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Updated July 17th, 2020 at 13:22 IST

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro calls Europe an 'environmental sect'

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday dismissed criticism leveled by European nations over deforestation in the Amazon, calling Europe an "environmental sect".

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday dismissed criticism leveled by European nations over deforestation in the Amazon, calling Europe an "environmental sect".

Speaking on social media from his official residence, the Alvorada Palace, the president said that Brazil was an agribusiness power and that it was "a commercial fight" with Europe, not just environmental interests.

Bolsonaro has remained at the residence since last week after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Brazilian leader took office in 2019 with plans to develop the Amazon region, and he has frequently denounced environmental restrictions hampering activity.

Lately his government has sought to demonstrate its commitment to the environment, following international criticism last year, when deforestation reached its worst level in 11 years.

In June, mainly European investment firms sent a letter to the Brazilian government expressing concern over rising deforestation and demanded forceful action against illegal activities in the Amazon.

Last week Brazil's government proposed that global asset-managers adopt protected areas in the Amazon rainforest in order to curb illegal deforestation ahead of the season farmers traditionally use fire to clear land and brush.

That could entail providing financial support for environmental projects or paying for security to prevent people from entering the areas.

Brazilian space agency (INPE) published a report on Friday revealing 400 square miles (1,034 square kilometers) of deforestation in the Amazon in June, a new record the month since data started being gathered in 2015.

Total deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from January to June was 1,890 square miles (3,069 square kilometers), up 25% from the same six-month period last year.

Outside observers are keeping close tabs on Brazil's environmental stewardship just ahead of the so-called burning season, during which landholders use fire to clear brush and forest.

"The average of fires and heat spots in Brazil is below the average of the last years," said Bolsonaro on Thursday.

He added that the fires were part of the culture of people living in the rural areas, including the indigenous people.

Bolsonaro has banned setting agricultural and forest fires as the country enters the dry season at a moment when the government faces pressure from local and foreign companies to show greater commitment to environmental protection.

His 120-day decree, published in the official gazette, comes just ahead of the period when fires are most common in the Amazon region, with rainfall is at its lowest.

In 2019 fires across Brazilian forests spread at a pace unseen since 2010, stirring an international outcry.

While speaking on social media on Thursday, Bolsonaro also spoke briefly about the upcoming US presidential elections, saying he supported President Donald Trump.

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Published July 17th, 2020 at 13:22 IST

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