Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday strongly rejected the existence of forest fires in the Amazon, citing "a lie", despite government data indicating that thousands of fires have broken out across the region.
In the past, the far-right leader has previously denied an upsurge in fires in the Amazon rainforest, exchanging diatribes with French President Emmanuel Macron and other heads of state.
Jair Bolsonaro made the statement even as Reuters witnesses in the Amazon city of Apui observed clouds of smoke in various places during the day and large fires lighting up the sky after dark.
A statement that contradicts the data of the Brazilian government: in the first 10 days of August alone, more than 10,000 fires were recorded, an increase of 17% compared to the same period last year.
Last August, the number of forest fires in the Amazon hit a nine-year high, and data collected so far this month suggests the situation is getting worse. More than 10,000 fires were reported in the first ten days of the month, up 17% from the same period last year.
For experts, deforestation is one of the biggest causes of these fires. In one year, it has increased by more than 34%.
"They won't find a single source of fire"
Still, during a speech to other South American leaders, Jair Bolsonaro urged his audience to fly over the Amazon between the distant towns of Boa Vista and Manaus to realize that no flame was visible.
"They will not find a single source of fire, not a single hectare of deforestation," said the former army officer. "This story, that the Amazon is burning, is a lie and we have to fight it with the real numbers," he added.
Jair Bolsonaro assured that Brazil had demonstrated its ability to protect the Amazon itself because the majority of the forest, the biggest carbon sink in the world, was still there.
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