Fires continue to spread across Amazon

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s president is facing backlash as fires rage across the Amazon. As concerns rise around the globe, critics say President Jair Bolsonaro is not doing enough to curb widespread deforestation.

In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron called the wildfires an international crisis. He called on the Group of 7 nations to hold discussions this weekend during their summit.

Bolsonaro fired back, tweeting: “I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries. The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem.”

This debate comes as Brazilian state experts have reported a record of nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018.  Satellite images show smoke from the Amazon reaching across the continent to the Atlantic Coast and Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro, who won the election last year, says there is a “very strong” indication that some non-governmental groups could be setting blazes in retaliation for losing state funds under his administration. He did not provide any evidence. He also accused media organizations of exploiting the fires to undermine his government.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil’s Amazon region launched investigations of increasing deforestation, according to local media. Prosecutors say they plan to probe possible negligence by the national government in the enforcement of environmental codes.

Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, whose degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall. Brazil is not the only country dealing with widespread wildfires. Bolivia is also struggling to contain big fires. Many of those are believed to have been set by farmers clearing land for cultivation.

Under increasing international pressure, Bolsonaro said on Friday he might send the military to battle the massive blazes. He did not say when the armed forces would get involved but suggested that action could be imminent.

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