Brazil’s Bolsonaro Sparks Global Outrage Over Amazon Fires

European leaders threatened to end a trade deal with Brazil and other South American nations.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has insulted adversaries and allies alike, disparaged women, black people as well as homosexual people, and even praised his country's 1964-1985 dictatorship. Yet, nothing has rallied more anger at home and criticism from abroad than his response to fires raging in parts of the Amazon region.

The far-right populist leader initially dismissed the hundreds of blazes and then questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, which called for looser environmental regulations in the world's largest rainforest to spur development.

In response, European leaders threatened to end a trade deal with Brazil and other South American nations. Thousands of people have held demonstrations in cities across Brazil and outside Brazilian embassies around the world.

#PrayforAmazonia became a trending topic worldwide. Pope Francis added his voice to the chorus of concern, reiterating that the “lung of forest is vital for our planet.”

Bolsonaro finally took a less confrontational approach Friday, 23 August, and announced he would send 44,000 soldiers to help battle the blazes, which mostly seem to be charring land which had been deforested, perhaps illegally, for farming and ranching rather than burning through the stands of trees.

Some say that it isn’t enough and has come a little too late...

(With inputs from AP)

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