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Bolsonaro fires back after Norway, Germany suspend funding

August 15, 2019
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a decoration ceremony of the Maua Merit Medal, in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Norway suspended funding to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, created to fight deforestation in the country’s vast rainforest, a spokesperson for the Norwegian environment ministry said Thursday. The decision blocks the transfer of 300 million Krones (over $44 million) in financial aid to local projects in the Amazon, the ministry confirmed. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a decoration ceremony of the Maua Merit Medal, in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Norway suspended funding to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, created to fight deforestation in the country’s vast rainforest, a spokesperson for the Norwegian environment ministry said Thursday. The decision blocks the transfer of 300 million Krones (over $44 million) in financial aid to local projects in the Amazon, the ministry confirmed. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — President Jair Bolsonaro took aim at Germany and Norway after they cut donations for Brazilian forestry projects in criticism of his policies, with the far-right leader saying they should focus on their own environmental problems.

“Isn’t Norway the one that kills whales up there in the North Pole? That also does oil exploration there?” Bolsonaro asked ironically Thursday. “Take the money and go help Angela Merkel to reforest Germany.”

His comments came as Germany and Norway announced the suspension of environmental funding for sustainability projects in Brazil’s forests, both saying his far-right administration isn’t committed to fighting deforestation.

The Norwegian environment ministry confirmed Thursday that Norway suspended funding to the Amazon Fund, which was created in 2008 to receive donations used to finance projects in the Amazon. Norway has been by far the biggest contributor, with $1.2 billion donated so far, followed by Germany at $68 million and Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras at $7.7 million.

According to the fund’s website, nearly $470 million has already been distributed to some 100 projects. Donations already made cannot be withdrawn, but Norway said it was suspending future financing, of about 300 million Norwegian crowns (over $33 million).

Germany remains in the Amazon Fund, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Environment Ministry announced Sunday that it was cutting 35 million euros ($39.6 million) of funding for other sustainability projects in Brazil’s forests.

Bolsonaro said Wednesday night that “dear Angela Merkel” should “take the money and reforest Germany,” adding that the European country needs it “a lot more than here.”

During the Group of 20 meeting in Japan in June, Merkel strongly criticized Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, describing the situation as “dramatic.” Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are also weighing using the ratification of a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur countries to pressure Brazil into complying with its environmental pledges.

Latest data from Brazil’s space research institute indicate a surge in deforestation in the Amazon in the last quarter, higher than during the same period in the previous three years.

Bolsonaro’s criticism of the data and the federal agency monitoring the Amazon region for deforestation, led to the firing of the institute’s director.

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