Brazil’s president has said he has accepted four planes from Chile to help fight Amazon fires, and he accused the French president of portraying himself as “the one and only person” concerned about the environment.
In criticising French leader Emmanuel Macron, Jair Bolsonaro extended a personal dispute that has, for now, sidelined a pledge of 20 million dollars (£16m) from the G7 nations to help protect Amazon rainforest.
Amazon nations, excluding Venezuela, will meet in September “to come up with our own unified strategy for preserving the environment, and also for exploration sustainable in our region,” Mr Bolsonaro said after meeting Chilean president Sebastian Pinera in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital.
Countries in Latin America that contain Amazon rainforest “have sovereignty over the Amazon, that needs to be recognised always,” Mr Pinera said.
About 60% of the Amazon region is in Brazil.
The vast Amazon also includes Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, an overseas region of France.
Lingering smoke in the Amazon, meanwhile, is reportedly causing increased respiratory problems — particularly among children and the elderly — as fires in the region rage.
“The kids are affected the most. They’re coughing a lot,” said Elane Diaz, a nurse in the Rondonia state capital of Porto Velho.
Fears over health impacts have been growing with the surge in fires, with more than 83,000 blazes documented by the country’s National Space Research Institute since the start of the year.
That’s a 77% increase over the same period last year. About half of the fires occurred in the Amazon region, with most in the past month.
But the issue has been overshadowed by growing acrimony between Brazil and European countries seeking to help fight Amazon fires in a region seen as vital to the health of the planet.
At a summit in France this week, G7 nations pledged 20 million dollars for the effort, with a separate £10 million from Britain.
Mr Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that Brazil is willing to accept “bilateral” offers of aid.
But the president, who took office this year with a promise to boost development in Latin America’s biggest economy, has suggested the offers of international aid mask a plot to exploit the Amazon’s resources and weaken Brazilian growth.
He raised those complaints again at the meeting with Chile’s president, accusing Germany and France of trying to “buy” the sovereignty of Brazil.
Mr Macron has said Brazil’s sovereignty must be respected, while he and other European leaders say a global approach is needed to preserve the Amazon.