Brazil readies but does not deploy thousands of troops to combat Amazon fires

Brazil has 44,000 troops stationed in its northern Amazon region that are available to combat forest fires and could send more from elsewhere in the country, the joint chief of staff for the country’s military said on Saturday.

In a briefing with reporters, joint military chief Raul Botelho and top government officials did not say how many troops would be involved and gave few operational details of how they would be used and where.

President Jair Bolsonaro authorized military support to combat a record number of fires currently ravaging the Amazon, in response to an international outcry demanding more protection for the world’s largest tropical rainforest. But under Brazilian law, individual states must then request support in order for troops to be deployed.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said four of nine Brazilian states in the Amazon have requested support: Para, Rondonia, Roraima and Tocantins. The states of Mato Grosso and Acre are preparing such requests.

On Saturday, fewer than 50 personnel will be sent from Brasilia to Porto Velho in Rondonia state to support operations there, including 30 firefighters and 18 communications specialists, Botelho said in a presentation.

75,000 fires

According to Brazil’s space research centre, INPE, which has been recording wildfires since 2013, more than 75,000 fires are burning in Brazil, which is an increase of a more than80 per cent over the same period of 2018.

Bolsonarohas been under international pressure to act to protect the rainforest, which acts as avast carbon trap and is a climate driver that’s crucial to combating global climate change.

Bolsonaro took office in January with a vow to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over deforestation, and putting him at oddswith critics who say his relaxing of environmental protections is to blame for the current crisis.

The Canadian governmentissued an advisory on Friday to Canadians travelling to Brazil, warning thatair quality is poor throughout various regions, including São Paulo, and it couldaffect those suffering from respiratory problems.