Bolsonaro to meet South American leaders as Amazon fires rage

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is planning to meet other South American leaders to discuss protection of the rainforest, as 18 global fashion brands are said to be mulling the suspension of leather purchases from the country.

It comes after a huge surge in the number of wildfires affecting the Amazon region in Brazil, which critics say has been worsened by a change in attitude towards deforestation by Mr Bolsonaro.

Smokes rises from forest fires in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 27, 2019. - Brazil will accept foreign aid to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest on the condition the Latin American country controls the money, the president's spokesman said Tuesday
Image: Experts say thousands of fires are devastating huge areas across Brazil

A volunteer firefighter attempts to control a blaze in the Alto Xingu Indigenous park, Mato Grosso state,
Image: A volunteer firefighter attempts to control a blaze in the Alto Xingu Indigenous park, Mato Grosso state

The leaders of all the nations within the Amazon basin, except Venezuela, will now meet “to come up with our own unified strategy for preserving the environment, and also for exploration sustainable in our region”, the president has said.

The meeting will take place on 6 September in Colombia, another country that contains part of the rainforest.

Thousands of fires are estimated to be burning across Brazil, and Mr Bolsonaro has been accused of weakening environmental safeguards and setting the stage for farmers, developers and others to act more aggressively this year as a way to clear land.

The Centre for Tannery Industries in Brazil (CICB) says brands including Timberland, Vans and The North Face are considering suspending the purchase of Brazilian leather in response to the burning of the Amazon, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

CICB president Jose Fernando Bello wa quoted as saying: “We recently received with much concern the announcement of new suspension of leather purchases from Brazil from some of the world’s leading importers. This cancellation was justified by news relating to the burning of the Amazon region to the country’s agribusiness.”

More from Amazon Fires

Wildfires have also been raging in Bolivia, where an area the size of Lebanon has been torched.

On Wednesday, Mr Bolsonaro accused Western nations of trying to “buy” Brazil’s sovereignty after the G7 offered $ 20m (£16.4m) to help fight the fires, turning much of his ire on French president Emmanuel Macron.

The Brazilian president at first said he would not accept the foreign aid, but then appeared to U-turn, saying he would accept “bilateral” aid.

Chile is sending four firefighting planes, Britain has pledged £10m and Canada has offered $ 11m (£9m).

Over the last few days, Sky News has witnessed the effect of the fires on the rainforest and the impact they are having on indigenous communities.

A pair of Timberland boots
Image: Timberland is one of 18 companies reported to be considering a suspension on buying Brazilian leather

So far in 2019, Brazil has reported 83,000 fires – a 77% increase on the same period last year.

According to Brazil’s own space agency, about 3,500 fires are now estimated to be burning on nearly 150 indigenous territories.

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