Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that the summit of Amazonian countries scheduled to be held later this week in the Colombian city of Leticia would take place via videoconference to avoid delaying the gathering.
“I will not travel to Leticia on Friday and the latest word is that we can have the meeting by videoconference,” Bolsonaro told the press as he was leaving the Palacio da Alvorada, the official presidential residence, in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro, who is scheduled to have surgery next week, said he would not be able to travel to the Colombian city due to health problems.
Doctors ordered that Bolsonaro, who is preparing to have surgery on Sept. 8, go on a liquid diet starting on Friday, preventing him from traveling to Leticia, a city on Colombia’s border with Brazil and Peru, presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said Monday.
Bolsonaro is scheduled to undergo his fourth operation since being stabbed nearly a year ago.
The operation slated for Sunday is to “correct a hernia from the incision, which occurred due to the previous surgeries that were performed,” the presidential spokesman said.
The Brazilian president proposed the summit so that he could discuss ways to prevent and fight the fires in the Amazon with the leaders of neighboring countries.
A large number of fires have raged this year in the world’s largest tropical jungle, with most of the blazes occurring in the Brazilian and Bolivian sections of the Amazon.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao “was ready to make the trip, but they (the other leaders) wanted, instead, to have the meeting by videoconference and it will be held by videoconference. I don’t know the time, but if journalists want to join me in my office, they are welcome,” Bolsonaro said.
The Brazilian president once again ripped French President Emmanuel Macron , a critic of the Bolsonaro administration’s environmental policies and who threatened to block a recently agreed trade deal linking the European Union with South America’s Mercosur trade bloc.
“The videoconference is going to be very important to thank my friend, Macron, who helped the Brazilian people learn about another Amazon that it didn’t know about, its riches with giraffes and even dragons,” Bolsonaro said, laughing.
At the G7 summit in France, Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying about Brazil’s environmental commitments and even proposed placing the Amazon under a form of international supervision.
Bolsonaro said a ministerial delegation visited the Amazon region and “it appears the visit was a success and we are going to see what we can do there.”
“Our Amazon is bigger than that of other countries, but we have incalculable riches. If we can figure out how to exploit these riches well, in a rational way and adding value, it’ll provide a tremendous boost to our economy,” the president said.
Some 70 percent of the nearly 7 million sq. kilometers (2.7 million sq. miles) of the Amazon is within Brazil’s borders, with the rest divided up among Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, a French overseas territory.
The Israeli government, meanwhile, said Tuesday it was sending an 11-person team to assist Brazilian firefighters battling the blazes in the Amazon.
Last week, Bolsonaro said he had accepted Israel’s offer of a plane to help the military personnel battling the fires in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has moved to roll back environmental protections and to dismantle barriers to development in indigenous reserves.
The National Space Research Council (INPE), which monitors fires in Brazil using satellite imagery, said the number of blazes in the country was up 83 percent compared with this time last year.
The INPE said in a report released last month that 52.5 percent of the 71,497 fires registered between Jan. 1 and Aug. 18 were in the Amazon region.
While drought is a factor, experts say that accelerating deforestation is the main driver behind the spike in wildfires. EFE