Without any evidence, he’s alleged that these groups—which protect the rainforests—have lit the blazes to “call attention against me, against the Brazilian government,” Vice reports.
Farmers who want to clear the land could be to blame for the fires, however, Bolsonaro is instead faulting NGOs. “On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention? To bring problems to Brazil,” he said.
During a Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday, Bolsonaro was asked if he had evidence to back up his accusations against NGOs. He said he had “no written plan” to support his claim and “that’s now how it’s done.”
NGOs quickly criticized Bolsonaro’s comments. “This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator, told Al Jazeera. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.”
The president’s support of deforestation has earned him the nickname “Captain Chainsaw.” During his campaign, he promised to loosen deforestation restrictions to promote commercial interests, and after taking office in January, he’s made good on his promise. Since the top of the year, the Amazon has lost around 1,330 square miles of forest, a 39% increase over the same period as last year.
Camila Veiga, of the Brazilian Association of NGOs, told AFP that “the fires are the consequence of a policy of environmental devastation, of support for agribusiness, of increasing pastures.” According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, there have been 74,155 fires in the country this year, mostly in the Amazon, which is an 80% increase over last year.
On Thursday, Diddy and his kids shared a PSA to raise awareness of the fires. “The Amazon has been burning for weeks, but we are just now hearing about this,” he says in the clip. “The Amazon is the largest rainforest on the planet and contains 20% of our worlds oxygen. The fires are burning at one of the fastest paces in years. We only have one planet and we have to take care of it.”