The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, described this Tuesday as a « lie » the fact that the fires are devastating part of the Amazon rainforest, despite the fact that data from his own government show an increase in the number of forest fires in the region. .

The far-right president has received international criticism for the extensive fires and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during his tenure.

Bolsonaro responded to those criticisms in a speech delivered during a video conference between countries that share the largest tropical forest in the world.

« A tropical forest does not catch fire. So the story that the Amazon is burning is a lie and we have to fight it with figures, » he said.

Satellite data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show, however, that forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon increased last month by 28% compared to July 2019 to 6,803 fires.

Experts say that most of these fires are started by people who want to illegally deforest land to use for agriculture and livestock.

Last year, huge forest fires raged across large areas of the Amazon between May and October. Those fires drew the world’s attention to a forest considered vital to fighting climate change.

Specialists also foresee a new worrying fire season this year.

Environmental activists accuse Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, of encouraging deforestation with calls to open up the rainforest to agricultural activity and industry.

In the face of criticism, Bolsonaro mobilized the military to fight fires in the Amazon basin, of which 60% is in Brazil, decreed a veto for fires for agricultural purposes and created a special group to tackle the problem.

The president said his measures are taking effect, signaling a 25% reduction in deforestation between last month and July 2019.

« We are making great, enormous efforts to fight fires and deforestation, but they still criticize us, » he said at the meeting of the Leticia Pact, a group created last year to save the Amazon.

His government has been accused of selecting the data most favorable to him by insisting on reducing deforestation in July.

But despite this positive data, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a new record in the first seven months of the year, according to INPE data.

jhb / gma