Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, under strong international pressure, "leaned" Friday for sending the army to the Amazon to fight against fires, when demonstrations against his government were held in several countries.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Amazon has become "a priority" on the eve of the G7 Biarritz, in south-west France, where President Emmanuel Macron accused Mr. Bolsonaro of having " lied "on its climate commitments and decided to oppose the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the fires are an "international crisis".

Demonstrations in defense of the Amazon were announced in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but also in front of Brazilian embassies and consulates around the world, at the call of many NGOs. Among them is the movement of young Swedish Greta Thunberg, "Fridays for Future". For example, several hundred people demonstrated in London.

Meanwhile, in the "lung of the planet", some 700 new fires were recorded in 24 hours Thursday, according to figures released Friday by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

INPE, whose boss was fired in early August after publishing data on deforestation deemed untrue by Jair Bolsonaro, reported that 76,720 forest fires were recorded in the country from January to 22 August - 85 % more than in the same period last year. More than 52% concern the Amazon.

- "Environmental psychosis" -

In Brasilia, Jair Bolsonaro, held late Thursday a crisis meeting with half a dozen of his ministers, including that of the Environment Ricardo Salles and the Defense Fernando Azevedo e Silva, visibly in reaction to the pressures that were accentuated on his government to save the Amazon, 60% of which is in Brazilian territory.

The forest fires, mainly due to deforestation, aggravated by the dry season that will continue in September, took on an international dimension on Thursday: the UN and Emmanuel Macron strongly questioned Jair Bolsonaro while were multiplying on the social networks the calls around the world in defense of the "lung of the planet".

"The Brazilian government remains open to dialogue on the basis of objective facts and mutual respect," the far-right president wrote on Twitter after referring to an "environmental psychosis".

"The French president's suggestion that Amazonian affairs are being discussed at the G7 summit without the participation of the region is reminiscent of an outdated colonialist mentality in the 21st century," he told Macron.

Jair Bolsonaro's allies were unleashed on Twitter, such as his son Eduardo, a deputy and possible future ambassador of Brazil to the United States, who retweeted a video of violent demonstrations of yellow vests in France with the text: "Macron is an idiot" .

On Twitter always, fires in the Amazon were still the first trend, both in Brazil and France, with many shares on calls to demonstrate during the day.

- "Increased risk of sanctions" -

The powerful agribusiness sector, a major exporter in Brazil and until now Jair Bolsonaro's active political supporter, was beginning to worry seriously about the economic repercussions of rising tensions with the trading partners of the country's leading economic power. Latin America.

For the analyst Thomaz Favaro, Jair Bolsonaro "put the oil on the fire with his comments (...) on the role of NGOs and Macron". "It has aggravated the risk of sanctions and retaliation, including against the EU-Mercosur agreement".

Ireland has also threatened to block the deal if Brazil does not react in the Amazon.

The far-right president, a climate-skeptic assumed, said this week have "suspicions" about an NGO's responsibility in the fires in the Amazon. It triggered an outcry from some 118 NGOs who accused him of "irresponsibility".

Earlier this week, he also accused the governors of the Amazon states "of not raising a finger" against fires and even "connivance".

He will, however, need these governors, who have taken his attacks very badly, to fight the fires.

© 2019 AFP