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Bolsonaro makes accepting millions in G7 aid for Amazon contingent on apology from Macron

Evaristo Sa and John Thys, AFP | France's President Emmanuel Macron (Left) speaking to the press in Brussels on June 30 and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (Right) speaking to the press in Brasilia on January 16.

Brazil on Monday rejected $20 million in aid offered by G7 countries to fight fires in the Amazon, with President Jair Bolsonaro saying Brazil will only accept the offer if French President Emmanuel Macron retracts comments he found offensive.

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More than 80,000 forest fires have broken out in Brazil since the beginning of the year just over half of them in the massive Amazon basin that regulates part of Earth's carbon cycle and climate.

G7 countries made the $20 million aid offer to fight the blazes at the Biarritz summit hosted by Macron, who insisted they should be treated as a priority.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Brazil would only accept the offer of aid if French President Emmanuel Macron retracts comments that he found offensive.

"Mr Macron must withdraw the insults he made against me," Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital Brasilia.

"To talk or accept anything from France, with the best possible intentions, he has to withdraw these words, and from there we can talk," Bolsonaro said.

In the wake of the Amazon fires Macron has questioned Bolsonaro's trustworthiness and commitment to protecting biodiversity, implying he was acting in bad faith when he joined a G20 pledge to fight global warming at a June summit in Osaka.

Ahead of hosting the G7 summit, Macron tweeted that the fires burning in the Amazon basin amounted to an international crisis, leading Bolsanaro to dismiss his "colonialist mentality".

Bolsonaro open to G7 aid if Macron 'withdraws insults'

>> Video: Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

Other Brazilian officials had earlier indicated that Brazil would not accept the G7 aid with some pointed comments directed at the French leader.

"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 Brazilian G1 news website.

"Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?" he continued, referring to the April fire that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral.

"Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron," Lorenzoni said.

The presidency later confirmed the comments to AFP.

Brazilians, including Paulo Coelho, apologise for Bolsonaro using #DesculpaBrigitte

Fuel to the fire

Bolsonaro and Macron have locked horns repeatedly over the past week.

The French president threatened to block a trade deal between the EU and South America's Mercosur nations unless his Brazilian counterpart takes serious steps to protect the Amazon rainforest from logging and mining.

Bolsonaro reacted by blasting Macron and later endorsed disparaging comments about the French president's wife posted online, driving their relationship to a new low.

>> Macron calls out Bolsonaro's 'rude' insults against wife Brigitte

But while the Amazon blazes have fueled the fires between Bolsonaro and Macron, tensions were already apparent.

Last month Bolsonaro skipped a meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, saying that he instead had gone to get a haircut.

Brazilians, for their part, are not taking the spat lying down. Many took to Twitter on Tuesday to apologise for their president using the hashtag #DesculpaBrigitte (Sorry, Brigitte).

"Sorry about our president, he’s a idiot. #DesculpaBrigitte," wrote one, in English.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, famed author of The Alchemist, went as far as making a video in which he apologises for Bolsonaro in French.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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