Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t want the $20 million that G-7 nations have pledged to help fight fires in the Amazon unless it also comes with an apology from French president Emmanuel Macron.
A day after G-7 leaders announced the relatively paltry donation, meant to fight the tens of thousands of fires currently ripping through the Amazon, Bolsonaro said he’ll consider accepting the donation only after Macron “retracts his words.” He was referring to criticism from Macron over Brazil’s slow response to the fires.
The criticism began with a statement from Macron’s office last week that suggested Bolsonaro lied at June’s G-20 summit in Osaka when he said he was serious about fighting climate change. When Macron later threatened to block a trade deal with the E.U. and South America unless Brazil took the fires more seriously, Bolsonaro accused him of operating with a “colonialist mentality.”
“We cannot accept that a President, Macron, issues inappropriate and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon,” Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet. “Nor that he disguises his intentions behind an ‘alliance’ of the G-7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if it were a colony or no man’s land.”
Over the weekend things got personal. On Sunday, a supporter of Bolsanro’s mocked the appearance of Brigitte Macron, the French First Lady, on Facebook. The post compared her to Bolsonaro’s 37-year-old wife Michelle. It included the text: “Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?”
The Brazilian president commented on the post, writing, “Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha.”
Macron was not happy. “He has made some extraordinarily rude comments about my wife,” Macron said of Bolsonaro Monday. “What can I tell you? It’s sad, but it’s sad most of all for him and for the Brazilians.”
Then he took a more direct shot at the Brazilian president: “As I feel friendship and respect towards the Brazilian people, I hope that they will soon have a president who behaves properly.”
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, injected even more pettiness into the dispute, mocking Macron for the Notre Dame fire. “Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” he said.
Meanwhile, the Amazon continues to burn.