Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations have agreed to release more than $20 million of emergency aid to help countries battle wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday. A record number of blazes are ravaging the rainforest, many of them thought to have been started deliberately in Brazil, drawing international concern because of the Amazon’s importance to the worldwide environment.
“We will straightaway offer Amazonian countries that signal to us their needs, financial support of at least up to 20 million euros ($22 million),” said Macron, who is locked in a war of words with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.
Macron last week accused Bolsonaro of lying about his environmental commitments.
The Brazilian president hit back, accusing Western countries of interfering in his country’s affairs and mocking the looks of the French leader’s 66-year-old wife on Facebook.
Sunday, a Bolsonaro supporter posted a message on Facebook mocking the appearance of Brigitte Macron and comparing her unfavorably with Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.
“Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?” the man wrote next to an unflattering picture of Brigitte Macron, who is 29 years older than Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle.
Bolsonaro replied to the post on Facebook: “Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha.”
“I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president,” Macron replied Monday. “I think that Brazilians, who are a great people, will probably be ashamed to see this behavior.
“It’s sad, it’s sad first of all for him and for Brazilians.”
Standing alongside Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who was invited to join the wealthy-nation leaders in the French seaside resort of Biarritz, Macron said G-7 countries were ready to provide concrete support to the region.
“France will do so with military support in the coming hours,” he said, without giving further details.
The plan will be implemented in two stages, Pinera said. “Countries urgently need fire fighters and specialized water bombers. This will be the first step that will be implemented immediately.
“The second phase is to protect these forests, protect the biodiversity they contain and reforest this region of the world,” he added.
Macron added that the G-7, which comprises the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Britain and Canada, would draw up an initiative for the Amazon that will be launched at next month’s U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Bolsonaro, a right-wing leader who wants to open the Amazon to more farming and mining, said on Twitter that Macron’s initiative treated Brazil like “a colony or no-man’s land” and an attack on its sovereignty. In another sign of tension, Bolsonaro skipped a meeting this month with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, saying that he had instead gone to the hairdresser.
“I respect every leader elected by their country, as I respect all the peoples of the countries,” Macron said Monday. But Bolsonaro, he said, had gone back on his climate pledges and “then he had a meeting with his barber when he was supposed to meet the foreign minister.”