomed the G7 funding to fight the fires that have swept across 950,000 hectares (2.3 million acres) and prompted the deployment of the army.
But after a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers, the Brazilian government changed course.
‘Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,’ Lorenzoni said.
Although about 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of eight other countries or territories, including the French overseas territory of Guiana on the continent’s northeast coast.
A fire burns trees and brush along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil’s Amazon
Hundreds of new fires have flared up in the Amazon in Brazil, data showed Monday, even as military aircraft dumped water over hard-hit areas
A tree stands amid smoke from a fire along the road to Jacunda National Forest, part of Brazil’s Amazon, on Monday
Hundreds of new fires have flared up in the Brazilian part of the forest, data showed Monday, even as military aircraft dumped water over hard-hit areas.
Smoke choked Porto Velho city and forced the closure of the airport for nearly two hours as fires raged in the northwestern state of Rondonia where firefighting efforts are concentrated.
Bolsonaro – a climate-change sceptic – has faced criticism over his delayed response to the fires at home and thousands have taken to the streets in Brazil in recent days to denounce the destruction.