Brazil's Bolsonaro reverses on Amazon, announces plans to send armed forces to fight wildfires

Brazil's Bolsonaro reverses on Amazon, announces plans to send armed forces to fight wildfires
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reversed course Saturday, saying he plans to send the country’s military to fight raging wildfires in the Amazon.

Bolsonaro authorized the troop deployment Saturday morning for the next month in a presidential decree obtained by CNN. Brazil's environmental agency, IBAMA, also announced Friday it is bringing on hundreds of temporary firefighters to help combat the fires. 

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"The Amazon rainforest is an essential part of our history, our territory and everything that makes us feel," Bolsonaro said. "Being Brazilian, our wealth is invaluable both in terms of biodiversity and natural resources."

The move marked a reversal for Bolsonaro, who has dismissed claims that his government’s policies contributed to the fires and fought back against international pressure to take further action, saying other nations were running a “fake news” campaign and attempting to meddle in Brazil’s sovereignty.

“These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity,” the right-wing president said in a live broadcast on Thursday. “They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty.”

Bolsonaro, who rode a populist wave to victory in 2018, vowed to open up the Amazon rainforest to business development, saying Brazil's environmental policies were “suffocating” its economy.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research released data earlier this year showing that deforestation increased by 88 percent in June compared to the same month last year. Fires in Brazil are also up 85 percent this year compared to 2018, with a majority occurring in the Amazon, the institute said.

The Brazilian president this week tried to shift the blame to nongovernmental organizations for the wildfires, claiming that some groups were setting the blazes to harm his image.

The wildfires have since evolved into a worldwide topic of conversation, with Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws MORE (D-Hawaii) calling on the U.S. to cut all funding to Brazil until the fires are put out and French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Whistleblower Edward Snowden calls on Macron to grant him asylum in France Trump to meet with India's Modi in Texas, Australia's Morrison in Ohio MORE, who is hosting and setting the agenda for the Group of Seven summit this weekend, calling the blazes an “international crisis.”