There’s an old saying that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. Brazil appears to have come down with a case of the bubonic plague.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, also known as the “Trump of the Tropics,” is reportedly blaming the forest fires ravaging the Amazon on his political enemies. On Wednesday, the far-right leader said nongovernmental entities were responsible for the devastation, characterizing it as revenge for defunding them after he took office in January.
“The Indians, do you want me to blame the Indians?” he told journalists during a press briefing, as the BBC first reported. “Do you want me to blame the Martians? ... Everyone is a suspect, but the biggest suspects are NGOs.”
When asked if he had any proof that local nonprofits and advocacy organizations are behind the fires, Bolsonaro shrugged.
“Did I accuse NGOs directly?” he responded. “I just said I suspect them.”
However, nongovernmental groups say Bolsonaro’s own policies are to blame for the crisis. When he campaigned for president in 2018, he called for rapid development in the Amazon, which critics say emboldened loggers and farmed to begin a campaign of rapid deforestation. In the first eight months of his presidency, more than 1,330 square miles of rainforest have been destroyed — which is larger than the size of Rhode Island.
According to the National Institute for Space Research, the rate of destruction is roughly the size of 1.5 soccer fields every single minute.
Despite the Amazon’s vital importance in carbon storage and reducing the rate of climate change, Bolsonaro has refused to address the situation— saying that his government doesn’t have the manpower to stop the fires.
“Forty men to fight a fire?” he scoffed. “There aren't the resources. This chaos has arrived.”
The Brazil president was voted in last October amid a score of victories by far-right leaders following Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In addition to campaigning in favor of rampant agribusiness in the Amazon, his candidacy was marked by extreme anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Most famously, Bolsonaro said he’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.
“If my son were gay, he would be dead to me,” he told Brazil’s Jornal de Notícias in 2011.
Bolsonaro has also advised parents of LGBTQ+ youth to beat them straight, said he would attack a same-sex couple if he saw them kissing in the street, and claimed LGBTQ+ parents sexually abuse their children. LGBTQ+ Brazlians worried his victory would inspire more violence in a country where they are already targeted for hate crimes and violence at an extremely high rate.
Trump, of course, has been silent on Bolsonaro’s attacks on LGBTQ+ people, as well as his refusal to respond to the fires decimating the Amazon. When the president was sworn in earlier this year, Trump wished him a hearty congratulations on Twitter.
“[T]he USA is with you!” the POTUS said.