Brazil’s president has ordered the country’s armed forces to help fight a record number of forest fires in the Amazon. The announcement comes after intense pressure from European leaders.
The leaders threatened on Friday to tear up a trade deal with South America, reflecting growing international anger at Brazil after a record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest intensified an unfolding environmental crisis.
While addressing the nation, President Jair Bolsonaro pledged to mobilise the army to help combat the blazes. Bolsonaro said his government was very aware of the situation and will fight “environmental crime” the same way it combats other types of crime, amid accusations that he had turned a blind eye to illegal deforestation by farmers and land grabbers in the region.
“The protection of the forest is our duty,” he said. “We are aware of that and will act to combat deforestation and criminal activities that put people at risk in the Amazon.”
Brazilian forces will deploy starting Saturday to border areas, indigenous territories and other affected regions in the Amazon to assist in putting out fires for a month.
Fires are a regular occurrence during the yearly dry season but environmentalists blamed this year’s jump on farmers increasingly clearing land for pasture. Some 370 square kilometres have burned in northern Paraguay, near the borders with Brazil and Bolivia.