RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil has begun a hastily planned military operation on Saturday to combat the flames and create a "positive perception" of the US in the face of global outrage and the threat of economic losses from dealing with Amazonian rainforest fires Country.
By Saturday, at least six Brazilian states had formally requested military support to stem hundreds of fires that had been burning for several weeks, but only put President Jair Bolsonaro's government in crisis mode this week after the photos became widespread.
The number of fires persecuted by satellite this year is the highest since 201
Military officials said they had deployed two C-130 cargo planes equipped with fire-extinguishing equipment in Rondônia state and, like many, nearly 44,000 soldiers stationed in the Amazon to mobilize. In addition to Rondônia, the armed forces will support the fire-fighting operations in the states of Pará, Tocantins, Roraima, Acre and Mato Grosso Environmental regulations – said the nation in a televised address that the government would pursue a zero tolerance approach to environmental crime.
This was a remarkable statement for a leader who describes environmental penalties as "industry" that needs to be abolished and has pledged to facilitate industry access to protected areas. Mr. Bolsonaro himself was fined in 2012 for fishing in a protected area. The punishment was not paid.
Mr. Bolsonaro had dismissed concern over the Amazon fires for days, but was prompted to announce the military effort shortly after European leaders threatened to cancel a major trade deal and demand a boycott of Brazilian products on social media.
The military was uniquely equipped to fight the fires and help enforce environmental laws. But it was also about restoring the image of the country.
Brigg. Raul Botelho, chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces, said that an important part of the mission is to "create a positive perception of the country".
During a press conference in the capital, Brasília, on Saturday morning, officials said they organized a task force to investigate how the military's intelligence, logistical and transportation capabilities could curb fires in areas where lumberjacks and farmers destroyed the forest cover.
The most important questions are still open: How many fires are being fought? How many troops are deployed and how much money is spent.
Images of forest fires – including many that were several years old – sparked an outrage this week over which world leaders, celebrities, and other worries made the fate of the largest rainforest in the world.
Forest fires in the Amazon are widespread at this time of year, as newly cleared land is being prepared for harvest or grazing, but Mr. Bolsonaro's contempt for environmental protection ict has encouraged miners, lumberjacks and farmers to undress protected areas with impunity to burn.
Leaders of the group of 7 nations doing so indicated that the protection of the Amazon is high on the agenda weekend in Biarritz, France. On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to block an important European trade agreement with Brazil and three other South American nations. Bolsonaro's face was taken with skepticism. While speaking on television on Friday night, many Brazilians beat pots and pans in protest. Environmental organizations called for a more detailed plan to curb environmental degradation.
"He seemed more interested in protecting himself than in protecting the rainforest," said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Public Policy Coordinator, in a statement. On Saturday, Mr Bolsonaro said the situation had already been brought under control and suggested that international criticism had been overstated.
"The rainforest does not burn, as people say," he said. "The fires are in areas that have been cut down."