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Bolsonaro launches a diplomatic offensive to defend against criticism for fires in the Amazon

August 23, 2019

BRAZIL, Aug. 23 (Reuters / EP) –

The Government of Jair Bolsonaro has sent a circular to its diplomats abroad to urge them to defend Brazil against the criticism it has received in recent days over the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest, in particular to presume alleged credentials in environmental matters.

The Brazilian Executive has sent a 12-page circular to its embassies around the world in which it shows data and statistics that diplomats should cite to defend the position of the authorities on the crisis in the Amazon. The text, to which Reuters has had access, refers to policies and data in 59 areas in which Brazil has been criticized.

According to diplomats contacted by Reuters, the pressure in Brazil has increased in recent days after the dissemination of images of the burning rainforest. The main reproaches have come from leaders of countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, who have expressed concern about fires.

The document mentions, for example, that deforestation peaked in the mid-1990s and fell by 72 percent between 2004 and 2018. However, it does not indicate that deforestation has steadily increased since 2012, in part due to the Brazilian economy and budget cuts that generated less vigilance of environmental norms.

Preliminary data for this year suggests that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 67 percent in July compared to the same period of 2018 and that the number of fires at a general level has risen 83 percent this year.

“It is important to keep in mind that in recent decades, Brazil has been able to combine agricultural production with conservation,” says the document. “More than 60 percent of the territory of Brazil (of the Amazon) is covered by natural vegetation, with agricultural activities limited to approximately 30 percent of the territory,” he adds.

However, he does not mention that Bolsonaro has repeatedly said that Brazil has too many protected lands and that it should be open to agriculture and mining.

“Brazil has been energetic in the control and restriction of irregular activities involving land-grabbers, loggers and miners, as well as in the reduction of deforestation and the invasion of indigenous lands,” says the circular.